When Peace Like a River

One of my favorite “old-timey” hymns is Horatio Spafford’s “It is Well with My Soul.”

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I grew up singing this hymn in church and at Campmeetings without much thought about it.  ‘Yeah, it’s a nice hymn.  A little old fashioned.’  However, about 10 years ago I learned the story behind the hymn and found greater meaning in it.  (You can read about it here at it’s Wikipedia entry.)

In a nutshell, Spafford experienced many traumas in his life, including the death of his son and, later, the loss of his daughters at sea.   After the death of his daughters he sailed to meet his wife Europe.  He wrote this hymn as he approached the area where his daughters had died.  It is well, it is well, with my soul. 

Our world is so full of trauma.  We experience violations, losses, and pain.  Often times we act out our traumas, causing increasing trauma to ourselves and others.  How do we break the cycle?  How do we live lives of peace?  How can we affirm, “It is well with my soul?”  How can we help others find peace in their souls?

I don’t have the answers to these questions.  What I do know is that Horatio Spafford and his wife, Anna, were able to turn their trauma into good.  In the years after their losses they had and raised three more children and continued a life of service.  How we recover after trauma looks different for each of us.  I found healing through working with my service dog, Bady, and raising and training my puppy, Niles.  I found healing by finding a way to continue to do the work I feel called to do after trauma altered how I could do that.  My life looks different now than it did pre-trauma.  My small, personal goal is to stop the trauma with me, to thwart the continuing effects of trauma by making something good out of it, and to be able to say honestly, “It is well, it is well, with my soul.”


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