“Is It Well With My Soul”
After the notorious Chicago fire ravaged the city in 1871, Horatio G. Spafford, an attorney who invested deeply in real estate in the Windy City, lost a fortune. Around that same time, his only son succumbed to scarlet fever at the tender age of four years old. Doing whatever he could to avoid and mask his sorrow, he worked tirelessly, as well as helping to rebuild the city and aid the 100,000 homeless citizens of Chicago. Two years later, he decided to take his wife and four daughters to England on a vacation. After an urgent matter detained him in New York, he sent his family on ahead aboard a luxurious French liner, moving them closer to the bow of the ship to ease his troubled mind, gave his farewells and promised to join them soon. However, that ship would collide in the Atlantic with an iron sailing vessel, killing 226 innocent victims, including all four of his daughters. Among the sparse 47 survivors, they found his wife nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of wreckage, and she wired her husband from Cardiff, Wales, “Saved alone.” He immediately booked his passage to join his wife, and as the captain informed him in December 1873 that they were passing over the crash site, he went into his cabin, and eventually wrote the familiar words, “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.” In fact, the melody of this song was written by Philip Bliss, who was himself soon to perish, along with his wife, in a terrible train wreck in Ohio shortly after writing the melody. For many different struggles and trials in life, whether we just found out that our house burned down, or if the doctor tells us bad news about our health, or the death of those we love the most, these words can come to mind and bring great comfort.
In the midst of a picture of the devastation that God will bring upon Judah and Jerusalem, Isaiah offers this very encouraging statement in Isaiah 3:10-11. It is this passage from which we obtain this very same principle—“It is well with my soul” if we are righteous, and if we are righteous, we can sing this song!
Therefore, we have the picture that the Bible gives repeatedly of sowing and reaping. The blessings and judgments of God are not indiscriminate. God distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. The harvest of wickedness is hell, while heaven is the harvest of righteousness. This is something that we ought to pause and ponder frequently.
Think about some times and occasions when it is well with our soul—it is always well with the righteous:
- It is well with the righteous in prosperity, because the righteous will use it right as a blessing to humanity for the cause of God.
- It is well with the righteous in times of peril, because the righteous have the precious promises of God.
- It is well with the righteous in times of persecution.
- It is well with the righteous in youth (cf. Eccles. 12:1).
- It is well with the righteous in adulthood and in older age, because we can lean upon the faithfulness of God. When Isaiah states, “Say ye to the righteous,” he is backed by the authority and the assurance that God provides! This is the promise of God—if we live righteously, it will be well! His word is dependable! Finally, note why it is well with the righteous:
- It shall be well with the righteous because the greatest problem that we face has already been handled—the problem of sin. The righteous person, Jesus Christ, has properly handled the problem of sin (Rom. 5:6-8).
- It shall be well with the righteous because the best things that the righteous have are safe (Matt. 6:19-21). Who can bother or rob me of my heavenly treasures? No one!
It shall be well with the righteous because the righteous are well fed (John 6:15, 25-27, 33-35; Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).
- It shall be well with the righteous because the righteous are properly clothed (Rev. 7:13-14; Gal. 3:26-27).
- It shall be well with the righteous because the righteous are sufficiently housed—we are living in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
- It shall be well with the righteous because the righteous are well provided—“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps. 23:1; John 10:11-18). By faith, we can overcome all the difficulties of life (1 Pet. 1:7). By love, we can accept any burden that may come our way. By His patience, I can endure them. Because of His hope, we can rise above them!
Therefore, the only question that remains is, “Is my life righteous in the sight of God?”