Many of us grew up singing “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before,” a popular testimony hymn, composed by Percy Crawford eighty years ago.
Now that I’m older, I think, Oh, really?
People’s lives are filled with emotional ups and downs, including the lives of Christians. Yes, there are sweet days, but there are also bitter days—those that are filled with deep heart-rending grief, or boiling over with frustration and anger, and days of freezing fears and doubts. Bible believing, Jesus following Christians are not exempt.
Now it is true, that when a Christian suffers loss, pain, grief, frustration, fears or doubts, he does have the choice of turning to Jesus who has promised to go through every experience of life with him. In that sense, every day with Jesus can be made sweet, even joyous, or at least less bitter. But let’s not say that we Christians can go through our whole lives with a smile on our faces and a consistent stream of happy words coming from our mouths. We cannot. Not if we are honest. Not if we are real.
I talked with a missions minded brother some time ago who told me he has gone to numerous conferences and had heard scores of speeches by leaders of Christian organizations. “They make serving God sound so wonderful,” he said, “but, in my opinion, only a few were honest and real, the rest were faking it, and they turned me off.”
I have spoken at hundreds of Wycliffe promotional banquets during which I tell the story of how God used my wife and me to learn the Canela language and translate the Bible into it. I do not omit stories of the hardships and frustrations we suffered—once even to the point of severe depression and turning my back on God. It took six months of weekly counseling on furlough to get me back on track.
Nearly every time I tell that story someone will come to me afterward, shake my hand and say, “You told about your deep discouragement, and being so frustrated with God you turned your back on Him. Thank you for not leaving out that part of the story. I too have felt that way. You encouraged me.”
Everyone knows that not every day is sweet. This world is full of trouble, especially for Christians who are passionate about living out our faith by opposing injustices and unfairness around us. We sense bitter sadness and helpless frustration in other believers, and within ourselves. We see anger and resentment, yes, even among Christians. We should not be surprised. Jesus himself promised that in this world we would have trouble.
Although trouble in itself is not sweet; when Jesus helps us overcome the trouble we do sense a sweet satisfaction. Jesus also assured us that He overcame this world with all its trouble. He can help us to endure. We can choose to go through the trouble with Him by our side as we endure pain or illness, or opposition when we stand up for what is right.
Because of what the lyrics imply I still don’t like singing, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before,” but I have experienced Jesus making bitter days sweeter, eventually.
In the meantime, I’m for telling it like it is.