“It Is Well With My Soul” is one of the most well-known and beloved gospel songs/hymns, expressing confidence in the promises of Christ — his mercy, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal Kingship — despite the trials and tribulations of this present life.
The song’s text has its origins in the tragic events experienced by hymn-writer Horatio Spafford (1828-1888), who in 1871 suffered the death of an infant son and the loss of his personal fortune due to the Great Chicago Fire, and two years later suffered the deaths of his four daughters when the sailing ship Ville du Havre, on which his family was traveling for vacation, was struck by the English ship Lochearn and sank in only 12 minutes. Spafford, who had sent the family ahead while attending to business stateside, sailed to England to meet his surviving wife, and on the journey penned “It Is Well With My Soul.”
Philip Bliss (1838-1876), a teacher, singer, evangelist, gospel music composer, and family friend, wrote the music to accompany Spafford’s text and named the tune VILLE DU HAVRE. The text and tune were published together in Gospel Hymns No. 2 (1876), compiled by gospel singer/songwriter Ira D. Sankey and Bliss.
This enduring hymn’s comforting words have encouraged countless individuals facing their own trials and tribulations; and its flowing, soaring tune is one of the most memorable in all of hymnody.