The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 left Horatio Spafford in financial tatters. Shortly after, while crossing the Atlantic, all four of Spafford’s daughters drowned in a collision with another ship. His wife, Anna, survived and sent him a telegram that read succinctly—heartbreakingly—“Saved alone.” Several weeks later, as Spafford’s own ship passed near his daughters’ watery grave, he wrote these words to his famous hymn: “Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
What beautiful words! Believers across generations and denominations sing this confession of hope in the midst of heartache.
But it didn’t stay well with Spafford’s soul. Sometime later, he started a cult, calling himself “the Branch” and his wife “the Bride.” They received “divine” revelations, denied marriage and hell, affirmed purgatory, and taught that all would be saved, including Satan. They set a date for Christ’s return and were disappointed. They believed they wouldn’t die and were disappointed again.
Lord, keep me from the lie that it’s well with my soul apart from Jesus, apart from your Truth. Forgive me for tweaking your will and Word in order to justify my wrongful habits. Keep me from willfully squirming free of your arms of grace. Let 1 Thessalonians 5:23 be my daily prayer: “May . . . the God of peace, sanctify [me] through and through. May [my] whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And teach me to say, “It is well with my soul.”