Home / Faith / An Answer to Discouragement and Despair

An Answer to Discouragement and Despair

Many of the old hymns we find such comfort in today came from the experience of great tragedy and loss in the lives of their composers. Feelings of discouragement and even despair were poured out in the words of their music, but so also were feelings of comfort and contentment stemming from great faith in God.   The story behind the well-known hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” starts with its composer, Joseph M. Scriven.

Despair and discouragement were companions that Joseph M. Scriven knew well. His beautiful fiancée drowned on the eve of their wedding, causing Scriven to leave his native Ireland and sail to Canada. It was there that he met another young lady and found himself falling in love again—there was hope for a happy life after all. But before the day of their wedding, this young lady died of pneumonia. He never found love again.

In his grief, the poet and composer turned to his God, eventually becoming a preacher of the Word.  His reputation of giving to others preceded him, as he often gave his very clothing to those in need.  His only desire in life became to spread the Gospel that had brought him comfort and hope.

When his mother, still living in Ireland, became deathly ill, he sent her a copy of his poem, “Pray without Ceasing.” He could not have known that thirty years later this poem would be set to music by Charles C. Converse under the  title What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  When asked about the origins of his  poem turned hymn, his answer was simply “The Lord and I did it between us.”

Today, a monument stands in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, to the man who gave of himself even after great loss in his own life. Perhaps the words to his beautiful hymn give the best explanation for how he found the strength to walk this path:


Joseph M. Scriven

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!

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 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.

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.

We all carry burdens, bringing with them turmoil and a struggle to stand in faith…Do you know that you have a Friend waiting to carry your burdens, a Friend who will not forsake you? Will you bring your heartaches to Him in prayer, and let Him heal your discouragement and despair?

About Lisa

My husband Dan and I have three children and three grandchildren. We live in central Illinois. I am a graduate of The Institute of Children's Literature, a member of faithwriters.com, and a member of SCBWI. My writings have been published at chirstiandevotions.us, in DevotionMagazine, the PrairieWind Newsletter, and here at thebottomline.co.

Check Also

A Place Without Trouble

The little farmgirl in the blue gingham dress had troubles swirling around her like the ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *