When I was sixteen, the future appeared bleak. Due to a rare neurological disease, I had begun to lose my hearing, and the loss was progressing far more quickly than I had imagined when I received the diagnosis. My world of social gatherings and flirtatious wit suddenly became a world of social awkwardness and silence.
Perhaps worse than these present changes was the painful reality that things were only going to get worse. Making it through high school was one thing — but what about marriage? What about motherhood? What about all the things I wanted to do that would be hindered by deafness?
Around this time, a friend introduced me to Proverbs 31:25: “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” When I looked at the apparent future, I wanted to cry; but here was a godly woman who looked into the future — unknowns, trials, and all — and simply laughed. And this laughter was not a doubt-filled, Sarah-like laughter of unbelief (see Genesis 18). This laughter was flowing out of a strong and wise woman who feared the Lord (Proverbs 31:25–30).
This was the laughter I needed, and this was the laughter I began to pursue.
A Valiant Vision of Strong Women
Women tend to be worriers. We worry about trivial things and not-so-trivial things.
Is my outfit appropriate for the event? Is my sixteen-year-old safe at the wheel? Will my son grow out of his social weaknesses? Did I make enough food for the dinner party?
And that is why this valiant vision of a laughter-filled, God-fearing woman is so beautifully convicting and inspiring to us. We know we are prone to anxiety and cares, and yet we desire to glorify God by overcoming those burdens with steadfast trust in the Lord.
But we also live in a feminist, follow-your-dreams, do-it-yourself culture, which tells us to conquer weakness and pursue the ideal, all while relying on the fictitious power of self. And though we as Christian women may reject these worldly concepts, they can all too easily creep into our thoughts when we find ourselves in fear-provoking, happiness-interrupting circumstances.
This will not cripple me. Just watch: I am going to beat this!
I know just how to fix this problem, and I am fully convinced my knowledge will alter this circumstance.
Surely, this is not the will of God, and I am going to pray until I see a change.
There is a confidence in these thoughts, but not a God-confidence. There is the appearance of strength, but it is not a strength derived from the Strong One. This woman may be laughing, but when her circumstances don’t change and the answer to her importunate prayers is quite different than what she asked for, the laughter will cease.
Laugh Like Your Father
How, then, does a godly woman go on smiling — laughing, even — when she reaches that inevitable moment of weakness, realizing that the painful present, and most certainly the unknown future, are outside of her control?
She laughs like her Father.
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Psalm 2:2–4)
God laughs at his enemies because he knows who he is. And his daughter laughs at her trials, both known and unknown, because she, too, knows her God.
Satisfied in His Sovereignty
A godly, faith-filled laughter comes not from a woman who is solely confident in her perseverance or courageous in her prayers; rather, this laughter comes from a woman who is sound in her theology and thus satisfied in God’s sovereignty. It’s a laughter that comes not from a prideful, self-trusting attempt to let nothing stand in her way; rather, it’s a humble, God-trusting laughter that steps out of the way in quiet submission and hope.
“Blessed are all those who take refuge in him,” the psalmist concludes (Psalm 2:12). In other words, happy — smiling, laughing — are those, not who secure for themselves a life free of trials, but who find themselves securely resting in the arms of him who has the power to sustain and protect his beloved, even in the midst of trials. Their joy and peace come not from changing circumstances, but the steadfastness of their unchanging God.
My circumstances did not change. I continued to lose my hearing until I was completely deaf at age 21.
For years, I prayed earnestly for healing. Oh, how I prayed. I knew it was going to happen, and I laughed in the face of this life-altering, humiliating disease, entirely sure that my unrelenting and faith-filled prayers would be rewarded with the answer I longed for. But what was the source of my laughter? At least to some extent, it came from a confidence in what I knew God was going to do because of my prayers.
Blessed Be the Name
Ten years later, my neurological disease has brought the onset of frequent nerve pain, worsening facial paralysis, and a host of concerns about how things could progress down the road.
But now I know. A woman who laughs at the days to come needs to be standing on a sure and steady confidence not in what she is able to endure, but in who her God will still be as she is enduring. And even in the deepest moment of pain, she will echo the words of Job as a tearstained smile forms upon her lips: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).