That’s the news on the telegram sent by a grieving wife to her husband, Horatio Spafford.
Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago in the mid-1800’s. During the great Chicago fire of 1871, Spafford lost a lot of property he had owned. The stress of the loss prompted Horatio and his family to decide to take a vacation in Europe. On the scheduled departure date, in November 1873, Horatio, was detained with business matters, but he sent his wife and four daughters on ahead to sail the ocean on the S. S. Ville du Havre. En route, the ship collided with an English vessel and sank in a matter of minutes. Mrs. Spafford survived, but all four girls were lost at sea. Saved alone.
Spafford boarded another ship immediately to meet his despondent wife in England. As the ship approached the place where the S. S. Ville du Havre had sunk, Horatio asked the captain to stop while he wrote the lyrics to his now-beloved song. The chorus echoes:
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”
Peace. It is probably humanity’s greatest pursuit. It can also be Satan’s greatest tool of deception – to whisper promises of peace into the ears of people looking for a quick path out of conflict.
The meaning of “peace,” in a spiritual sense, is far deeper than the thought that it is the opposite of conflict. But it’s hard to explain, because, as Paul the Apostle said in Philippians 4:7, it “passes all understanding.” To understand it, one needs to experience it.
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
According to Isaiah, the trust comes before the perfect peace. It is knowing that what God has done before, He will do again.
Even before His death and resurrection, Jesus talked about peace and then qualifies it in His after-dinner speech to His disciples.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” (John 14:27)
A new kind of peace? A super peace? Before peace had been linked to a sense of well- being, fulfillment, lacking nothing essential. Was Jesus implying that this was a peace never before experienced? Later on in the speech, Jesus says,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Not long after this statement, Jesus went out to the garden to pray and was arrested there. And before another day had passed, He had suffered a violent execution. How could peace be found in such a situation?
Paul equates peace with being in harmony with God through a right standing through faith in His Son.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” (Romans 5:1-2)
Though peace is mentioned in the New Testament as it relates to unity of the church, this definition, being in harmony with God, is what we find most in songs we sing today.
This is true peace, not as the world gives, but that which passes human understanding. It is enduring harmony with God in the middle of life’s tragedy and heartache.