The key to finding abiding peace

Patricia Holbrook of Soaring With Him Ministries
Patricia Holbrook of Soaring With Him Ministries

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“If Jordan above me shall roll, no pang shall be mine, for in death as in life, Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.” — Horatio Spafford, lyrics to “It Is Well with My Soul.”

“Saved alone.”

These two words pierced Horatio Spafford’s heart as he sat on his desk in Chicago after receiving the infamous telegram from his wife in 1873. She and their four daughters were sailing to Europe, ahead of Horatio, whose business issues had deterred him following the great Chicago fire of 1871. The ship sank in the middle of the Atlantic, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. Shortly afterward, Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife.

History has it that, when his ship was sailing above the very spot where his daughters’ boat had sunk, Horatio went back to his cabin and wrote the words to one of the most moving hymns ever written: “It is well with my soul.”

Had this been the only tragedy in Spafford’s life, I may have looked a bit further for inspiration for this article. But his long-lasting grief was beyond imagination to me: He lost his only son in 1871, lost much of his business in the Great Fire in the same year, and lost his four daughters in one day. He lived to have three more children, one of whom (a son) died in infancy.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds.” — The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

If there was a soul in modern history who knew the “peace that surpasses all understanding,” that person is Horatio Spafford. Despite incredible pain, Spafford’s hymn translates the sentiments of a man who found his peace beyond any earthly joy. As the apostle did, he found the peace that does not rely on possessions, people or circumstances.

I purchased a giclée print many years ago by 19th-century British artist Briton Riviere called “Daniel’s answer to the King.” The picture describes the famous account of Old Testament prophet Daniel in the lion’s den. The prophet is portrayed looking upward through a small window in the lion’s den, hands tied behind his back. Surrounding him are seven lions, meekly looking at the same place where Daniel’s gaze rests.

The first time I saw the picture was at my pastor’s office. I remember the emotions that ran through my spirit as I watched the faces of the lions. Rather than ravenous, fearsome beats, Riviere depicted reverent and fearful wild animals in total submission to the power which created them. In contrast, Daniel’s face in the picture illustrates the prophet’s unwavering peace and the firm realization that the very one who had given him life held his eternal destiny in his hand.

There is not an ounce of fear in the prophet’s face. On the contrary, the same peace which surpasses all understanding revealed in the lyrics of Spafford’s “It Is Well with My Soul” is portrayed in Daniel’s face in the picture. It is the type of peace found only by those who found peace with God.

Daniel and Horatio Spafford knew the key to finding God’s peace: They had formed a habit of communing with their maker through steadfast prayer.

Scriptures tell us that even when Babylonian King Darius signed the document that prohibited all men from praying to “any god besides him,” the first thing Daniel did was to go to his house, kneel and pray, as he had done every day. Then, as the verdict from the king came, and Daniel’s death sentence was pronounced, God’s peace followed him to the lion’s den. The rest is history: Daniel’s steadfast trust in God received its reward, as the Lord shut the mouth of the lions, sparing the prophet from a terrible death.

The same peace follows praying believers during life’s valleys and battles — a peace that is not rooted in circumstances or anything that this world can provide. It is not simply freedom from troubles, but a deeply set harmony with the One who is the only source of abiding peace.

This blessed peace, which many of us have experienced through the most heartbreaking and uncertain circumstances, is not guaranteed to be found within our sanctuaries or worship songs. It is not rooted in rituals, affiliations or empty repetitions. Rather, it is rooted in a relationship with our maker through prayer and thanksgiving. Those who found it can sing “It is well with my soul” as the winds of uncertainty threaten to steal their joy, for they know the father will never let go of their hand.

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Visit her website to learn about her speaking ministry, Bible studies and book. For speaking engagements and comments, email