Hymnody is not always happy…
Joseph A. Scriven was born on Sept. 10, 1819, in Ireland. His well-to-do parents sent him to Trinity College in Dublin and after he graduated, he had high hopes to serve in the military. Poor health, however, put a quick end to that dream. Scriven then made plans to marry a young lady, but on the night prior to their wedding, she was thrown from her horse while crossing a bridge over the River Bann and drowned. Overcome with grief, Scriven left Ireland to start a new life in Canada. He established a home in Rice Lake, where he fell in love with Eliza Catherine Roche. Just weeks before she was to become Joseph’s bride, she suddenly grew sick with tuberculosis. In a matter of weeks, Eliza died. Scriven then threw himself into the work of ministry, and sought to live as closely to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) as possible. Even in the middle of depression and illness, he gave and shared all that he had, providing services for the disabled and poor and living his own life without financial stability. In the meantime, his mother became very ill back home in Ireland. Joseph didn’t have the financial means to come and care for her, so he did the next best thing and wrote her a poem to try to comfort her. He titled the text, “What a Friend we Have in Jesus.” Somehow or other, his work was passed around detached from his name. Later, when asked if it was indeed his poem, he replied, “The Lord and I did it between us.”
The pain that Scriven endured is hard for many of us to imagine. Some of us in this community, however, have drunk that cup of suffering all too deeply. I can’t help but think of dear Molly Clee’s family, our friend Andrea Gutierrez, and the Naraki family and many more of you who have lost children, coped with failing health, endured broken relationships and have lived through so much difficulty and devastation.
As parents, we would love to shield our children from the tragedies of this fallen world. While we cannot always protect them from life’s hardships and bitter providences, we can prepare them for those things by filling their minds to the brim with the truths of Scripture. And we can teach them how to cast all their cares, concerns, and worries upon Jesus. He knows what makes us fret. He knows our every loss and sadness. He invites us to give it all to Him and trust him even in our discomfort. How sweet to know that “in His arms He’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.” Please join us as we learn this hymn and grow in our prayer lives together.
Chances are you know this hymn already. If it’s helpful to you, please use our YouTube channel to hear it so you can sing it with confidence. It’s a fairly popular song so we added lots of fresh versions to the top of our hymn of the month playlist for you to choose from. And don’t forget your free printable lyrics, music, and a copywork page to help you along.
We encourage you all to gather up your families, for just a few minutes each day, to sing, discuss and memorize this hymn, whether it is during family worship, or before bedtime – whatever works best for your family. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! Let us know if you’ll be joining in!