When Sorrows like Sea Billows Roll

Ann H Gabhart Ann's Posts, One Writer's Journal 18 Comments

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

“It Is Well” is a beautiful song and the story behind the words is powerfully inspiring. Horatio Spafford had a Job like experience with his young son dying and then his real estate investments destroyed by the Great Chicago fire. As if that wasn’t tragedy enough, he then lost his four daughters when the ship they were traveling on to Europe, the ‘Ville de Havre’ collided with ‘The Loch Earn’, an English vessel in November 1873. The ship sank in twelve minutes, claiming the lives of two hundred twenty-six people including Spafford’s daughters. Only his wife was spared. She sent a telegram to her husband which read, in part, “Saved alone. What shall I do?” It is said Stafford penned the words of the song as he traveled across the ocean to Europe to be with his grieving wife. Not long afterward, Philip Bliss composed the tune that so aptly fits the words of the song and “It Is Well” was first published in 1876. Bliss called his tune Ville du Havre, from the name of the sunken ship.

That song has since inspired and comforted many. Including me. The Patriot Quartet, the Southern Gospel singing group my husband sings with, recorded that song on one of their CDs. So when my mother died three years ago, my sisters and I chose to have that song played at her funeral. After that, one of my sisters said the song seemed to follow her around as she heard it everywhere she went. I too often heard the song and it did bring back the sadness of losing Mom. But at the same time, we could know that yes, it was well with Mom’s soul. Here’s a link to the Gospel group, The Isaacs, singing the song.

This story of faith that resonates in the words of this song came to mind again after the tragic events of last weekend. A different kind of tragedy for certain. One that demonstrates the power of evil in our world instead of an accidental collision of ships. But I can only hope and pray that the people who are living through this tragedy will feel the presence of the Lord in their lives and somehow be able to find the peace that passes understanding that the Bible promises.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. ~Psalm 46:1-2 (NKJ)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:7 (NKJ)

Do you have a song or Bible verse that comforts you in times of trouble?

 

 

 

Comments 18

    1. Post
      Author
      Ann H Gabhart

      The song has a powerful message made more powerful by the story behind it, Robin. I just read a Facebook post of someone related to a survivor of the church shooting in Texas. She lost her husband and baby daughter and 8 of her husband’s family. Devastating sorrow.

  1. Betsy Fuzy

    I never grow tired of hearing the events that happened to the Spafford family & how Horatio penned the words of “It is Well”. One hymn that always speaks to my heart, which was my mother’s favorite hymn, is ” Blessed Assurance Jesus is Mine”. A Bible verse that brings comfort is from Is. 41:10: ” Fear Not, for I am w/you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God . I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

    1. Post
      Author
      Ann H Gabhart

      Interesting that you’re the second person to quote that verse as one that brings you peace and strength, Betsy. Nicole also quotes Isaiah 41:10. It is a great promise.

      I like the song “Blessed Assurance” too. We sing it at our little church often. We still have traditional worship with traditional hymns out of the hymnbooks. My mom’s favorite hymn was “Higher Ground.”

  2. Phyllis Miller

    Thank you Ann for this heartwarming post, I had heard this story before but could not remember the details, many of the older songs were penned from personal experiences, thanks again , I enjoyed reading this again.

    1. Post
      Author
      Ann H Gabhart

      Glad you like the story, Phyllis. Many of the accounts say that he wrote the song after the captain of the ship he was on told him they were over the same area where his daughters perished. Some hymn historians doubt that is true, but it could be.

      1. Post
        Author
        Ann H Gabhart

        Phyllis, just Google the song title, “It is Well with My Soul” and you should get many links to information about the song and Horatio Spafford. Of course, you could Google his name too.

  3. Nicole Santana

    Fantastic post! I had no idea about the history behind this song.

    Today, the verse getting me through is from Isaiah:

    “So do not fear, for I Am with you; do not be dismayed, for I Am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

    It’s a lovely verse. This week, I really need God to be my strong defender!

    1. Post
      Author
      Ann H Gabhart

      That’s a beautiful verse, Nicole. Do not be dismayed. How often we are dismayed and will surely fare better if we remember the Lord is with us to strengthen and help us. Thank you for sharing that.

  4. Karen L Chaudoin

    When I am sad which is frequently and it billows over me like the waves on the sea and say John 3:16 over and over to myself, especially loving the beginning of the verse, “For God so loved the world…” God so loved…God so loved. And then I know His love doesn’t stop. Also Phillipians 4:8, “What ever is good think on these things…

    I am happy to say I finished These Healing Hills last night and loved it and didn’t want it to end there. I wanted to see Ben’s mother again as Ben and Fran perhaps married and to see him finish med school and Fran to have her babies and them to open a clinic there in the mountains. Since I am a nurse I especially enjoyed the idea of not working in a hospital and having my dog walk beside me.

    Karen in NC

    1. Post
      Author
      Ann H Gabhart

      For God so loved the world! Yes, Karen, we can’t really wrap our minds around that sometimes. How could God so love our world? And yet He does.

      So glad you enjoyed These Healing Hills. There are plenty of ongoing stories with those characters for sure. I liked Ben’s mother too. Sensible. Strong. Faithful. It might cheer up hospital stays if nurses could bring along their dogs. 🙂

      1. Karen L Chaudoin

        When I hear “For God so loved the world” I hear “For God so loved me”. Perhaps Mr. Spafford could feel that still after his losses.

        1. Post
          Author
          Ann H Gabhart

          He must have, Karen. If you read the rest of his story online, he and his wife had more children and worked in ministry the rest of their lives.

  5. Post
    Author
    Ann H Gabhart

    Thanks, Carol and Tammy for stopping by. I appreciate you letting me know you liked reading the post, Carol. And Tammy, you’re right. The Isaacs have wonderful harmony and can do a dynamite job on the old hymns.

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