In the year 1873, Haroatio Spafford, a lawyer from Chicago, placed his wife and four daughters on the LUXURY LINER “Ville du Havre” sailing from New York to France. Spafford expected to JOIN them in about 3 or 4 weeks after finishing up some BUSINESS, but with the exception of his wife he never saw them again.
The trip started out beautifully. But on the evening of November 21, 1873, as the SHIP proceeded peacefully across the Atlantic, it was suddenly struck by another VESSEL and SANK a mere twelve minutes later, with the loss of nearly all on board.
On being told that the SHIP was SINKING, Mrs. Spafford knelt with her four children and PRAYED that they might be SAVED or be made willing to DIE, if such was God’s WILL. A few minutes later, in the CONFUSION, 3 of her daughters were SWEPT away by the WAVES while she stood CLUTCHING the YOUNGEST. Suddenly the YOUNGEST CHILD was SWEPT from her ARMS. Mrs. Spafford became UNCONSCIOUS and awoke later to find that she had been RESCUED by SAILORS from the VESSEL that struck the LUXURY LINER. But the FOUR CHILDREN were gone, having DROWNED in the OCEAN.
Back in the United States, Horatio Spafford was waiting for NEWS of his FAMILY, and at last, 10 days later, it came. “SAVED ALONE” was his wife’s MESSAGE. That night Mr. Spafford walked the FLOOR of his rooms in ANGUISH, as anyone would have done. But as he SHARED this GREAT LOSS with his Lord, a PEACE came over him that indeed “SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING.” The next morning he told a friend, “I am glad to be able to TRUST my Lord when it COSTS me something.” Sometime later, as he REFLECTED on the DISASTER at SEA, he wrote this HYMN:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea-bellows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.