HYMN FOR PENTECOST 19, Day by Day Lina Sandell
Text: Lina Sandell (1832-1903). Tune: Oscar Ahnfelt (1813-1880)
Day by day, and with each passing moment
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.
Every day the Lord himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares he fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
The protection of his child and treasure
Is a charge that on himself he laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me he made.
Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.
Tr. A. Skoog
Today is the birthday of Lina Sandell. Born in 1832 to Pastor Jonas Sandell, and his wife, in Småland, Sweden, she was raised in the parsonage of Fröderyd. It is a lovely little clearing in the forest surrounded by lakes, farms and woodlands. It reminds one of northern Minnesota. The soil is rocky and difficult so it is no surprise many Swedish emigrants to America came from this province.
Lina was a precocious child. Her father knew from the beginning that she would be a help to him in his old age as he taught her the Bible, hymns and her catechism. She was a quick study, learning English and German, the required curriculum of a young girl in her class. Very devout, she lived her entire life deep in the Scriptures. Her hymns are filled with biblical references.
This hymn, probably the second most beloved of Lina’s work, is based on Deuteronomy 33:25, “As thy day is, so shall thy strength be.”
It is said that Lina wrote this after reading a parable in a Sunday school magazine about an old grandfather’s clock. The pendulum sighed to the face of the clock, “I can’t go on. I have counted how many times I must go back and forth, and it is in the millions. I can’t make it.”
The face of the clock thought about it a bit and said, “Well, you only have to do it one more time.” The pendulum considered it and finally agreed. “Yes, I can do that.”
From that story, Sandell wrote this hymn. It is filled with Scripture and basic human knowledge. We all have grown weary of repetitive tasks, things that must be done every day without fail. I remember as a young woman, thinking how tiresome it was that every day one had to make three meals, especially if one had children. The old saw, a man must work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done,” expressed that feeling quite well at that time.
Life is filled with such tasks that are part of everyday routine. The farmer never gets done milking the cows. Milking them twice a day is part of a routine that must be followed or the cows will go dry. A pastor is never done with the writing of sermons, either. My father had a strict routine for the week, from Sunday to Sunday on the preparations for the sermon, beginning with reading the text for the next Sunday during the last hymn of the service so it started cooking in him instantly. My mother established an ironclad routine for our day and week. Every day she made my father take a nap, as she did, saying as her father had said, “if the horses need to rest, so do I.” We lived in the nursery rhyme: Monday she washed clothes, Tuesday ironed, Wednesday cleaned up, Thursday other tasks, Friday baked and Saturday cleaned again for Sunday, which was a day for feasting and rest.
She knew that in every moment of her duteous day the Lord was with her and it gave her joy even in her weariness. The schedule gave order, and oddly, freedom, to their lives. They knew when they would have spare time to enjoy. The routine saved them from chaos of which there can be a lot in the parsonage--people need ministry at odd times, they are ill, they die, they have trouble.
While there are several translations of this hymn, I tend to prefer the earlier one by Skoog. The literal translation of "Blott en dag et ögonblik I sänder" really means "just one day, an eyeblink in time," is very difficult to translate into a good English sentence, but Skoog gets closer with “each passing moment.”
Jesus came to be with us at all times and his life in us sanctifies all of our lives, not just when we are in church or at meetings. Luther taught us this in his doctrine of vocation. While it may have been used to keep people in their places, and the women’s movement rightly objected to a part of that, none of us can escape the dailiness of life. Without sleep, regular meals and love from our families and friends, life falls to pieces.
That training gave me a sense for the habits of life. One is never done with meals, cleaning, rest and relaxation. To know that the Lord is with us in all of that, that he asks us to come to him and he will give us rest, and that he never asks more from us than we can bear, is a great comfort. “As thy days are so shall thy strength be!” What a marvelous promise to claim in our most stressful times.
Oscar Ahnfelt, who was always pestering Lina for texts, wrote this melody which has done a great deal to make the hymn one of the most beloved among Swedes, Swedish Americans, and millions of others who have come to love it through the Billy Graham team, among others. When she originally wrote it she wrote in the first stanza, “Han som bär for meg en moders hjärte/he who bore for me a mother’s heart. Almost from the first, the editors changed it to father. It is a little odd. Lina was not saying God was father or mother, but that he acted like a mother in giving us sustenance for each day. In Scandinavia they have restored that, but the newest American version has neither mother or father in order to avoid the issue altogether. The ironies of political correctness. The Swedish version has several more stanzas, but these three appear to be the ones used around the world.
Carola with Iver Kleive at the keyboard, my absolute favorite, you can hear the “moders hjärte/mother’s heart” in her first stanza
Iver Kleive and Aage Kvalbein/cello and piano/lovely
Piano version Sveinung Hølmebakk
Mons Leidvin Takle piano and Hawaiian guitar
Ben Pila Guitar version—maybe the way Ahnfeldt played it, lovely