Day by day the manna fell; O to learn this lesson well! Still by constant mercy fed, Give me, Lord, my daily bread. (Josiah Conder 1836)
In my twenties and thirties, my life grew progressively more difficult. As I’ve written before, everything caught up with me. I was isolated in a large city following a failed marriage. The pain of abscessed teeth hounded me day and night. And my bills overpowered my money. But the harshest and most significant reality for me was that I was largely responsible for the mess I was in.
I’d always been someone who looked to the future. Hoping that things would get better was my way of soldiering through the present. And then, for the first time in my life, I didn’t see a way forward. It would take years, if ever, to repair or rectify all that had gone wrong. Months of depression followed. During that time, the words of this poem by Josiah Conder became a mainstay. My own faulty willfulness had finally forced me into living “day by day.” And, as flawed as I was, the “constant mercy” of God that flowed from this poem sustained me and kept me going.
Christians are often tempted, as I was, by the idea that praying and following the rules can protect us from the pitfalls that others face. And yet, Jesus doesn’t promise a trouble-free life. “Do not worry about tomorrow,” he says, “Tomorrow will have its own worries. The troubles we have in a day are enough for one day” (NLT Matt. 6:34).
To be human is to have “troubles … enough for one day.” And yet, as miserable as the overall picture might appear, I discovered that small things can give this one day pleasant moments. Kindnesses, from others and to others, can warm our heart. Focusing on simple, present-day tasks can calm our spirit. And letting go, not relying on our own self-effort at all, washes away stress and burden. Inspired and sustained by Conder’s poem, I still pray, “Give me, Lord, my daily bread.”