“Jesus Understands”

"For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous…" (Ps. 1.6)

     INTRO.: A song which points out that we can pray to God because the Lord knows and cares about our ways is "Jesus Understands." The text was written by Birdie Bell. For several years I had tried to locate information about this author and was not very successful. When I first started my research, I found that there was a Birdie Bell who was born on Apr. 14, 1868, to Francis and Hulda Jane Osborn Bell at Keswick, Keokuk County, IA, and died in June of 1938. There was also a Birdie Bell who was married to George E. Brooks in Webster County, KY, in 1904. However, I had no way of knowing if either of these penned the song.  However, further research indicates that hymns attributed to Birdie Bell were actually written by Birdie Bell Harris Winsett (c. 1877-1925).  A school teacher by profession, she was the wife of Robert E. Winsett, author and composer of "Jesus Is Coming Soon."  They married in 1908. and after living in El Paso, TX, and Ft. Smith, AR, they moved to Hamilton County, TN, where Birdie died sometime before 1930.

     Cyberhymnal credits Birdie Bell with ten other songs, including "Just One Touch" of 1897 with music by J. Howard Entwisle. Some of our books have included other hymns attributed to her, such as "There Is Only One Way" of 1923 with music by Leonard Daugherty.  The tune for "Jesus Understands" was composed by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921). The song was copyrighted in 1903, but Cyberhymnal gives the date of 1901 (if it was actually written in 1901, then 1903 could have been its first publication), and the copyright was renewed in 1931 by Hope Publishing Co. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. The only other hymnbook in which I have ever seen the song is Praise and Worship published by the Lillenas Publishing Company of Kansas City, MO.

     The song reminds us that our Mediator has lived in the flesh and is aware of our struggles.

I. Stanza 1 suggests that Jesus knows our burdens
"Bowed beneath your burden, is there none to share?
Weary with the journey, is there none to care?
Courage, wayworn traveler, heed your Lord’s commands.
There’s a thought to cheer you: Jesus understands."
 A. As we journey through life we often have burdens to bear that no one else can help us with: Gal. 6.5
 B. These burdens make us weary and cause us to be in danger of falling: Heb. 12.3
 C. However, because Jesus understands, He can give us courage to bear our burdens in our travels: Josh. 1.6-9

II. Stanza 2 suggests that Jesus knows our pathway
"Every heavy burden He will gladly share.
Are you sad and weary? Jesus has a care.
Well He knows the pathway o’er life’s burning sands.
Courage, fainting pilgrim; Jesus understands."
 A. Jesus will gladly share our burdens and invites us to cast them upon Him: Ps. 55.22
 B. Therefore, whenever we are sad or weary, we should remember that He cares for us: 1 Pet. 5.7
 C. The reason that He knows the pathway over life’s burning sands is that He has walked it Himself: 1 Pet. 2.21-22

III. Stanza 3 suggests that Jesus knows our temptations
"Though temptation meet you, Jesus can sustain.
Life has vexed problems which He can explain.
Serve Him where He sends you, though in distant lands.
Do not doubt or question; Jesus understands."
 A. Temptation will meet us: Jas. 1.12-15
 B. However, Jesus can help us understand life’s vexing problems because He also was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin: Heb. 4.14-16
 C. Thus, we should be satisfied simply to serve Him in everything that we do: Col. 3.24

IV. Stanza 4 suggests that Jesus knows our future
"Weary heart, He calls you, ‘Come to Me and rest.’
Does the path grow rugged? Yet His way is best.
Leave the unknown future in the Master’s hands.
Whether sad or joyful, Jesus understands."
 A. Rather than burdening us with the future, Jesus calls us to come to Him and rest: Matt. 11.28-30
 B. We can know that His way is always best because every good gift comes from above: Jas. 1.17
 C. Hence, there is no need to worry about the unknown future but leave it in the Master’s hands because tomorrow will worry about its own things: Matt. 6.34

     CONCL.: The chorus continues to remind us that Jesus understands and cares for us.
"Yes, He understands. All His ways are best.
Hear, He calls to you, ‘Come to me and rest.’
Leave the unknown future in the Master’s hands.
Whether sad or joyful, Jesus understands."
During our journey through life upon this earth, we shall experience many tribulations, trials, temptations, and other problems. As we learn how to cope with these in a way that pleases God and even through them to grow closer to Him, it will bring us great comfort to know, when we pray to the Father through our Mediator, that "Jesus Understands."


3 thoughts on ““Jesus Understands”

  1. Please make contact with me via my email address as I am interested in some of your research into some of the little-known songs or song writers associated with the Churches of Christ. Will explain more later but I just purchased a stack of old lead/copper hymn printing plates and most seem to be associated with some publication done for the Churches of Christ in the 1st half of the 20th century. These will eventually be sent to Nashville to join the Bailey Hymnology Collection that I established there at Lipscomb some years ago. Thanks, Ernie R. Bailey, Murray, KY

  2. As much as I love the Cyberhymnal website, they aren’t always a reliable source of information. It’s always a good idea to check for yourself. Case in point: Birdie Bell. Despite what is written on the Cyberhymnal website, Birdie Harris Winsett is not the same individual as Birdie Bell the hymn writer. For one thing, Winsett was born in 1876, and as several of Birdie Bell’s hymns were published in Asa Hull’s Jewels of Praise (1884), that would mean that Winslett was only 8 years old when these hymns were published. Furthermore, in the book The Singers and Their Songs, (1916) Charles H. Gabriel writes that Birdie Bell’s real name was C. Louise Bell, and that she was “born, raised, and lives in New York City.” (Unfortunately he gives no other biographical information). Winsett (daughter of John H. Harris and M. Petty), was born September 8, 1876 in Arkansas and died December 28, 1927 in Alton Park, Tennessee. (see http://www.familysearch.org) There is no evidence that she ever lived in New York.
    Also, I tend to doubt Cyberhymnal’s date of 1901 for this hymn for several reasons: 1. The 1903 copyright date; 2. Cyberhymnal gives no source to back up the 1901 date; 3. The Dictionary of American Hymnology First Line Index also gives the first publication of this hymn as 1903.

    • Thanks for the information. Many readers have access to sources that I do not have, so I appreciate their comments which fill in gaps, correct errors, and provide additional information about hymns and hymn writers.


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