Lina Sandell (1832-1903), the author of this hymn, was a Lutheran pastor’s daughter in Froderyd, Sweden. She was a “daddy’s girl”—very close to her father. As a child, she enjoyed playing quietly in her father’s study as he worked.
Lina began writing hymns at an early age. Then, when she was 26 years old, tragedy struck. She and her father were passengers in a boat crossing Lake Vattern when the boat lurched and her father fell overboard. As Lina watched in horror, her father drowned before anyone could mount a rescue effort.
When tragedy strikes, some people allow it to destroy them, but Lina’s faith saw her through the tragedy. Her grief gave her music a depth and sensitivity that had been missing earlier.
During her lifetime, Lina wrote 650 hymns. “Day by Day” is familiar to many English-speaking congregations. Many people will also recognize the hymn that begins with the words, “Children of the Heavenly Father”—a hymn of quiet assurance.
The hymn, “Day by Day,” offers that same kind of assurance. It speaks of finding strength to face trials—and having no cause for worry or for fear. It encourages us to live with the promise of “a special mercy for each hour” (v. 2). It asks God’s help in tribulation—to trust God’s promises (v. 3)—”till I reach the promised land.”
This sort of song readily becomes popular, because it provides comfort to people in distress. That describes most of us at some time or another. We need strength to meet the trials that we encounter. We need the assurance that God is with us—and loves us—and will help us—even when our circumstances are grim. We need to know that God will help us “till (we) reach the promised land.” Those are the assurances that this hymn provides.
Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan