BEHIND THE HYMNS – 2
All the way my Saviour Leads Me -
At the age of 6 weeks Fanny lost her eyesight during a spell of sickness. But this never seemed to hold her back. At the age of 15 she entered the New York Institution for the Blind where she received her education. She became a teacher in the institution in 1847 in the subjects of English grammar, rhetoric and American history. She continued her work until March of 1858 when she married Alexander Van Alstyne, a musician, who was also blind.
Crosby’s walk of faith is expressed by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21: For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Fanny loved her work. The secret of her contentment dates from her first composition at the age of 8 years. “O what a happy soul am I. Although I cannot see, I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.” This remained her philosophy throughout life.
This philosophy of Fanny’s is so well expressed in All the way my Saviour leads me, what have I to ask beside? If faith is to trust in things unseen, in hopes not realized, Fanny has the faith that so many of us would love to have and yet struggle to find. She never felt a time when God was not there with her and she never doubted the mercy of her Saviour. No matter what might befall her, she trusted that her Saviour would do what was needed. For her the grace of God was sufficient to get her through her life and she felt in her heart and spirit that she was being fed with a living bread as Jesus described himself in the gospel of John. Her ability to paint images that she could only imagine is incredible. Even if she faltered because of weariness of body, mind or spirit, she knew that there would be a spring of joy gushing from the rock that would quench anything that might confound her or cause her to fear.
From her first breath unto her last, she knew that Jesus would be with her.
Jesus’ hands were kind hands
A search of the internet yielded nothing about the author of this hymn, but the words penned by Margaret Cropper paint a picture for us about the love of Christ and exemplify what our lives should be like.
First looking to Jesus to see what was most important to him and how he responded to the needs of those around him, we can then find clues as to how we can use our hands to make a positive difference in the lives of people we encounter.
One way that many people are using their hands is in the making of quilts that are given to people struggling with cancer and other serious illnesses. Taking a meal to someone who is having a difficult time or taking a moment to pop in on a neighbour or pausing to listen to a stranger who needs an ear or perhaps a shoulder to lean on. Knowing that we can respond in some way to others in this world out of love for our brothers and sisters in times of trial, grief or loneliness.
One person who was busy working on a quilt found the words “Abba, peace” coming to her mind.
As she started across the row with each stitch she began to pray, “Father bring peace, Father bring healing, Father bring warmth, Father bring love, Father bring hope.”
What is it that you can do with your hands that will bring God’s love to another? What is it that you can do with your voice, with your feet, with your mind, with your whole being that will demonstrate the love of Christ to the world?
We all have gifts from God … let’s not hang on to them for fear of losing them or using them up. How we use our gifts for others is how we thank God for the gifts he has given us.
Use what you have received so freely … give it freely … give it out of love … give it out of the joy of knowing Christ and wishing that gift for others. There is a multitude of people who need kindness, compassion, love … waiting for you … and you… and you …
Go in peace … go in healing … go in warmth … go in love … go in hope.
What a Friend we have in Jesus
This hymn is one which is often requested for funerals and so it is no surprise to learn that it was composed to provide comfort to someone in a time of special sorrow. What might be more surprising is that it was intended only to be read as a poem by one person, the author’s mother. Little is known of the life of Joseph Scriven. It is believed that he was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1820, graduated from TrinityCollege in Dublin and emigrated to Canada at the age of 25. He died at Port Hope, Ontario in 1886. It is believed that the hymn was written around 1855.
The hymn only came to light as the result of a neighbour who tended to Joseph during his final illness. The neighbour happened upon a manuscript of What a Friend we have in Jesus. After reading it, he questioned Joseph about it. Joseph then recounted how the poem was intended to comfort his mother in a time of special sorrow in her life. What exactly that sorrow was we will never know but Joseph said that it was a personal thing and he did not intend for anyone else to ever read it.
We can be thankful that Joseph’s neighbour decided not to keep the poem a secret but let it be published. It first appeared in Hasting’s Song of Pilgrimage in 1886 and was attributed to Joseph Scriven. It was set to music by Charles Converse who wrote the tune What a Friend just for this hymn.
The kind of friendship Joseph Scriven imagined with Jesus is the kind that so many people seek for but seldom if ever find. In fact, we probably could never hope to find anyone outside of Jesus who would be prepared to bear all our sins and griefs. Joseph then reminds his mother - and all of us who have heard these words through the ages – that it is a privilege to carry everything in our lives in prayer to God. Our hesitancy to do so only leads to a lack of peace and the continuing presence of pain that we needlessly carry when we choose not to include God in our lives.
When it comes to the second verse, we have no doubt reflected on the fact that there is no one of us who has not experienced trials and temptations. We all know that there is trouble somewhere in the life of someone we know but Joseph reminds us to never be discouraged and take it all to the Lord in prayer. And is there anyone else we know who will be faithful enough to listen to and let us share all our sorrows? Probably not; but Jesus knows our every weakness and is still willing to share our sorrows and help us in our trials and temptations.
The final verse is almost like a recap of what he has already told us. If you find yourself weak and heavy-laden; if you find you are cumbered with a load of care, do not hesitate to take it to God for he is for us a refuge in the midst of any trouble or trial of life. And if you find your friends have grown tired of your struggles and have stopped listening or caring, do not despair for God will take you in his arms and shield your spirit and you will find a solace there. No wonder the neighbour felt compelled to share this wonderful poem with the world.