Tomorrow’s Unknown Twins
A 19th-century clergyman once said, “Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”
Tomorrow is unpredictable. No one knows what it will bring. The ups, downs, twists, and turns of life in the coming days reside behind closed doors. Will tomorrow hold bright opportunities to fulfill our hopes and dreams, or will it bring dark clouds of hardship and loss?
It is humbling to realize we can’t control the future. Regardless of how much we plan and pray or how great our spiritual insight and earthly knowledge may be, the Bible tells us tomorrow is unknown: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Prov. 27:1).
The ancient Hebrews and, in some sense, the Middle Easterners of today, see time as cyclical. The focus is on the collection of events that occur, consequences that follow, and apparent divine interventions. Proverbs 27:1 paints a picture of tomorrow by presenting the “day” as a mother who gives birth to events. However, the events and circumstances are undisclosed in the same way the details of a child’s life are undisclosed before birth. To the Old Testament Hebrew mindset, tomorrow is the unfolding of a life being lived in God’s grace. Life is a gift from God, as is tomorrow.
This seemingly obvious truth is foundational to our very existence. It shouts that we are not sovereign over today, tomorrow, or beyond; nor are we sovereign over the lives of others. God is God, and we are not.
The proverbial pronouncement is not written to generate a fatalistic attitude toward life. It begins with a warning against boasting or praising oneself. People who boast of their ability to control the future and the world around them travel a path that eventually leads to heartache, trouble, and loss for themselves and others. The simple truth that “you do not know what a day may bring forth” is directed toward those who foolishly presume they possess the power to determine tomorrow’s events.
Pharaoh’s inflated opinion of his power and that of Egypt directly conflicted with God’s plan to free His Chosen People. Similar to the purpose of Proverbs 27:1, God’s sovereignty over tomorrow became a major theme in the ancient confrontation. As much as Pharaoh tried to match God’s power using his magicians, he nevertheless had to face his absolute helplessness to overrule the plagues God promised for the next day. God did not announce the plagues a day early so the Egyptians could prepare. He announced them through Moses “that you [Pharaoh] may know that there is no one like the LORD our God” (Ex. 8:10).
Setting the specific timing for “tomorrow” was a potent message to humble Pharaoh, a self-proclaimed god who was powerless over what lay ahead, regardless of his boasting. Yet the lesson’s effectiveness was temporary, and Pharaoh’s hardened heart eventually led to his demise.
Jesus taught the same lesson in the parable of the rich fool (Lk. 12:16–20). He told of a foolish man who arrogantly planned to build a giant barn for his possessions so he could live leisurely. He thought himself sovereign over the coming days of his life but died suddenly.
James reinforced the same truth: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow” (Jas. 4:13–14).
Humility that comes from understanding we can’t control tomorrow is necessary for maintaining healthy relationships (Prov. 27:1–22). The lack of such understanding leads to personal conflicts; judgmental attitudes; foolish business plans and financial investments; an inability to resist the devil (Jas. 4); and a foolish, self-centered approach to life. The Lord rebuked Israel’s leaders for their excessive lifestyles, and the prophet Isaiah testified against their viewpoint that “tomorrow will be as today, and much more abundant” (Isa. 56:12).
Like signposts along the path of life, the wisdom of Proverbs encourages proper planning and preparation for the future. Divine control over the unknown does not consign God’s children to a lifelong dance at the end of a puppeteer’s strings. An idea’s success depends on diligent planning with experienced, godly advisors (Prov. 20:18; 21:5).
Scripture praises the virtuous woman for preparing to meet her family’s needs (31:13–21). Solomon received a detailed plan for building the Temple, prepared in advance by his father, King David, who said he received it from the Spirit of God (1 Chr. 28:11–12).
God’s sovereignty invites human planning and participation. The invitation, however, comes with personal accountability and submission to His will. Planning has its limitations: “There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand” (Prov. 19:21). “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” (16:9).
Planning also has its pitfalls. Plans can go awry. Some plans are wicked (6:18; 15:22). Scripture clearly states the plans of a person’s heart, good or evil, are always subject to God’s overarching, eternal strategy for our salvation and His glory.
A closer look at the biblical concept of tomorrow reveals a day brings not just one unknown, but two: twins, so to speak, both parented by God’s sovereign will. The first consists of the events we will experience, and the second is the unknown depths of divine grace and love prepared for us before the foundation of the world.
It is no secret that abundant grace is freely available through Christ. How it will be delivered, however, is unknown. God’s fresh blessings awaiting us tomorrow are too numerous to count and too grand for us to imagine. His mercies are new every morning; and His grace is sufficient to meet our every need, transforming our weaknesses into strengths (Lam. 3:23; 2 Cor. 12:9).
Tomorrow’s grace, like time, is a daily gift. We can overlook and lose it or welcome and savor it. The psalmist savored it in God’s provision, protection, and deliverance through life’s ups and downs, even declaring that the number of God’s never-ending mercies was so great that it was unknowable and uncountable (Ps. 71:15).
Looking back on his trials and difficulties, David rejoiced and sang of the many blessings he experienced: “Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts toward us cannot be recounted. . . . They are more than can be numbered” (40:5).
Bible commentator H. C. Leupold’s comments on this passage are a great encouragement to God’s children:
Perish the thought that God’s notice of us consists of occasional bits of attention in a passing mood! If one should venture to count how many these thoughts are he would rather find that they are more than the sand of the sea. I may at times be unimportant in my own sight but I am never thus in the sight of the Almighty, says the psalmist, for His thoughts concerning me cannot even be numbered.1
The biblical connection between tomorrow and true humility does not begin or end with “If the Lord wills” tacked onto the end of a sentence. A lack of humility manifests itself in our lives and decisions. Likewise, a humble heart shines through our behavior and relationships.
If the door to tomorrow has two handles, anxiety and faith, which one will you grab as you cross the threshold of a new day?
Your choice will be based on what you expect and in whom you trust. Both handles grant access to the same door, but each one provides a different perspective. People who fear they will not have the strength to face the unknown grab the handle of anxiety. They step over the threshold hoping to manage what lies ahead and survive. Those who know they do not have the strength to face the unknown grab the handle of faith. They step over the threshold trusting the sufficiency of the One who will never leave them or forsake them, come what may.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:20–21).
- Herbert C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1959), 947–948.