Updated: May 3
Swedish: Tryggare kan ingen vare
Text: Lina Sandell (1832-1903) Tune: German folk.
1. Children of the heavenly Father
Safely in his bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.
2. God his own doth tend and nourish;
In his holy courts they flourish,
From all evil things he spares them,
In his mighty arms he bears them.
3. Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord his children sever;
Unto them his grace he showeth
And their sorrows all he knoweth.
4. Praise the Lord in joyful numbers;
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Every foeman must surrender.
5. Though he giveth or he taketh,
God his children ne’er forsaketh
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.
Tr. Ernest Olson;
Don’t worry, Jesus tells us in his Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6:25-26.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what
you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food,
and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor
reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Take no
thought for the morrow. It will take care of itself, Jesus says.
Not always easy for us to believe, especially now in this time of crisis. What is going
to happen to us? To our children? To the people and institutions we love?
Tomorrow presses hard on us.
Lina Sandell, (1832-1903) a precocious Swedish pastor’s daughter, wrote this
classic hymn, the most popular in Sweden today, when she was between 17-19.
Legend has it that she was sitting in the large ash tree in front of the parsonage as
she wrote it, looking at the birds of the air and the stars above.
The poem is drenched with scriptural references. She had learned her Bible well. We
hear echoes of Romans 14:8 in stanza 3, “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
In Stanza 4, Psalm 121:3--“He who keeps you will never slumber.” In stanza 5, Job
1:21, “The Lord gave and the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
We might wonder what she, a teen-ager, had to worry about. Life in her time,
however, could be frightening. What would one do if a sibling or parent got ill?
People died suddenly from common diseases we have medicines to fight. The
Sandell family, living in the small village of Fröderyd, in the middle of the woods in
Småland, Sweden, had to depend on what it could raise on its farm and the living her
father got. Food could be scarce. The rocky soil made farming difficult. Life was not
easy. Sometimes all they had were the promises of God.
At the time she wrote this hymn, many of her father’s parishioners were fleeing the
hard life in Sweden for America. Life was not easy there either, but the pioneers
brought Sandell’s songs with them and sang them for comfort in the primitive
houses they first built on their farms where they settled.
When she was dying in 1903, thousands of Swedish Americans sent letters to her
thanking her for giving them God’s promises to sing as they met the difficulties of
their day. They are still true. Rest in them.
There are many performances of "Children of the Heavenly Father" on Youtube in
every possible style. Because of my personal connections with the artists I have
featured, I am fondest of these. My favorite is this one by Carola, a Swedish singer
who with organist Iver Kleive of Norway prepared a CD of Sandell’s songs for the
100th anniversary of Sandell’s death in 2003. Kleive played at Luther Seminary and
Mindekirken several times. He is one of Norway’s greatest keyboard artists, he does
everything from Rock to Reger.
Göran Fristorp, a real Swedish troubadour, came to the seminary to sing Sandell,
too. I translated a couple of his songs. This was a long time ago!