Most of the hymns in our Come and See series didn’t garner much attention when they were first published. Most of their writers were penniless Sunday school teachers or parish preachers who were faithfully communicating biblical truth to the people in their sphere of influence. Some like the hymn writer we’re featuring today weren’t even professional writers. But through the years, their quiet projects became some of the most-loved, most-published, and most-sung hymns of the Church today.
Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886) wrote What a Friend We Have in Jesus in 1855 as an act of surrendering the sorrows and pains of his life to the One who called him friend (John 15:13-15). Scriven was reared and educated in Ireland with plans for an army career, but poor health dashed his hopes. Then, just hours before he was to marry his fiance in 1844, she drowned in an accident.
Needing a change, Scriven immigrated to Ontario, Canada, where he taught school and dreamed of his future as a married man. But then in 1855, his next bride-to-be died after a brief illness. Finding it difficult to hold down a job while suffering from this repeat disappointment, Scriven lived in the homes of others. When a neighbor happened upon the poem What a Friend We Have in Jesus, Scriven said, “The Lord and I did it together.” This is a beautiful expression of the exchange that can happen when we “carry everything to God in prayer.”
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 your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In his arms he'll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.