Story Behind The Song – What a Friend We Have In Jesus

As a child growing up in church, we always sang hymns during worship.  Praise choruses and contemporary worship music hadn’t been heard of yet.  Being a kid, I can’t say that I had much appreciation for those songs, with their dragging melodies and difficult words.  We’ve all heard the story about the hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves” and the little boy who proudly sang as loudly as possible, ‘bringing in the sheets’!

As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered a new appreciation for the old hymns. I’ve found that almost every one has a story behind it, sometimes a very tragic story.  When you know the story behind the song it gives you a new appreciation, not only for the words that were penned, but for the author of those words and his or her courageous faith.

One of my favorite hymns is “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”. It was written by Joseph Scriven, sometime in 1855-1857.  Joseph was a wealthy, educated man, surrounded by a devoted family.  His life in Ireland was very comfortable and pleasant.  But then, on the night before his wedding day, his fiancee accidentally drowned.  In his overwhelming sorrow Joseph realized the only place he could find comfort and support was in his dearest friend, Jesus.

After this tragedy, Joseph dramatically changed his lifestyle.  He moved to Port Hope, Canada, and devoted all his extra time to helping and befriending others.  He gave away his clothes and everything he had to those in need.  He worked without pay for anyone who needed him.  He became known as ‘The Good Samaritan of Port Hope’.

Then Joseph’s mother became ill in Ireland.  He had no material resources to send her – only a comforting letter and the words to a newly written poem that he hoped would be a reminder to her that the most perfect of friends – Jesus – was nearby.

Later, when Joseph himself became ill, a friend who came to visit him happened to see a copy of the poem written on a scrap of paper by Joseph’s bed.  The friend read the lines and asked, “Who wrote these beautiful words?” And Joseph replied, “The Lord and I did it between us.”

Joseph’s life was filled with personal tragedy, yet through those difficulties, he found the greatest friend he had ever known, Jesus Christ.  Jesus tells us that in this life we will have trouble – not might, not could, but we WILL have trouble.  It could be trouble of our own making, or it might be trouble because this world we live in is very broken.  But in the very next breath Jesus says, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Jesus is there, every second of every minute of every hour of every day.  Whatever difficulty you are facing today, whatever worry is at the back of your mind, tell it to Jesus.  Let Him give you peace and comfort, and allow yourself to rest in His loving arms.

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.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded
there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship
will be our sweet portion there.


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