Story Behind The Song – I Know Who Holds Tomorrow

The new year is here and just a few of days shy of being 2 weeks old.  For only being around 12 days, 2016 has already made its mark – in good ways and bad.

Just a few weeks ago we were singing Christmas carols and preparing for the celebration of Christ’s birth and looking forward time spent with family.  But I was struck in an odd way by the words to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”.  Lyrics that say “next year all our troubles will be out of sight” and “next year all our troubles will be miles away”.  It would seem that the song’s author, Hugh Martin, was looking forward to a fresh, new year, where life might be less troubling and burdensome.

The truth is, we don’t know about tomorrow.  Whether it be a new day, a new week, a new month or a new year, there are no guarantees. There will be good days.  And there will be bad. It is a fact of life.  Jesus told his disciples “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Yes this world is a troubling place, but did you read the good news in that verse? Whatever troubles may come your way, God is already there, and He’s taking care of it.


Ira Stanphill was born on February 14, 1914, in Bellevue, New Mexico.  He lived most of his younger years in Kansas.  By the age of 10, Ira was an accomplished musician, playing the piano, organ, ukulele and accordion. He also went on to learn the guitar, saxophone, clarinet and xylophone.  Ira accepted Christ at the age of 12. By age 17 he was writing his own music for church services and prayer meetings, and at 22 he began preaching.

Ira served with 9 different organizations in the capacities of youth director, music director and pastor.  He preached across America, and in 40 other countries.  He wrote over 500 gospel songs, such as “Mansion Over The Hilltop”, “Jesus and Me”, “We’ll Talk It Over” and “Happiness is the Lord”.

Ira married Zelma Lawson on April 23, 1939.  Zelma was also a gifted musician, with the abilities of singing and playing the piano.  Their marriage ended in divorce in 1948.  Accounts of Ira’s life offer differing opinions on why they divorced.  Some say that Zelma had addiction problems and left Ira for other men.  Others say that she was an excellent singer and was not content with life in the ministry.  She left to pursue a career in the entertainment field and to become a celebrity.

Whatever the case may be, Zelma’s leaving put Ira in a great state of depression and grief.  He could not understand, after years of being dedicated to the service and ministry of God’s work, why God would allow him to go through this.  Some accounts say that Ira was tempted to give up on Christian work altogether.

The story is told that one day as Ira was driving, deeply sad and in despair, he began to hum a tune.  As the tune became stronger, words formed and Ira started singing!  He sang about not knowing what the future held, but knowing that God would be there to walk with him each step of the way.  When Ira got to his office, his rushed to his piano to write down the words and music to the song we know today as “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”.


I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day,
I don’t borrow from its sunshine, For its skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future, For I know what Jesus said,
And today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead.

Every step is getting brighter, As the golden stairs I climb;
Every burden’s getting lighter; Every cloud is silver lined.
There the sun is always shining, There no tear will dim the eye,
At the ending of the rainbow, Where the mountains touch the sky.

I don’t know about tomorrow, It may bring me poverty;
But the one who feeds the sparrow, Is the one who stands by me.
And the path that be my portion, May be through the flame or flood,
But His presence goes before me, And I’m covered with His blood.

Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand;
But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.
Ira married Gloria Holloway in 1951, after Zelma’s unfortunate death in a car accident.  Ira and Gloria had two daughters, Judy and Cathy.  Ira also had a son Ray by his first marriage.

Ira passed from this life on December 30, 1993, from a heart attack.  He was 2 months shy of his 80th birthday.


2016 is here and we don’t know what it will bring.  Difficulties? Yes.  Blessings?  Absolutely.  But make no mistake, whatever tomorrow brings God is already there, working it all out.  Worship Him today, and trust Him with tomorrow.  God’s got this.

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