Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

It is Not Well With My Head, or My Heart. But it is Well With My Soul.

The song "It is well with my soul" has always pissed me off a little.

Many years ago I heard the story behind the song. The author, Horatio Spafford, had experienced great loss. His toddler son had died, his financial security was burned up in the Great Chicago fire, His 4 daughters died in a shipwreck while he was delayed with work. And as he traveled to meet his grieving wife, he famously composed this song.

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

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

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

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

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

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

This tale always felt like it existed to shame me and my attitude. Here is a man who had lost everything, and yet he says "It is well". And in my comparatively lesser sufferings I cannot bring myself to that same conclusion. It is not well. I am not well.

I can't be the only one who took this hymn as some pie-in-the-sky ideal of elite Christians.

But friends, I stopped listening too soon. The author doesn't say that all is well. He doesn't claim that it is well with his head or his heart, that he's not grieving or in pain, but that his soul is alright.

That while everything else is in turmoil, while his situation is emphatically not okay, he can rest in the knowledge that his soul is secure in Christ.

Right now, it is not well with my head, or my heart, or my body. But my current reality is not my eternal reality. And my eternal reality? It is well with my soul.

In my brokenness, in my frailty, in my beating of my breast and crying out in agony, Christ has regarded my helpless state.

My every sin, of omission and commission, is nailed to the cross of Christ.  Even my poor response to suffering, my anger and self pity and fear, those things are as far from me as the east is from the west.  

Because as the circumstances of our lives change, our station in Christ does not.  We are His Beloved. I am His beloved.  And my hope is in Him.

All is not well.  But it is well with my soul. 


  1. Amen. Thank you. There are tears in my eyes and a deep resonance in my soul as I read those comforting words. All is not well and on days like today, I wonder if it ever will be; but it is well with my soul.

  2. thank you for this message. My heart is breaking for my daughter's marriage but I do know it is well with my soul. There will never be complete peace until we get to heaven.

  3. Kelly, thank you for this post. This is one of my favourite hymns, even though I didn't know the meaning behind the words. Now that I do, I can face whatever obstacles lie ahead, knowing all is well in my soul.