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What A Friend

Guest post by Erin Nogueira


What a Friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!

--Joseph M. Scriven


It is such an honor to be asked to be a guest writer on my mom’s blog! Just kidding, she didn’t ask me, I definitely invited myself. EVEN SO, I’m grateful to be here. Having grown up at West End Church, it has a near and dear place in my heart, and I’m privileged to still call its members my family (both literally and figuratively).


For those readers who are long-time members of West End, you know that my mom used to lead an occasional “Hymn Sing Sunday.” On these Sundays, there was no particular sermon from the Pastor; rather, we would sing a number of old hymns and allow their stories and their theology to shape our faith. I remember one such Sunday when my grandfather was in the congregation. When my mother asked for hymn requests, my grandfather stood and shared his love of this hymn - “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” At the time, my grandmother had recently passed away and we were all still adjusting to life without her--feeling the vacuum of space her soul left in this world. I remember singing this hymn in the context of that loss, and contemplating my grandfather’s heart as he sang these words.


Since that time, this hymn has never been far from my mind. I often find myself humming or singing it as I work, clean, or walk. I don’t remember exactly what he said...how he introduced the hymn or why in particular it was so special to him. Maybe he said something specifically about this one line… For whatever reason, I am especially moved by the second part of the first verse: “O what needless pain we bear…” When coupled with the phrases before and after it, this thought feels like a big, warm hug.


O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!


Stop. Drop the mic. I’m done.


Just kidding, I should probably say more than that. Right? Right, ok.


So, where do we see this in Scripture? I’m going to go back to one of my favorite stories of all time--Nehemiah. I love this book! Here’s a super quick, hopefully theologically sound, summary of the beginning of Nehemiah’s story…


Nehemiah is something of an average guy. He is serving as cupbearer to the king of the Persian empire when we meet him. (Quick recap: most Israelites at this time are in slavery, having been captured by the Babylonians out of Judah more than a hundred years earlier). He gets a message that the remnant of Israelites in Jerusalem are in trouble and the walls of the temple have been burned down. Nehemiah, who has never seen this place or met these people, is totally devastated. He appears sad before the king (not okay) and the king asks what’s wrong (not usual), and Nehemiah tells him (probably a bad idea). Then the king asks Nehemiah what he wants to do/what he needs (what?!). Nehemiah stops...prays...and then asks for money, labor, animals, food, etc., and permission to return to Jerusalem and fix the walls. And the king says YES. (Nehemiah 1-2:8, ENV - Erin Nogueira Version).


There are so many mind blowing things going on in this passage. I’m amazed how Nehemiah is so moved over the damage to the temple; Nehemiah knows these are his people, and not just in a nationality kind of way...but in a called-by-God kind of way. Do I express such empathy for my own brothers and sisters in Christ? Then, the fact that he has the gall to wear his heart on his sleeve in front of the king. I can just see God’s spirit hanging in the air as the conversation happens, his Hand touching the heart of the king to inquire about Nehemiah’s thoughts, then giving the king the words to ask what Nehemiah needs. Then, my favorite part--how I wish I could have been a fly on that wall! Nehemiah stops, mid conversation, and prays. How long did he pray? What did he pray for? The right words? Courage to lead the charge? Simply that the king wouldn’t kill him? What was the king thinking through this? I can only imagine. Again, we can just see God’s hand guiding the king to provide all Nehemiah requested.


I have certainly never been in a situation quite like this. However, I’m sure we can all recall at least one time when we were faced with a tough decision--perhaps one that significantly impacted others...perhaps one that carried great risk. What was my first response? (Calling my mom of course, duh).


I can think of numerous circumstances where I went days, weeks or even months carrying the weight of worry and concern for a situation over which I had NO control. The Persian king could just as easily have cut off Nehemiah’s head as grant his request. There was nothing Nehemiah could say or do to change the situation...other than, to pray. O what needless pain we bear. What if Nehemiah had not prayed? What if he had just said he needed a day off, or some time or mourn? Or what if he just said nevermind? In taking his worry and heartbreak to God, he was granted peace, and freedom from the burden of his devastation.


As my grandfather and the rest of our family slowly adapted to something of a lesser life without my grandmother, the words of this hymn grew in their meaning and their comfort. The moments of life we can’t control--the death of a loved one, unexpected illness, a global pandemic, the outcome of an election--these are burdens we do not need to carry alone.


What a friend we have in Jesus! Take it to the Lord in prayer.



Erin lives in the Northside of Richmond, VA with her husband and two wild boys. Erin is eagerly seeking the welfare of the city in her work alongside a variety of churches and non-profits. Currently, she is adapting to life working from home, starting a garden, and getting settled into a new neighborhood. Erin is an introvert who loves deep conversations, hours of crafting and endless cups of coffee. You can find Erin on Instagram or at auxanogarden.wordpress.com.


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