"It is well with my soul"

February 26, 2021

One of my favourite Christian hymns (song) is one titled, “It is well with my soul”, written by Horatio Spafford in the 18th century. The true story behind this hymn is tragic and yet there is a beauty in the experience Horatio shares through the hymn.

After some significant business losses in America, Horatio sent his wife and four daughters on a ship to England, intending to join them after finalising some business transactions. Tragically, the ship sunk, with a loss of 226 lives, including all four of Horatio’s daughters. Horatio’s wife survived and sent a telegram to inform Horatio of the tragedy, with just two words, “Saved alone”.

Horatio immediately set sail to join his wife, and as the ship passed by the area where his daughters perished, Horatio was moved to write the hymn, “It is well with my soul”.

The words of the hymn are below and they speak of complete trust and comfort in God during times of difficulty. The first verse “When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll” speak of the two sides of life experiences: the good times and the tough times. In both experiences, we can find internal peace with God. In John 14:27 Jesus tells us that we can have immediate and eternal peace from Him.

In my life and in particular the past 10 years, I have lost both my parents, my sister, my sister in law and my brother in law, and in 2010/2011, was Head of a Christian school in Christchurch during the devasting earthquakes. While my wife and I grieved the loss of family members, our peace came from only one person, Jesus Christ. We were comforted by friends, and that was essential, but our greatest comfort, where we could sing ‘It is well with my soul’, came from God.

There is a peace from God which carries us through difficult times. God also offers us an everlasting peace, and that is through what appears to a tragedy at first, but in fact is the most loving gift of all – the shed blood of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace who died for us, and rose again conquering death.

Living in Hong Kong during a time of pandemic, economic and social turmoil can easily cause us to be anxious and fearful. May I offer you a path of hope, a path of peace, a path you will find in Jesus Christ. That is the comfort and hope our teachers share with your children to give them peace.

May the Lord grant us all, His comfort and peace.

Richard Vanderpyl
Head of School


It Is Well with My Soul – Horatio G. Spafford

1. 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”

Chorus: It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blessed assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

3. My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

4. And Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.