What a Friend We Have in Jesus

You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.

 John 15: 14-17

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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.

“What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” written by Joseph Scriven, is one of my all-time favorite hymns. It has always brought me comfort, and I can remember my mother practicing it on the piano, which is how I learned the tune. Back when I was the song leader at my church, we sang this song quite often, though I always had trouble getting the tempo just right. I had no problem with the melody, but my church tended to sing a bit slower than other churches, so this is one that I would often start and then have to slow it down. I still love the song though.

Joseph Scriven was born in Ireland in 1820. He was educated at Trinity College in Dublin and was engage to be married. The evening before their wedding, Scriven’s fiancé drowned. This tragedy coupled with difficult family relationships, caused Scriven to begin following the practices and teachings of the Plymouth Brethren, an evangelical Christian movement whose history can be traced back to Dublin, Ireland, in the late 1820s. In 1845, at the age of 25, left his native country and migrated to Canada to become a teacher. His reasons for leaving Ireland seemed to be two-fold: the religious influence of the Plymouth Brethren and the estrangement from his family this caused. He only remained in Canada briefly after becoming ill but returned in 1847. 

In 1855, while staying with James Sackville in Bewdley, Ontario, north of Port Hope, he received news from Ireland of his mother being terribly ill. He wrote a poem to comfort his mother called “Pray Without Ceasing.” It was later set to music and renamed by Charles Crozat Converse, becoming the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Scriven did not have any intentions of his poem would be for publication in the newspaper and later becoming a favorite hymn among the millions of Christians around the world.

In 1857, Scriven became engaged to Eliza Roche. Tragedy struck again and Eliza passed away from pneumonia shortly before marriage. He then devoted the rest of his life to tutoring, preaching, and helping others. Scriven used the tragedies and hardships in life to empathize with the elderly and poor. He used his time to saw wood for the stoves of those who were handicapped or elderly. Scriven himself began to experience poor health, financial struggles, and depression in his last years of life. 

Scriven drowned in 1886 at age 66. No one knows for sure if his death was an accident or suicide. He was in a serious depression at the time. A friend reported, “We left him about midnight. I withdrew to an adjoining room, not to sleep, but to watch and wait. You may imagine my surprise and dismay when on visiting the room I found it empty. All search failed to find a trace of the missing man, until a little after noon the body was discovered in the water nearby, lifeless and cold in death.” He was buried next to his second fiancée in Bewdley.

If you don’t know the hymn or you just want to hear a beautiful rendition of it, check out this family singing inside of a silo on their family farm. The acoustics are amazing. 

P.S. Tomorrow, I am going down to the Headache Clinic to get my next set of Botox injections. I have a lot to discuss with my neurologist. Even with the new treatment, I am still experiencing headaches off and on throughout the day. Hopefully, we can make a new plan to help improve these headaches. I’d appreciate it if you’d keep me in your thoughts tomorrow.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

One response to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus

  • Steve Davis

    I always appreciate when you share the story behind “the story” of what I thought I knew about hymns and people in church faith history. Thank you for this background. It adds so much more meaning to the depth of the story and the life struggles of this person of persevering faith.

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