Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1896)

Joseph M. Scriven was 25 years old and about to be married. To his horror, the day before the wedding, his fiance drowned to death. Heartbroken, Joseph sailed from Ireland to Canada. Working as a teacher, he became engaged to Eliza Roche. Joseph’s hopes and dreams were shattered when Eliza became ill and died before the wedding. The turmoil within this young man’s heart was unimaginable but his faith in God sustained him. Joseph joined the Plymouth Brethren and preached for a Baptist church. He never married, but spent the rest of his life giving all his time, money and even his own clothes to help poor people and spread the love and compassion of Jesus. When Joseph heard that his mother was ill, he wrote a letter of comfort to her, enclosing his poem ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’. Almost thirty years later, a friend read his poems and as a result of this, Joseph’s poems were published in a book called ‘Hymns and Other Verses’. Noted musician Charles C. Converse (1834-1918) composed the music to ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’. In 1875, the well-known revivalist Ira D. Sankey (1840-1908) included ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ as the last entry into his well-known publication ‘Sankey’s Gospel Hymns Number 1′. Joseph Scriven’s sad and obscure life resulted in countless lives being uplifted for centuries to come, whenever the comforting words of ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ are sung by people worldwide.

It is not known whether Joseph Scriven’s death was accident or suicide. He was in serious depression at the time. A friend reported, “We left him about midnight. I withdrew to an adjoining room, not to sleep, but to watch and wait. You may imagine my surprise and dismay when on visiting the room I found it empty. All search failed to find a trace of the missing man, until a little after noon the body was discovered in the water nearby, lifeless and cold in death.”

Joseph Scriven died on August 10, 1886. He wrote a hymn that ranks among the ten best-known and most-beloved of all time – “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

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.



  1. Good morning Miriam! I love this post and will include it in the summer issue of the Ruby magazine. Thank you so much for working on this project! I would be happy to promote any of your articles, poems, and posts so be sure to let me know when you share a new post with your readers. BIG Hugs, Nina @ Ruby for Women

    1. Nina, I am so honored to hear that you will feature my first hymn story in the summer issue of the Ruby magazine. To get my new blog posts by email, please do enter your email address in the box on the right of my blog and click the ‘follow’ button. This is to ensure that you do not miss a new post. Feel free to promote any of them in the Ruby blog and magazine. Love and blessings, Miriam.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s