No one can be absolutely certain of what tomorrow will bring. We presume that tomorrow, we will still be alive, and our expectations and plans will come to pass without difficulty.
When we make a trip, we assume that the car will start, the MRT train will not break down, and the plane will take off and land safely.
But as I am writing this article, I read of a group of young Singaporean students who left on a school expedition in Sabah, some of whom did not return alive after an earthquake struck unexpectedly. This tragic event reinforced the fact that life is full of uncertainties. We do not know what will happen next, and we yearn for reassuring words of comfort.
‘Day by Day’ is a wonderful hymn that reminds us of the all-important lesson of living each day with the conscious presence and strength of our God. Flowing from the pen of Lina Sandell Berg (1832-1903), daughter of a Lutheran pastor, the lyrics of her hymn depict her child-like faith in Christ and a deep sense of the Lord’s abiding presence in her life.1 The poetic thought that flowed freely through the hymn was ironically conceived after a tragic accident that greatly influenced Lina’s life.
At the age of 26, while accompanying her father Jonas Sandell on a boat trip across Lake Vattern to Gothenburg, Lina witnessed the drowning of her beloved father when he fell overboard as the ship they were on gave a sudden lurch. The tragedy affected Lina and inspired her to write an endless stream of beautiful songs.2 In her time of distress, Lina could still find it in her broken heart to write: “He whose heart is kind beyond all measure gives unto each day what He deems best.”
So, even though we cannot foretell the future, we can rest assured that God knows what will happen and has promised us the strength to face what we will encounter in our daily lives as the Bible verse in stanza 2 proclaims: “As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure.” (Deut. 33:25b) In deep faith, let us focus on the challenges and difficulties of today and trust the Lord for tomorrow.
1 Kenneth W. Osbeck, 101 Hymn Stories: The Inspiring True Stories Behind 101 Favorite Hymns (Carol Stream, Ill.: Oasis Audio, 2010), 58.
2 ‘Day by Day’; available from http://www.hymnary.org/text/day_by_day_ and_with_each_passing_moment, accessed 9 June 2015
Day by Day
(Baptist Hymnal 1991, #66)
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 day 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 I reach the promised land.
Words: Lina Sandell Berg (1832-1903)
Translation: Andrew L. Skoog (1856-1934)
Music: Oscar Ahnfelt (1813-1882)
Dr Yeo Teck Beng is Principal of the Methodist School of Music, and a member of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church.