Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.
~ Henry Ward Beecher
Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) was an American evangelist who became famous on the lecture circuit. This 19th Century Christian minister had a keen mind and was skilled at using humour and common language to appeal to his audiences. This quote bears witness to Beecher’s ability to use imagery to communicate an idea effectively.
On the surface, Beecher’s words seem to be about faith; yet, to me, he is talking about choice. He speaks here not about the past or the present, but about the future – our tomorrows. The other concept at play here is that of planning – making choices about our future. Planning is essential to a successful and happy future, and these words speak to us, across more than a century, about a foundation we can build that will either support our life plans, or guarantee their foundering.
“Every tomorrow has two handles.” Beecher’s initial portion of wisdom is to break down future time into manageable units of time. It is too easy to become lost or overwhelmed when discussing our future in vague terms that could mean years and decades. Instead, he begins with a tomorrow. It is a single day with twenty-four hours; a manageable period that is within our comfort zone. Not only is this unit of time easily considered, but his message infers that his advice to choose must be followed on a daily basis.
He uses the image of tomorrow as a vessel with two handles – not unlike a cooking pot. He names the one handle “anxiety”. Should we choose to embark on our tomorrow with anxiety, it is a lot like building a structure on loose sand. We begin our tomorrow with feelings of fear and uncertainty about the outcome. If we are nervous or uneasy as we anticipate the new day, it is difficult to summon the courage to face any obstacles or challenges that tomorrow may bring. Anxiety is a negative factor in our daily living because it deprives us of any sense of confidence. Failure looms ominously as the likely outcome.
Beecher labels the second handle as “faith”. Clearly, as a man of God, he is referring to a person’s faith in God – in God’s love and His plan. When a person is armed with the belief that the omnipotent God is walking the journey with him or her; this becomes a source of great confidence. All of our tomorrows are uncertain. No matter how detailed our planning, we can always count on unexpected events to occur. We use our faith as a steady support when the journey becomes difficult. When we choose to have faith, we have decided to approach our tomorrow with a positive attitude.
Faith also means that we believe in ourselves. As human beings, we are works in progress. We continue to learn and to grow; but this process also includes the certainty of making mistakes and experiencing failures. We know that we are flawed and need to improve in certain ways. This self-awareness should never impede our forward movement in life. We also need to focus on our strengths and our skills and have faith that we can use them to deal with life’s challenges. With faith in myself, I can look forward to my tomorrows with confidence and courage. This kind of positivism provides a firm foundation upon which I can build my future tomorrows.
Beecher encourages us to choose a life of faith – a belief in God and a belief in ourselves as worthwhile and capable persons of great value. From this position of optimism a person can plan their tomorrow with a reasonable expectation of success. As well, choosing each and every day to have faith in yourself means that you have judged yourself to be a person of great value. Faith is the seed of happiness.