Anxiety Does Not Empty Tomorrow of Its Sorrows; It Empties Today of Its Strength

Alexander McLaren? Charles Haddon Spurgeon? Ian Maclaren? Corrie ten Boom?

Dear Quote Investigator: Excessive fear and worry about the future can weaken the resolve needed to thrive. Here are three versions of a pertinent saying:

(1) Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.

(2) Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, but it empties it of its strength.

(3) Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.

The influential English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon often receives credit for this remark, but I have not found a solid citation. Would you please explore the origin of this saying?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a sermon by Alexander McLaren who was a Baptist minister based in Manchester, England. The adage occurred in an 1859 collection called “Sermons Preached in Union Chapel, Manchester” within an address titled “Anxious Care”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

It is God’s law of Providence that a man shall be disciplined by sorrow; and to try to escape from that law by any forecasting prudence, is utterly hopeless, and madness. And what does your anxiety do? It does not empty to-morrow, brother, of its sorrows; but, ah! it empties to-day of its strength.

It does not make you escape the evil, it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. It does not bless to-morrow, and it robs to-day. For every day has its own burden. We have always strength to bear the evil when it comes. We have not strength to bear the foreboding of it.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1861 McLaren’s “Anxious Care” sermon appeared in the journal “The Church”. Thus, the saying achieved further distribution. 2

In 1880 Reverend George Seaton Bowes published “In Prospect of Sunday” which included a variant saying with the word “troubles” instead of “sorrows”: 3

Do not burden to-day with the cares of to-morrow. Dragging the future into the present, is one chief cause of spiritual weakness. Anxiety does not empty to-morrow of its troubles, but it empties it of its strength. It does not escape the evil, but disables us from bearing it when it comes.

In 1889 the popular English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon published “The Salt-Cellars: Being a Collection of Proverbs, Together With Homely Notes”. Spurgeon printed a streamlined version of the adage, but he disclaimed credit by using the phrase “It has been well said”: 4

Be careful, but not full of care.
It has been well said that our anxiety does not empty to-morrow of its sorrows, but only empties to-day of its strength.

In 1893 “Dictionary of Quotations: From Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources” compiled by the Reverend James Wood included the saying. Spurgeon was acknowledged, but the phrase “It has been well said” signaled that he was not the creator of the expression: 5

It has been well said that our anxiety does not empty to-morrow of its sorrows, but only empties to-day of its strength. Spurgeon.

In 1900 the saying appeared in “Present Day Parables”. The words were attributed Ian Maclaren, the pen name of popular religious writer John Watson. QI conjectures that the misattribution was facilitated by the similar names: 6

ANXIETY HURTFUL

And what does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow, brother, of its sorrow; but, ah! it empties today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil, it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. It does not bless tomorrow, and it robs today. For every day has its own burden. God gives us power to bear all the sorrows of his making; but he does not give us the power to bear the sorrows of our own making, which the anticipation of sorrow most assuredly is.—Ian Maclaren.

The adage has also been attributed to other individuals. For example, in 2021 the website “Love Expands” credited a top-selling author activist: 7

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”
– CORRIE TEN BOOM

In conclusion, Alexander McLaren deserves credit for this adage based on the 1859 citation. The original phrasing was somewhat clumsy, and the saying has been streamlined over time.

(Great thanks to Michelle Laughran whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1859, Sermons Preached in Union Chapel, Manchester by Alexander McLaren, Sermon 21: Anxious Care, Start Page 276, Quote Page 288, Dunnill, Palmer, and Company, Manchester, England. (Google Books Full View) link
  2. 1861 February 1, The Church, Anxious Care by The Rev. A. M’Laren, Start Page 33, Quote Page 34, Column 2, Dunnill, Palmer, and Company, Manchester, England. (Google Books Full View) link
  3. 1880, In Prospect of Sunday: A Collection of Analyses, Arguments, Applications, Counsels, Cautions, Etc. by The Rev. G. S. Bowles (George Seaton Bowes), Carefulness, Start Page 41, Quote Page 43, James Nisbet and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  4. 1889, The Salt-Cellars: Being a Collection of Proverbs, Together With Homely Notes Thereon by C. H. Spurgeon (Charles Haddon Spurgeon), Proverbs and Quaint Sayings, Quote Page 62, A. C. Armstrong and Son, New York. (Google Books Full View) link
  5. 1893, Dictionary of Quotations: From Ancient and Modern, English and Foreign Sources, Selected and Compiled by the Rev. James Wood, Quote Page 198, Frederick Warne and Company, London. (Google Books Full View) link
  6. 1900, Present Day Parables by J. Wilbur Chapman, Anxiety Hurtful, Quote Page 18 and 19, F M Barton, Cleveland, Ohio. (Google Books Full View) link
  7. Website: Love Expands, Article title: Corrie Ten Boom Quotes, No date on webpage, Website description: Love Expands is a resource and community for positive-minded people who enjoy motivational quotes. (Accessed loveexpands.com on July 3, 2021) link