The Sunday Sermonette Sorrow + Prayer = Friendship

I was at the gym last week, running nowhere on the treadmill, lickety split! The telly was on, and as I raced along, I could not help but be saddened by the news reports coming out of Israel. In war, children and the elderly suffer the most. They are helpless in many ways, yet they cannot escape their suffering.

     Many times, neither can we. Suffering can be numbed, delayed, but never escaped. It hides in the shadows, waiting. When it knocks at our door and we say, “There’s no seat for you here!” Suffering laughs and says, “Ha! I brought my own recliner.”

     In 1844, Joseph Scriven must have felt that Suffering had not only come to visit, bringing his own recliner, but had moved in, lock, stock, and barrel. Scriven, a young Irishman having completed his studies at Dublin’s Trinity College, was on his way home to Bainbridge, Ireland, to marry his childhood sweetheart.

     While traveling to meet her on the day before their planned wedding, tragedy struck. He found his beautiful fiancée floating in a creek. She drowned when her horse bolted, throwing her into the deep, dark, cold waters.   

     Scriven, grief-stricken, decided to run from Suffering. The young man moved to Canada, where he eventually fell in love again, only to have Suffering come calling once more. Just weeks before his second marriage, his fiancée contracted pneumonia and died. For the second time in his young life, this humble Christian felt the loss of the woman he loved. 

     Scriven stumbled through his pain, though, eventually writing a poem to his mother back in Ireland titled “Pray Without Ceasing.” In it, he described his deep friendship with Jesus, cultivated in prayer through the suffering he had experienced. How easily it might have been for him to have “cursed God” and lapsed into unbelief and bitterness, coupled with a hardened heart. But God and Jesus had other plans for Scriven and his poem.

     Had that single piece of paper on which the poem was written been inadvertently destroyed before it was set to music, the world would have been deprived of one of the great hymns of the Christian faith. We would never sing the words, “In His arms, He’ll take and shield thee; Thou wilt find a solace there.” Thankfully, we can, and like Scriven, we can know “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

     When suffering comes our way, instead of thinking God is punishing us, like Scriven, we should cherish our friendship with Father God and His son, Jesus—a friendship that is only discovered and developed through prayer. And if we do, we can sing with a thankful heart, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

     Ponder this and go forth.