This weekend many friends in our first place of ministry said goodbye to a precious woman not much older than I. Mary Beth had a ruptured aneurism. One moment she was fine, and the next… her family began preparing to release her to Jesus. Mary Beth’s husband was the youth minister and James was the minister of education. We lived across the street from each other, and she was one of my first friends in that town.
Then Sunday in Sunday School our class said goodbye to a sweet friend, Scottie, whose husband has a new job. They moved yesterday.
Some goodbyes feel nearly impossible to survive. All leave holes in our lives.
And in reality, only One can meet us in the voids left by loved ones we are missing. Jesus. He really is a Friend, just as much as He is a Savior.
The Hymn “What a Friend we have in Jesus” speaks great truth about Jesus, and even more so when you know the story behind the song.
It’s writer, Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1896) was 25 years old, in love and engaged to be married. The day before his wedding his fiance died in a tragic drowning accident. Heartbroken, Joseph sailed from his homeland of Ireland to start a new life in Canada. While in Canada working as a teacher, he fell in love and became engaged to Eliza Roche, a relative of one of his students. Once again, Joseph’s hopes and dreams were shattered when Eliza became ill and died before the wedding could take place. Can you imagine the loss?
But history tells us that Joseph’s faith in God sustained him. Around the same time that Eliza died, Joseph received word from Ireland that his mother was ill. He could not go to be with her, so he wrote a letter of comfort and enclosed one of his poems entitled What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
Thirty years later the poem was discovered and shared, eventually becoming the beloved hymn used by God to minister to many. Joseph never married, but spent the remainder of his life giving all his time, money and even the clothes off his own back to help the less fortunate and to spread the love and compassion of Jesus wherever he went. The seemingly sad and obscure life of one man resulted in so many lives being uplifted, both in his own time, and now whenever the beautiful and comforting words of What a Friend We Have in Jesus are sung.
If you are experiencing a void and in need of a true Friend… You have One. And the best news is that you don’t have to be perfect to “deserve” Him! Matthew 11:19 tells us that Jesus is a Friend to sinners… a category to which all of us fit!
Because Jesus is All Knowing – Omniscient – we don’t have to be our “best selves” around Him. He knows the “real me” – so we can be our real selves. Because of Who He is (not because of who we are) His love for us and commitment to us doesn’t ever change.
Because He is All Powerful – Omnipotent – There is NOTHING that Jesus can’t do for and with us! He is the friend with all of the tools and connections! No one is more influential or powerful, or able to move mountains like Jesus can!
Because Jesus is All Present – Omnipotent – He is already in our day and needs ahead. He is not waiting for us to settle down or settle in before He shows Himself. He is already there – even in the places that we don’t want to go. And He isn’t leaving when the going gets tough (or when we aren’t too pleasant to be around)!
Jesus is the best Friend any of us could ever ask for or imagine… What a Friend we have in Him.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1896)
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.
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.
The full story of Joseph Scriven’s hymn can be read here.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” ( John 15:13)