We have another children’s song this week. I’m sure most will know this one, will have sung it as a child and probably can sing it from memory still. It may be the most well known Sunday School song out there and recently I listened to our congregation sing it during a children’s feature and all the kids, young and old, knew the words and sang along. So why is this one so enduring?
The origin of the text is interesting. It was actually a poem penned by Anna Bartlett Warner in 1860, to be used in a novel written by her sister, Susan Warner. The words were meant to comfort a dying child in the story. The original poem is full of comforting thoughts surrounding the strength of Jesus in contrast to the child’s weakness and the assurance of being carried to heaven when death arrives. Comforting, perhaps, but also pretty bleak and very sad.
Jesus loves me—this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to him belong,
They are weak, but he is strong.
Jesus loves me—loves me still,
Though I’m very weak and ill;
From his shining throne on high,
Comes to watch me where I lie.
Jesus loves me—he will stay,
Close beside me all the way.
Then his little child will take,
Up to heaven for his dear sake.
I suppose we all need something to carry us through the most difficult of moments. This hymn started its life as a means to do that. What could be more difficult than the death of a child. Surely we all look for ways to provide comfort in these moments; to give hope in situations that seem completely hopeless. I think the simplicity of this song and its sentiment of assurance that someone loves us enough to carry us through something horrific, is what makes it endure. It’s a child’s understanding of how to cope. Someone loves me, I’ll be okay.
I appreciate that this is probably not a complete answer to many of our challenges. But there is something in the innocence of this belief that we can learn from. Both as givers and receivers of unconditional love. This kind of love doesn’t solve our problems or eliminate suffering. What it does is makes things just a little more bearable. To face life’s challenges without it seems so lonely and sad; almost inconceivable to those of us fortunate enough to have found a loving foundation to stand on. My hope is that we all find this kind of assurance and care, be it spiritual or earthly. My hope is also that we share this kind of assurance and care – through our lives, our actions and our voices.