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Sea Billows Roll

The tsunami that has been our life this year still rages. Fatigue, tears, and concern come in waves. Yet there is peace.

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

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

The Story of the Song

Horatio Spafford penned the words to this well-known hymn after a tsunami of trials in his life. Here is some of his story, as quoted from this site .

   Horatio Spafford (1828-1888) was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian and faithful student of the Scriptures. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody, Ira Sankey and various other well-known Christians of the day.

   At the very height of his financial and professional success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment that Spafford had.

   In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe in order to give his wife and daughters a much needed vacation and time to recover from the tragedy. He also went to join Moody and Sankey on an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead of him while he remained in Chicago to take care of some unexpected last minute business. Several days later he received notice that his family’s ship had encountered a collision. All four of his daughters drowned; only his wife had survived.

   With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna in England. It was on this trip that he penned those now famous words.

Despite circumstances and emotional pain, Horatio confirmed his belief in salvation and his commitment to God.

My sin — oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! —
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

My Story of this Song

The early summer day was warm as I drove the Jeep along the winding highway. My husband, Wally, was only minutes behind me on our new motorcycle. Although I was going the speed limit, it felt too fast for one corner. Holding to the road, I said a quick prayer.

“Lord, may your angels surround and protect Wally on his bike as he rides today, especially on that corner.”

A moment later, an ambulance passed going in the opposite direction. There were no lights or sirens; it was probably on a transfer call. Shortly after, a police cruiser sped by, with lights flashing and siren blaring.

“Lord,” I prayed, “is that for Wally? Did he have an accident on that corner? Should I turn around?”

I knew if I turned around and it was Wally, there was nothing I could do. And if it wasn’t Wally, he would be upset I thought it was him. So I kept driving, toward our next pre-arranged meeting place. But I kept praying. And this hymn, “It is well with my soul”, which is one of Wally’s favourites, came on the DVD player.

“Lord, does that mean Wally is alright? Alive and alright? Or does it mean he’s not alive, so he’s alright because he’s in your presence?”

God answered. Wally’s story is not your business. No matter what has happened with Wally, how is your soul? So I played the song again, and sang along, declaring my trust in God.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Your Story

When circumstances seem out of control, when your emotions are on the edge, how is your soul? Do you have the assurance of salvation? Of eternity? The Peace of Christ in the midst of your storm?

We have had a tempest of stressful struggles. The storm has been fierce. The sea billows still roll as we continue to wait for information about health concerns. Yet we sing, “It is well with my soul.”

Will you sing along?

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Categories: Light in Dark Times

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Marnie has recently retired to Saskatchewan, Canada to write and be with her grands. She shares from her heart, drawing from both painful and joyful life experiences, where she believes God's presence makes all the difference.

8 replies

  1. You had me with your opening lines, Marnie. “The tsunami that has been our life this year still rages. Fatigue, tears, and concern come in waves. Yet there is peace.” Even though I do not know the details of your story, I recognize that you are not writing fiction.

    First of all, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, whatever your needs and concerns. I too love this hymn and the story behind it. I often remind myself of this quote by Julian of Norwich, ““All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” And may it be so with you.

  2. Beautifully written; thank you for this great reminder of Gods faithfulness!

  3. Oh, Marnie, you left me hanging!!! First of all was it Wally? Is he okay? Secondly, what’s going on in your life that you’re having tests and no answers? Has the cancer sprung up again? I am not familiar with 2 of the verses of that hymn. I guess our hymnbook only uses 4. I like those other verses. Maybe you could add to your blog so readers will know that all is well with Wally. Just a suggestion!!!

    1. Glad you want to know “the rest of the story.” Yes, it was Wally. This was in 2010 and the bike was totalled, Wally was injured but alright. There are many more details that I will write some day. Today’s concerns are many, but we are in God’s hands.

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