We go to the inspired text which records an incident here in 2Kings 4:8-26. It relates the true story of an event in the life of a family that emphasizes faith in the face of a funeral.
The account includes the first encounter with Elisha when he stopped at a home to eat supper. The family would thereafter provide him a place to stay when he came to their home. Elisha told the woman that she would bear a child and this came to pass. Some years later, however, the child fell ill and died. This good woman went immediately to find Elisha. When her husband inquired as to why, she told him “Never mind, everything is okay”. When she arrived at Mt. Carmel, where she found Elisha, she was asked, “Is all well?” She replied, “All is well!”
The question stands, can we say “all is well” when all is not well? This was no denial of reality, it was a demonstration of great faith in the face of heartbreak.
Song histories, the stories behind how songs came to be written, are often interesting. You’ve probably heard the story of Haratio Spafford writing “It Is Well with My Soul” following the death of his four daughters. The story goes that as he sailed across the area where their ship went down and they drowned, he wrote the popular hymn.
…But there’s much more to the story before and after the song!
In the 1870s, Spafford was a very successful lawyer in Chicago and heavily invested in real estate. In 1871, the great Chicago fire destroyed all his downtown investment properties.
In 1873, he and his family planned a vacation trip to Europe. While in Great Britain, he planned to help his good friend Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey, whom he had financially supported, with their evangelistic tour. Spafford sent his wife and four girls—ages 11, 9, 7 and 2—ahead while he finished up last-minute business in Chicago. On November 22, the S.S. Ville Du Havre struck another ship and sank within twelve minutes. Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband “Saved alone.”
It is commonly told that Spafford wrote “It Is Well with My Soul” while passing over the very spot of the ocean where his four daughters perished.
But the tragedy surrounding the hymn didn’t end there. Horatio and Anna returned to Chicago, and gave birth to Horatio II who would die at four years old of scarlet fever in 1876. Two years later, the couple gave birth to Bertha, who would write that her parents not only suffered the pain of losing their fortune and five children, but it was compounded by a crisis of faith. Were the children’s deaths a punishment from God? Did He no longer love them? Horatio felt himself in danger of losing his faith.
In 1881, Anna gave birth to a sixth daughter, appropriately named “Grace.” Shortly after, the family of four moved to Jerusalem, with Horatio explaining, “Jerusalem is where my Lord lived, suffered, and conquered, and I wish to learn how to live, suffer, and especially to conquer.”
The family would remain in Jerusalem and set up a children’s home. And like his children, he too would die tragically from malaria.
But the tragedy surrounding the hymn didn’t end there, either. The tune was written by Philip P. Bliss, and was first sung by Bliss himself before a large gathering of ministers hosted by D.L. Moody on November 24, 1876.
Just one month later, on December 29, 1876, Bliss and wife were traveling to Chicago by train. As the train passed over a trestle near Ashtabula, Ohio, the bridge collapsed and the passenger coaches plunged 75 feet into the icy river. Philip was able to escape through a window, but his wife was pinned in the wreckage. As he went back to free his wife, a fire broke out through the wooden cars and both were burned beyond recognition.
Nine tragic deaths surround the hymn, and yet, all those affected could say, “It is well with my soul.”
The question that looms before us to be answered is whether we could say ‘all is well’ in the face of what may be your life’s greatest tragedies? For it is one thing to say, ‘all is well’…and entirely another to live it as well. We may quote Romans 8:28…”and we know that all things work together…” but it is quite another thing when we find ourselves in the midst of one of those “all things”…
Though our circumstances may prove to be everything but well, those who have trusted Christ can rest that in Him, all is well! Take the time to read, sing, or listen to “It Is Well With My Soul”.