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!

Joseph Scriven, author of this hymn was a man who experienced the friendship of Christ during a life filled with trouble. As a young man in Ireland, about 1840, his intended bride was accidently drowned the evening before their wedding. He had begun training as a military cadet, but poor health forced him to abandon his dreams of a career in this field.

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.

Moving to Canada, he became a servant of the underprivileged, helping those who were physically handicapped and financially destitute. But tragedy continued to stall his steps. Once again, the plans for a wedding were cut short when his second financee died following a brief illness. It seemed that Joseph Scriven was destined to go through life alone, knowing only the friendship of Jesus.

Through much of his life he experi­enced loneliness, meager pay for menial work, and physical illness. This hymn is his testimony that prayer does not necessarily eliminate trouble from our lives. But, in the midst of tragedy, temptations and weakness, Christ will be our ever-present Friend who will give us peace “take and shield us” and carry our “load of care”.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, 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.

After his death, in recognition of his sacrificial service to others, a monument was erected in Port Hope, in On­tario Canada, in tribute to Joseph Scriven, an Irish immigrant who was a friend to many and who found a friend in Jesus. He lived from 1819 to 1886. Perhaps his memory is little known to some in Canada, but he is one of the few in Canada who have left behind them something so tender and yet so revealing in a hymn, sung time after time within British Israel circles, at meetings, at gatherings, and many times at the funeral of a fellow Christian. Heard sung by hundreds in great choirs, on radio, or in church, the message it carries is ever comforting, written by a man from Ireland, descended from ancient Israel, who was caused to go through hard trial in his life time, yet had the deep-rooted faith of his friendship with Jesus Christ.

Editor’s Comments: There is something about December, the closing month of the year. It is a time to reflect upon all the good things that came into our lives throughout the months, yet, sadly, it is also a reminder of loved ones and events that may have left us since the year so optimistically began way back on January 1st. Nostalgia is such a powerful emotion, isn’t it? And it is just a little more powerful at this, the closing days of another year. Still, whether the reminiscences are precious, or are longing, we have the most wonderful friend who wants to share our happiness or our loneliness. In my case, I recently lost my friend of 59 years and it will be strange having Christmas this year at our son and daughter-in-law’s home, but in her place, is the best friend we can ever hope for. Joseph Scriven knew this, he never wavered, despite his life’s path being strewn with troubles.