Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Friendship (04/04/05)
- TITLE: What a Friend
By Brad Paulson
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Joseph was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1819. His family was wealthy and he enjoyed the benefits of prosperity. Education was one of those benefits, and young Joseph graduated from Trinity College in his early twenties. After completing his education he met and fell in love with a young woman. Soon, the wedding plans were set and they both looked forward to a promising future together. On the eve of their wedding, tragedy struck. Joseph’s plans were abruptly changed by a freak drowning accident that claimed the life of his fiancee. Distraught and grief stricken, he took solace in a friend he had come to know well, his Lord and Savior.
The relationship that ensued estranged Joseph from his family. Putting into practice the teachings of Jesus Christ did not bode well with an affluent family. His family had earned a fair amount of money and was not eager to give it away to the poor. So, at the age of twenty-five, Joseph decided to start over. This time in Ontario, Canada in a town called Port Hope. His degree from Trinity College helped him land a teaching job, and before long he met another young lady. He was eager to share his love for the Lord, and she seemed eager to accept Jesus into her own heart. Once again wedding plans were set. Anxious to make a public declaration of her faith, Joseph’s fiancee was baptized in an icy Canadian lake. In a bizarre chain of events Joseph lost his second fiancee to pneumonia, the result of being baptized in ice cold water.
Joseph could have spent the rest of his days bitter and angry, but this was not the way of his Lord. Instead he chose to live a life of mercy for those who were poor. He gave up his teaching career and devoted his time to the service of others. It was common for him to give the clothes off of his back for someone in need. It is said that a man once observed him carrying his saw buck and asked, “Who is that man? I would like to hire him.” A companion answered, “You cannot get that man; he saws wood only for widows and sick people who cannot pay.” This manner of life earned the respect of his neighbors but it also gave him the appearance of being rather eccentric. Few people took the time to befriend him. He was just a little too different.
Friendships with other people seemed to be a secondary issue for Joseph. His primary focus was on serving his Lord. A man that had experienced so much loss might be afraid to enter into new relationships, for fear of another loss. Whether or not that was the case, it is obvious that he had found sufficient friendship in Jesus Christ. When trials and challenges began to overwhelm him he knew he had a friend he could count on. One who would always be with him and one who would never disappoint him. A friend who would always listen and always care.
When Joseph’s mother lay dying, far across the sea in Dublin, the best way he could comfort her was to share the comfort that Jesus had given him. He sat down at his desk and thought long and hard about how best to express the peace and solace he had found through Christ. The result was a simple poem entitled “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
Joseph Scriven’s life ended tragically. His death was the result of drowning in the icy waters of another Canadian lake. It seems that someone who had offered all of us so much comfort and peace through the words of a simple, but well loved hymn would have met a more dignified end. I suppose, in Joseph’s mind, it was all trivial. The friend that had brought him the most comfort and peace had also experienced what appeared to be an undignified end. However, it was the cross that guaranteed their friendship would remain eternal.
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