What a Friend We Have in Jesus

open hymnal in the sunshine

by Joseph M. 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 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.


Joseph Scriven wrote this poem to comfort his mother during a particularly difficult time in her life, and he had not intended that anyone else should see it. Later on, when he himself was ill, his neighbor came over to sit with him and happened to notice the manuscript. Enchanted, the neighbor asked about it, so Joseph told him the story. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” has now been published in well over a thousand hymnals and has comforted many thousands of people.

Joseph Medlicott Scriven was born in Seapatrick, County Down, Ireland in 1819, but immigrated to Ontario, Canada, and lived out his adult years there. He himself tasted of much sorrow in his lifetime, so he knew what it was to cling to the friendship of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had been forced to give up his ambition of a military career due to poor health, then on the night before his wedding, his fiancée died suddenly in a drowning accident. His second fiancée died too, from a sudden illness, shortly before they were to be married. The economy sank and Scriven, unable to find work, was forced to depend on the charity of friends and acquaintances; but eventually they sent him out due to differences of opinions. In 1886 he was found drowned in Rice Lake in Ontario, Canada.

It can be hard to make sense of tragedy in a person’s life, but we can always praise God for the way He uses hard times for His glory. Just think how many lives have been blessed, how many hearts encouraged by the words that this man penned. Would his message have reached such depths if his life had been easy? Would he have had a message at all? I cannot thank God for the losses Joseph Scriven suffered, but I do thank God for the refining work that was done in his heart as a result of the fiery trials. Anytime we choose better over bitter when tragedy strikes, God always gets the glory.

Information from hymnary.org

Photo taken in Milton, FL, 2018

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