Summer Soul Refresher: ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’

By   •   July 10, 2019   •   Topics: ,

This year, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s summer series is taking a look at five popular hymns sung at Billy Graham Crusades—and how those songs fit into our lives today. This is part 3. Read part 1 and part 2.

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

If you asked people to name their closest friend, how many would say Jesus?

Each of us was created to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s something you might have heard before, but don’t skim over that sentence too quickly. Take a minute to let it sink in.

The Son of God wants to have a thriving, two-way relationship with you.

When Joseph Scriven penned “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in 1855, the words flowed from his soul. That’s because not once, but twice he lost a fiancée to death shortly before they were to be married.

>> Scroll down to watch this song performed at a Billy Graham Crusade in 1976. 

In the midst of his grief, Scriven looked to Jesus as a close friend.

Billy Graham once said, “Even sorrows turn to blessings when they make us less attached to the earth and more attached to God. Then more than ever we discover that Jesus truly is our friend—‘All our sins and griefs to bear.’”

Do you know Jesus that way—as a friend you can turn to and confide in? Someone who accepts you, has compassion on you and gives you wise counsel?

Jesus cares when you’re hurt, angry, happy or sad. Matthew Henry’s Commentary explains it this way:

Christ takes believers to be his friends. He visits them and converses with them as his friends, bears with them and makes the best of them, is afflicted in their afflictions, and takes pleasure in their prosperity; he pleads for them in heaven and takes care of all their interests there.

But His friendship goes even deeper than that. In the Bible, Jesus tells His followers, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). His loving friendship was on ultimate display when He gave His life up on a cross, shedding His innocent blood to cover the guilt of our sins.

No one else has ever done that for us. And it doesn’t end there.

How Do You Grow in Your Relationship with Christ?

Think about the way you feel around friends. Maybe you get a sense of comfort and safety. Perhaps you’re joyful or get the feeling you’re where you’re supposed to be.

Being around friends often brings us peace, and we find ourselves wanting to be around them more.

That’s the way it can be with Jesus, too. But how?

>> How can you be friends with someone who lived 2,000 years ago? Read more in this short answer from Billy Graham.

Just as you invest in your friendships, a relationship with Jesus requires investment as well. It takes time and effort.

You talk to your friends, but do you talk to Jesus? When you have something on your mind, do you “take it to the Lord in prayer”? Praying is really just talking to Him, like you would a friend. He also speaks to us through God’s Word, the Bible.

>> Check out this article from a previous summer series with tangible ideas for going deeper in your walk with Christ.

In his book Peace With God, Billy Graham writes, “Some of you believe that you know Jesus Christ as your Savior, but you haven’t really made Him your Lord. You’re missing the peace of God in your struggles and turmoils and trials and pressures of life.”

As you go about your summer, remember Jesus is there, ready to walk alongside you whatever life may bring. He loves you and is present every step of the way.

Watch Cliff Barrows join a Billy Graham Crusade audience in singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” from Seattle, Washington, in 1976.

Behind the Music

On the eve of his wedding in Ireland, Joseph Scriven’s fiancée rode a horse to meet him. When her horse startled, she was thrown into rushing waters and knocked unconscious. Scriven arrived moments later to find his childhood love drowned. For months, he was emotionally shattered and leaned heavily on God to comfort him.

Scriven later moved to Canada, where he fell in love and proposed. Before he and his second fiancée were married, she became ill and died suddenly. Consumed by grief, Scriven again turned to Christ—his closest friend.

Not long afterward, to comfort his mother, he wrote, “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. …” The poem was eventually set to music, and this simple, well-loved hymn was often sung at Billy Graham Crusades.