6/3/2020 – Pastor Brian’s Blog

The great American evangelist Dwight L. Moody incorporated the song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in his sermons, writings, and teachings. This caused many people to believe that the song is an American hymn. Not so. It was written by a transplanted Irishman in Canada.

Joseph Scriven had wealth, education, a devoted family, and a pleasant life in his native country of Ireland. Son of a captain in the British Royal Marines, Joseph was born in Ireland in 1819. After receiving his university degree from Trinity College in London, he enrolled in a military college to prepare for an army career. However, poor health forced him to give up that ambition. Joseph then quickly established himself as a teacher, fell in love, and made plans to settle in his hometown.

Then the unexpected happened. On the night before Scriven’s scheduled wedding, his fiancée drowned. In his deep sorrow, Joseph realized that he could only find the solace and support he needed in his dearest friend, Jesus.

Shortly thereafter Scriven left Ireland to start a new life in Canada. He established a home in Port Hope, where he met and fell in love with Eliza Rice. Just weeks before she was to become Joseph Scriven’s bride, she suddenly grew sick. Within a matter of weeks, Eliza, Scriven’s second fiancée, also died.

A shattered Scriven turned to the only thing that had anchored him during his life: his faith. Through prayer and Bible study he found not just solace, but a mission. The twenty-five year old Scriven dramatically changed his lifestyle. Joseph took a vow of poverty, sold all of his earthly possessions, and vowed to give his life to the physically handicapped and financially destitute. Often he would gave away his clothes and possessions to those in need, and he worked without pay for anyone who needed him. Scriven became known as “The Good Samaritan of Port Hope.”  

The story is told that two businessmen stood on a Port Hope, Ontario street corner as a little man carrying a saw walked by. One of the businessmen said, “Now there is a man who is happy with his lot in life. I wish I could know his joy. Perhaps I can get him to cut my winter’s supply of wood.” The other businessman replied, “I know that man. He would not cut your firewood. He cuts wood only for the financially destitute and for those who are physically handicapped and cannot cut their own firewood.”

Ten years after Eliza died, Scriven received word that his mother had become very ill. Because of his vow of poverty, Joseph did not have the money to go home to help care for her. Heartsick, and feeling a need to reach out to her, he wrote a comforting letter, enclosing the words of his newly written poem, with the prayer that these brief lines would remind her of a never failing friend she had in Jesus.

Sometime later when Joseph Scriven himself became ill, a friend who came to call on him happened to see a copy of words scribbled on a scratch piece of paper near his bed. After reading the scribbled words the friend asked, “Who wrote these beautiful words?” Scriven’s reply: “The Lord and I did it between us.”

These are those scribbled words…

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.

Ironically, Joseph Scriven drowned in a Canadian lake in 1886. He did not live to see his song carried to every corner of the globe, nor could he had ever imagined that we would be talking about him and those scribbled words today.

We are living in crazy times, but no matter what may be happening in your life, know that there is someone that is madly in love with you and is always ready to meet with you and bring comfort. Matter of fact, Jesus is so in love with you that he proved it by dying for you… Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

May this song turn your attention to the greatest friend of all time…