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Beloved Hymns: What a Friend We Have in Jesus

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”1


Joseph Scriven was about 25 years old and engaged to be married when tragedy first struck his life. On the eve of his wedding day, he watched in shock as his fiancé’s lifeless body was pulled from the lake. Reeling from this nightmare, he decided to immigrate to America. Packing up his belongings and saying goodbye to his life in Dublin, Ireland, he sailed for Canada, leaving his mother behind.


10 years later, in 1855, he received word that his mother was facing a difficult time. Joseph wrote a poem and sent it to her. Mrs. Scriven later gave a copy to a friend who had it published anonymously. It quickly became a popular hymn, although no one knew who had written it! Joseph found love again with Eliza Catherine Roche, but tragedy struck a second time when his bride-to-be contracted tuberculosis and died in 1860, before their wedding could take place.


This time, to escape his sorrow, Joseph poured himself into the ministry, doing charity work and preaching. He lived a simple, yet obscure life in Port Hope, Canada, cutting firewood for widows and giving away his belongings to those in need. Ira Sankey (gospel singer) later wrote:


     “Until a short time before his death it was not known that he had a poetic gift. A neighbor, sitting up with him and his illness, happened upon a manuscript copy of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. Reading it with great delight and questioning Mr. Scriven about it, he said that he had composed it for his mother to comfort her in a time of special sorrow, not intending that anyone else should see it. Sometime later, when another Port Hope neighbor asked him if it was true that he composed the hymn, his reply was, “The Lord and I did it between us”.


On October 10, 1896, Joseph became very ill. In his delirium, he rose from his bed and wandered outside of his home where he fell into a small creek and drowned. He was 66 years old. He was buried next to his lost love, Catherine.


What a Friend We Have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear!

 What a privilege to carry, Everything to God in Prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear.

All because we do not carry Everything to God in Prayer!2


Suggested Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for being my Friend. Thank you for walking beside me through the lowest moments of my life as well as the high points. Your loving arms have held me and guided me. I love you and praise you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.


  1. Philippians 4:7.

  2. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, Hymn by Joseph M. Scriven (1855).


Today’s Encounter was written by: Veronica B.

All articles on this website are written by
Richard (Dick) Innes unless otherwise stated.