In the year 1873 Mr. Spafford sent his wife and four daughters ahead of him to England for a holiday. (Business at home had detained him.) On the night of November 22 the steamship they were on struck an iron vessel and 226 people died that night, including the young Spafford daughters ages 11, 5, 9 & 2. His wife, Anna survived the terrible accident. When she arrived in England she sent her husband a telegram that read, "Saved Alone."
I can't imagine poor H.G. Spafford's pain to be told by telegram that his precious daughters were all of them lost!
Mr. Spafford then sailed to England to join his wife. As he traveled over the waters that had claimed the lives of his small children Mr. Spafford penned the following hymn:
It is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrow like sea billows roll.
Whatever my lot thou has taught me to say, It is well with my soul.
In the midst of tragedy, he saw that his Father was in control. The Lord knows what we need and that His grace carries us through these situations. Just a note, this is extremely easy for me to say, because I have never lost a child, let alone, four, all of my children.
Let's look at someone who has first hand knowledge of the pain Mr. Spafford endured, Job. Job lost all of his children in one moment as well. He also lost all of his earthly possessions, and was left with just his wife while suffering physically. In the midst of these trials Job said this:
This hymn to me is a testimony of great faith in the love of the Lord. When I'm facing loss I often fall into the emotional trap of believing that God has no compassion for me. It takes strong faith to hold fast to one's trust in God's goodness during such a time.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
Mr. Spafford highlights in this stanza that no matter the pain we face on earth that one thing is enough for us: Christ shed his blood to save us. I believe that one can only face such tragedy if they have the peace that God gives to His children.
I'm so thankful for the testimony of men like H.G. Spafford. Such a lesson one can learn from his life experiences.
After losing their four children, the Spaffords were blessed with three more children. Their son died at only four years of age. They also had two daughters.
Later the Spaffords went to Jerusalem and began a philanthropic organization. He died in 1888 and is buried in Jerusalem.
I'm sure it was a joyful reunion when he entered eternity and was greeted by his five little lost children.