When my sister and I are in the car together and alone, we like to sing the hymns and Sunday School songs of our Protestant childhood: Leaning on the Everlasting Arms; Blessed Assurance; Trust and Obey; Holy, Holy, Holy; Jesus Loves Me; and even The Happy Day Express.

But one hymn instantly brings me back to the warm, fuzzy feelings of Vacation Bible School with memories of gluing cotton balls as Jesus finds His lost sheep on construction paper and a generous supply of Oreo cookies and red Kool-Aid tickled a rumbling tummy. And, yes, even if those summertime rites of passage might be why my generation is obese and diabetic, those beautiful songs we sang forever touched my searching soul.

I especially remember What a Friend We Have in Jesus as one of the whispers that drew me closer to the Savior until the summer I was 17 and recognized the restored gospel of truth.

I recently bought a CD of gospel music that included that hymn. Alone in the car, I pushed it into the CD player. As I sped down the road listening, I was back in the white frame Methodist church of my younger youth and then the school-turned-church in my military brat junior high years. Then I was in the stained glass splendor of the large Main Street Methodist Church of my high school years where, my sister says, but I don’t remember, I turned to her one day and said that I would find the true church one day and when I did, I would tell her about it. I did.

But more than just memories of my search for the real Jesus, a feeling washed over me that Jesus indeed had been my friend since back before even my mortal memories had been formed. There is no one else on the earth who has been there beside me and is so intimately aware of all my pains, all my struggles, all my joys, all the experiences that make me cry, and all the experiences that make my bow my heart whenever I am and proclaim, “Thank you. I am truly blessed.”

My mother has known me all my years, my daddy until he died when I was 43, my sister after the first two years of my life and one friend since I was 15, but the Savior has been with me since the day I was born. No, He has been with me since before I was born through the times that He remembers and I don’t. He knows who I was and who I will become. He can believe in me when I can’t and help me when I don’t know where to turn because He knows the me that is eternal and choice.

My continuing trial in life is my life as the mother of a daughter with severe physical and mental handicaps. It is a burden I wake up with and go to sleep with. Some days I manage better than others; some days I hardly manage at all. Yet at those times when eternity shines clearer than mortality and my affliction does indeed feel like it might one day seem but for a small moment, I know that the Savior alone has been my friend through it all. Sometimes He carries the burden, and sometimes He helps me carry it.

Even on those days when I question whether He is near or not or whether He even hears my prayers in my secret closet, I know I have been taught and believed in the past that He is indeed near, and I chose to trust.

Here are the words of the first three verses written by a Joseph Scriven in 1857 that have meant so much to me in the past and still do.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, 
all our sins and griefs to 
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. 

Have we trials and temptations? 
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; 
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful 
who will all our sorrows 
Jesus knows our every weakness; 
take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, 
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, 
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? 
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; 
you will find a solace there.

I know there wasn’t room for all the good hymns in our hymnbook, but I hope if there’s ever a hymnbook sequel, this hymn makes it in! Jesus is indeed our friend.

Susan is a freelance writer. Her novel “Miracle of the Christmas Star” is the story of a mother’s faith, love, and courage and may be purchased on Amazon.com or cedarfort.com.