Sunday Hymn Stories: 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!”
Such simple yet profound truths. What if I told you the person who wrote this hymn suffered loss and battled depression. When I learned of the life of Joseph Scriven (1820-1886), the truths of this hymn coupled with the life’s struggles of the author make this hymn even more meaningful to me.

Joseph Scriven’s life was just starting, a graduate of Trinity College in Dublin and engaged to be married when tragedy struck. Joseph’s fiance drowned the day before the wedding in a tragic accident. This tragedy and other circumstances drove him to set sail for North America.

Joseph Scriven’s new home would be in Canada where he taught, tutored and served his community. There are stories of him reading the Bible to the Railway workers. But through his tutoring he was introduced to Eliza Roche and found new love. Eliza and Joseph were engaged to be married and tragedy struck again. Eliza caught pneumonia and it took her life weeks before their marriage. Joseph Scriven lived the rest of his life living out the Sermon on the Mount to his community. He was respected and revered for the way he loved and cared  for his community just keeping for himself what he needed to survive and giving the rest to help others in need. To many he became known as, The Good Samaritan of Port Hope.

Joseph received word from Ireland that his mother was ill, around the time Eliza died. Joseph sat and wrote back to her and penned the poem, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. But it is through a friend who was taking care of Joseph that we know about this hymn today. While sitting with him he discovered many of Joseph’s writings and 30 years after it was penned, along with his other writings were published in a book Hymns and Other Verses.

Through suffering loss and depression his words still ring true

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

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!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, 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.

This is my favorite version.

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