Joseph M. Scriven (1819-96), who wrote the poem “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” was no stranger to trials and sadness.
According to sharefaith.com, he had been engaged to be married on two occasions; each time, his beloved died before their wedding day. About the same time that his last fiancée passed, he received word that his mother in Ireland was sick. Not being able to go to her, he wrote her a letter and enclosed the poem for her comfort. Some 30 years later, a friend published the poem. Soon after, noted musician Charles C. Converse (1834-1918) put notes to the words, giving the world the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
Being a child of God has many blessings. Those in the world who have no religious belief have to struggle through life’s problems mostly alone. They might have a friend who will comfort them, but that comfort has limitations. The Christian has a friend who has no limitations when it comes to comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). This friend has shown love beyond human understanding in giving his life for all mankind. This friend is Jesus.
“What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and grief’s to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
O, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.”
Christians always should have in their minds the comfort that Jesus has to offer, but sometimes the world and its problems overwhelm them. Others begin to trust in their own ability to cope and handle everything that happens, forgetting that God is the one in control. It is good to have songs and hymns that can help to put things in their proper perspective and touch our hearts with the knowledge of the care that is available to us. Mr. Scriven’s song is just such a song.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows … and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5). Sin, with its shame and guilt, weigh man down. Left in that state, man would have to bear that grief all his days, but Jesus bore the sins of mankind to the cross. Those who obey the gospel know the peace of having those sins forgiven, never to be remembered again by God.
Jesus became the friend of man by coming into the world as a man, knowing what it is like to face Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4). It is because of his friendship to man that Christians have the privilege of approaching God in prayer, knowing there is mediator who knows man’s weaknesses. “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, … Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14–16).
Some forget this blessing and suffer more heartache and worry than a Christian should have. When a Christian has done all they can do, they must put their trust in God. What a friend Christians have.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a two-part column.