"What A Friend We Have In Jesus" by Joseph Scrivenby Dr. Zelda Robinson on March 16, 2022
Joseph Scriven, was an Irish poet and a preacher. He is the author of the hymn we have come to know as "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." According to the accounts of his life, Mr. Scriven is said to have published a collection of poetic works, which included hymns. His collection, “Hymns and Other Verses, included seventy-one hymn and thirty-four scriptural paraphrases. The hymns were intended to be sung each time the assemblies of God’s people gathered in the name of Jesus Christ. “What a Friend,” as it was titled, was not in this collection of hymns. It written as a poem.
There are many assumptions as to what inspired Mr. Scriven to write the words of the poem, but nothing definite. He apparently suffered several tragedies that could have prompted him to express the need for a loyal friend like Jesus. Perhaps out of the tragedies in his life, it allowed him to see for himself that Jesus is a trustworthy, dependable friend.
Twice tragedy struck just as Mr. Scriven was about to marry. His first fiancée accidentally drown on the evening before their wedding. After that he relocated to Canada from Ireland. There he organized a private school and preached. Several years later, tragedy struck again. His second fiancée became ill and died shortly before their wedding.
Some writers credit his inspiration to him writing a personal poem to his mother, who was suffering from illness. If it was composed as a personal poem, that may explain why it did not appear in his collection published in 1869.
Whatever the inspiration for composing this hymn, Mr. Scriven’s words express the intimate relationship all those who follow Jesus can look forward to. According to the gospel of John, Jesus affirmed His relationship with His disciples, He called them, “friend.” Jesus began calling His disciples friends rather than servants because He had entrusted them with everything He had heard from His Father.
Although we throw that title around today like it is a piece of paper we wave in the wind, to be able to call someone a friend or to have someone you can call a friend is special. It signifies a relationship. Miriam Webster defines a friend as: “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” It is also defined as a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another person; loyalty.
While many of us have people we consider to be our friends, the hymnist assures believers, we will never have a friend more loyal than Jesus. A friend who will be closer than a brother/sister. One we can carry everything to and trust that it will remain with Him. A friend who will take all our sorrows, all our pain, and comfort us. There is and never will be, a friend like Jesus.
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.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:15-16