A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief

I have heard, that this was a song, that the Prophet – not Muhammad, Joseph Smith – loved. I have no reason to doubt the truth of that. Actually, it’s quite easy for me to believe, because of my own experience.

The song tells a story about someone, who comes to know the Lord by serving others. Now, I have much to learn about charity and love, but what I’ve learned is, that you love whom you serve, not the other way around. Again, at the risk of stating the obvious, I know how much easier it is to serve them, whom you think you love.

“Whom you think you love?” you may ask. In case you didn’t I did it for you. We often think we love people, when we find them fun to be around or something. Or they have done something for us, that we feel grateful for. I guess that’s love, in a way. But it’s not Love. It certainly isn’t Charity. In my opinion, Charity goes the extra mile. And besides, what is so commendable in showing kindness to those, who do the same to you? Charity can forgive even when an apology has not been extended. Charity will not seek revenge, but will leave the matter to the Lord, with the realization, that I am not perfect myself – there is plenty in me, that needs forgiveness. Charity sees, that in no time, I can be the one needing help. If I withhold help from someone, who needs it, how can I expect to receive help?

And I say all that fully realizing, that I am not by any stretch of imagination exemplary of Charity. I say that, because I realize it so well, and I often ponder how I can be more sensitive to the needs of others.

Consider the message of the song A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. The narrator is a good example of Charity (not the kind of charity that buys a $3,000 dress for a $1,000 a plate charity dinner). He does not consider his own needs too important to give to someone, who’s even worse off than he. And the point, I think, is here:

I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.

The idea, that we are helped as we help others, is iterated in the song. But in a way this part goes even deeper. Who of us doesn’t have a hidden pain somewhere within? Something we practically never think about, but is there? These are the things that often cause anxiety attacks, temper tantrums or even depression. If a person is suffering from a deep depression, I suggest professional help – not from a medicine bottle, but talk therapy. But all the while, who is it, that bore our burdens? Who suffered every imaginable privation and agony, in order to be able to know “how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (see Alma 7:11-12)? Yes, Jesus Christ the Lord.

To paraphrase king Benjamin, if we give of ourselves to our fellow man (and that is the old “sexist” way of referring to all humanity), we give to the Lord (see Mosiah 2:17). No, there is nothing, that we can give to him, that is not already his. But he doesn’t need for us to give. We do.

Myself, I was very new to the Church, when I first heard the song in full. To me the realization that it gave me was overwhelming. It filled me with an indescribable sensation, that made me decide, that I will do my utmost to give what I have. And yes, I have learned the hard way, that you can’t give what you don’t have, but that’s another sermon.

Now, if you’re not totally worn out by this, check out this video I picked up at YouTube. I am no graphic designer, so I can’t say much about the visuals, but I like a male choir, and it’s a nice arrangement (not too grandiose). For reference, I put the lyrics here. Enjoy!

A poor wayfaring Man of grief
Hath often crossed me on my way,
Who sued so humbly for relief
That I could never answer nay.
I had not pow’r to ask his name,
Whereto he went, or whence he came;
Yet there was something in his eye
That won my love; I knew not why.

Once, when my scanty meal was spread,
He entered; not a word he spake,
Just perishing for want of bread.
I game him all; he blessed it, break,
And ate, but gave me part again.
Mine was an angel’s portion then,
For while I fed with eager haste,
The crust was manna to my taste.

I spied him where a fountain burst
Clear from the rock; his strength was gone.
The heedless water mocked his thirst;
He heard it, saw it hurrying on.
I ran and raised the suff’rer up;
Thrice from the stream he drained my cup,
Dipped and returned it running o’ver;
I drank and never thirsted more.

‘Twas night; the floods were out; it blew
A winter hurricane aloof.
I heard his voice abroad and flew
To bid him welcome to my roof.
I warmed and clothed cheered my guest
And laid him on my couch to rest,
Then made the earth my bed and seemed
In Eden’s garden while I dreamed.

Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,
I found him by the highway side.
I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,
Revived his spirit, and supplied
Wine, oil, refreshment he was healed.
I had myself a wound concealed,
But from that hour forgot the smart,
And peace bound up my broken heart.

In pris’n I saw him next, condemned
To meet a traitor’s doom at morn.
The tide of lying tongues I stemmed,
And honored him ‘mid shame and scorn.
My friendship’s utmost zeal to try,
He asked if I for him would die.
The flesh was weak; my blood ran chill,
But my free spirit cried, ‘I will!’

Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.
He spake, and my poor name he named,
‘Of me thou hast not been ashamed.
These deeds shall thy memorial be;
Fear not, thou didst them unto me.’

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Posted in Mormonism, Religion
One comment on “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
  1. watcat says:

    Hi this blog is great I will be recommending it to friends.

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