A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief

We have entered 2020, and it is epic to witness the Lord’s timing. 200 years ago this spring, the Prophet Joseph Smith experienced the First Vision, spurring the Restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the publishing of the Book of Mormon. Our current Prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, declared in October that as Saints develop a greater spiritual capacity to receive revelation, their preparation will make the bicentennial April General Conference not only memorable, but unforgettable. How fitting that as we strive to nurture a strong relationship with our Lord, and celebrate the events of 1820, we are studying the Book of Mormon for Come, Follow Me. May we answer this prophetic call with fervor and diligence.

The principles contained in last week’s post have lingered in my mind since, and I have especially been considering the last paragraph. I wrote…

“To those who are looking for peace, happiness, or blessings in their own life, may I suggest considering the words of our Savior Jesus Christ to the Saints? ‘Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake; for whoso layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again’ (D&C 103:27). If you’re looking for your “life”, whatever that may be, I believe that you must selflessly embark on the difficult and lifelong journey of losing yourself in the service of God and your fellowman. Truly, then, you will find yourself.”

I think that we all know some ways that we can serve. Plenty of opportunities are presented to us, and through keeping a prayerful eye out, the Spirit can teach us what He would have us to do. This is a greatly personal endeavor, and frankly, one that is different for everyone. I am confident that we each have the spiritual gifts necessary to know how we can individually serve.

Today, then, I wish to simply present poetry that we can all consider. Through learning of service, and how it was fundamental to both Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, I believe that a spiritual desire to serve as He served can burn within ourselves. The 1826 poem written in England by James Montgomery, and later adapted as a Christian hymn by John Taylor, A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief stirred my impressions. It goes as follows…

 1. 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.
 
2. Once, when my scanty meal was spread,
He entered; not a word he spake,
Just perishing for want of bread.
I gave him all; he blessed it, brake,
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.
 
3. 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'er;
I drank and never thirsted more.
 
4. '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 and 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.
 
5. 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.
 
6. 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!"
 
7. 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."

I noticed a couple patterns whilst studying these verses. Understanding that doing service unto the wayfaring man (“the least of these my brethren”) is doing service unto God (Matthew 25:40), I remember that the Savior did many of the same acts of service during His earthly ministry.

As we see in verses 1 and 5, the Savior also comforted countless suffering travelers. Verse 2 reminds me of the Passover, as Jesus broke bread and instituted the Sacrament with His disciples. John 5 can be compared to verse 3, as Christ healed the man at the pool of Bethesda. The Apostles of Mark 4 can relate to verse 4 as they recall pleading, ‘Master, carest thou not that we perish?’ (verse 38) as a storm raged on before being Divinely stilled.

And lastly, one cannot ponder the last two verses without solemnly remembering the Prophet Joseph Smith. Did Joseph and Hyrum know, as they kneeled in Carthage jail and listened to John Taylor sing these verses, that they would soon join the Only Begotten as martyrs? Having been purified by the refiner’s fire their whole lives, finally, Jesus Christ could see Himself in their image. That’s what it’s all about- becoming a mirror of sorts.

Losing our lives in service will in turn allow us to find our lives again. We give, and are given part again. The end of every verse of this immortal hymn explains how the blessing came to the person doing the service. Love, symbolic bread and water, dreams, peace, and freedom are all gifts given to us in this life as a result of our service. But when our work is done and we see our Maker’s face, realizing that all we did we did unto Him, the greatest reward will be in hearing Him say…

“These deeds shall thy memorial be; Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”

2 thoughts on “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief

  1. I really like the thought that we each have unique ways we can serve others and if we seek the spirit through prayer we will be guided regarding who we should serve and how. I also love this hymn. It and “More Holiness Give Me” are my two favorite. Next time we are together, remind me to tell you why.

    Liked by 1 person

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