What a Friend We Have in Jesus!

Never think others do not suffer as you do. Many are just better at covering it up. And in whatever burdens you carry, always know that you have a faithful and caring friend in Jesus. And in everything, you can take it to Him in prayer.

I heard this song written in the 1800’s by a man named Joseph Scriven. The name of the song is “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. I want you to know that Jesus wants to be your friend, and He will be the best friend anyone could ever have!

Joseph Scriven was born in Ireland in 1819. He was born to a wealthy family and in 1844 had graduated from college as a young man. He met a sweet young Irish girl and fell in love. His whole future stood before him. The night before their wedding he stood on the shoreline and watched them pull out the dead body of his bride-to-be, she had drowned that very night. This crushed his young fragile heart.

Broken-hearted, Joseph moved to Toronto, Canada and become a teacher. A few years later he fell in love again to a young lady. But several weeks before the marriage she became very ill. Doctors were brought in from all over the area, but they could not help her and she died. Joseph was again devastated, and at the age of 27 began a life of total devotion to God.

Joseph became a woodcutter and spent the rest of his life cutting wood and helping widows, the disabled and the poor. He would not work for money, choosing instead to help others with all that he did. Ten years later Joseph learned that his mother had become very ill. He could not afford to visit her, so he wrote a poem and sent it to her. The poem was entitled simply, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”.

This poem was written in 1855, when Joseph was 36 years old. His mother loved the poem and had it published anonymously in a local paper. Several years later, in 1868 an American lawyer found the poem and wrote music to it.

Many years later Ira Sankey found the song and shared it with Dwight Moody, the great evangelist of the late 1800’s. Ira was the head of music ministry for Dwight Moody. Together they added the song as the last hymn to a hymnal they put together. It ended up being the most popular song of that hymnal.

Some acquaintances of Joseph knew of this song, and at his house one day noticed some hand-written copies of the song. They discovered that Joseph was the author of this song, penned for his mother many years before. Joseph helped those in need for forty years, but he never knew that his poem would become famous and would touch so many across the world.

Joseph had spent forty years serving Christ, his time in the wilderness before going to the Promised Land. This woodcutter with the huge heart, out of the trials God allowed in his life, became a friend of Jesus. And he wanted to share this message with his Mom, and we are all blessed to hear it as well.

Sadly, Joseph ended his life very ill in 1886 at the age of 67, and in a delirious state Joseph fell into the water and drowned, dying like his bride-to-be some 42 years before. Yet what a joy he found at the end, entering eternity with his very best Friend, the Lord Jesus. What a friend he has in Jesus.

If you read the words in this song pay special attention to how many times Joseph reminds us to be in prayer, to take everything to God in prayer. I can just imagine the prayers of Joseph, and how God comforted him, and used him to comfort so many others.

What a friend we have in Jesus, by Joseph Scriven, 1855

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.

In Christ’s love,

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