Posted by: rcottrill | December 2, 2011

I Must Tell Jesus

Words: Elisha Albright Hoffman (b. May 7, 1839; d. Nov. 25, 1929)
Music: Elisha Albright Hoffman

Wordwise Hymns (Hoffman’s birth and death)
The Cyber Hymnal

Elisha Hoffman himself gives us the background of this little gospel song, written in 1893:

“While I was pastor at Lebanon, Pennsylvania, I called one day at the home of a parishioner and found the lady in great distress and sorrow. Wringing her hands she cried, ‘What shall I do, what shall I do?’ [After sharing some passages of Scripture with her] I replied, ‘You cannot do better than take it all to Jesus–you must tell Jesus.’ For a moment she seemed abstracted in meditation, then her face glowed, her eyes lighted up, and with animation she exclaimed, ‘Yes, I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus!’ As I went from that sorrow-filled home a vision walked before me, a vision of a joy-illumined face, of a soul transformed from darkness into light, and I heard all along my pathway the echo of a tender voice saying, ‘I must tell Jesus.’”

As soon as he reached his study, Pastor Hoffman wrote the words and music for the song.

CH-1) I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.

Perhaps the song will be considered simplistic and repetitious by some. In the four stanzas, with their refrains, it repeats the phrase “I must tell Jesus” twenty-one times! However, there is this to say: Sometimes we definitely need reminding–and reminding–about this! Several times in the Word of God, we are pointedly told that some failed to pray and ask the Lord’s direction, going ahead, instead, on a foolish and ruinous course.

¤ Under Joshua, “the men of Israel…did not ask counsel of the Lord” (Josh. 9:14), and they made a treaty with the devious Gibeonites, a bond that plagued the nation for years to come.

¤ King Saul “consulted a medium [a witch] for guidance, but he did not inquire of the Lord” (I Chron. 10:13-14), and his faithlessness and disobedience led to his death, and to the throne of Israel being given to David.

¤ The Lord condemned the nation of Israel for seeking an alliance with Egypt to fight against the Assyrians, instead of appealing to Him for help: “Woe to the rebellious children…who take counsel, but not of Me, who devise plans, but not of My Spirit…and have not asked my advice” (Isa. 30:1-2).

¤ James assures believers, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God…and it will be given to him” (Jas. 1:5), but later points an accusing finger at some and says, “You do not have because you do not ask” (4:2).

The Word of God urges us: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him [as Lord of your life], and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). “Pray without ceasing [i.e. habitually, consistently]” (I Thess. 5:17).

The only quibble I have with Elisha Hoffman is his extravagant claim at the end of the second stanza:

If I but ask Him, He will deliver,
Make of my troubles quickly an end.

No, that is not always the case. Our wise heavenly Father is at work in our trials. He can accomplish things in them that allowing us a life of unbroken comfort and ease could not. What He will do, as we seek His help in prayer, is either deliver us from the difficult or painful circumstance, or give us the grace to endure it, and glorify Him in and through it. In the latter case, “my troubles” remain, but I can bring glory to God by proving the sufficiency of His grace (cf. II Cor. 12:7-10).

1) What are some of the reasons we fail to pray when we should?

2) What person or situation do you need to commit to the Lord today that perhaps you have been failing to pray about?

Wordwise Hymns (Hoffman’s birth and death)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Though, as you say, the words may seem simplistic and repetitious to some,
    I can fully understand the background to them. No, we cannot bear our burdens alone; something I have proved from painful personal experience just recently. Thank you for this encouraging post.


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