631 Day by Day

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Story Behind the Hymn

Known as the “Fanny Crosby of Sweden” Lina Sandell-Berg became Sweden’s most celebrated Gospel hymn writer in the 19th Century. She was a pastor’s daughter, weak in body and strong in spirit. As a young girl she would spend hours with her father in his study playing games and writing poems that would eventually become hymns. It was at her father’s side that she learned to trust her earthly—and heavenly—father.

Lina’s faith was tested when tragedy struck at the age of 26. She had accompanied her beloved father on a boat trip across the Swedish Lake Vattern in 1858. The boat suddenly lurched forward, while she helplessly watched him thrown overboard and into his watery grave. A life-long sorrow took hold of her soul that day. She drew upon the lessons shared with her by her father as a child, finding consolation in her Bible and an abiding faith in God. Out of her broken heart poured forth poems and hymns overflowing with a simple, childlike trust in Jesus, the hallmark of her hymns. Like the grape that becomes all it was meant to be after it has been crushed and squeezed, so Lina, out of her crushing grief mingled with faith in God, began to write hymns with a depth and sensitivity that had not been evident in her earlier writing. This hymn is about trusting the Father’s wisdom, confident that He provides what is best, assured that His kindness is beyond all measure.

This hymn and many others written by Sandell-Berg became popular in large part due to the simple melodies written for them by the guitar-playing Oskar Ahnfelt. As a result, they profoundly influenced the mid-19th century revival that was sweeping through Sweden and Norway. Those in opposition to it made an appeal to King Karl XV, ruler of this territory. Ahnfelt was forbidden to play his guitar and sing Lina’s hymns. The wise king commanded that first Ahnfelt be brought to him so he could hear “the spiritual troubadour”.

Ahnfelt invited Lina to write a hymn for the occasion. She wrote,

Who is it that knocketh upon your heart’s door in peaceful eve?

Who is it that brings to the wounded and wore the balm that can heal and relieve?

Your heart is still restless, it findeth no peace in earth’s pleasures

When Ahnfelt took his guitar to the palace to sing the hymn, the king listened with tears in his eyes. He gripped Ahnfelt by the hand and exclaimed: “You may sing as much as you like in both of my kingdoms!”