Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Laughing at the Time to Come

Leslie Basham: When you're looking toward eternity, it'll help you embrace painful circumstances now. Here's Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I know that time is short, and eternity is long. How foolish it is to waste the little bit of time I have here on this earth pining and moaning and resenting and resisting the very things God wants to bring into my life to help me be like Jesus, to help fit me for eternity!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, March 21. 

How would your coworkers or your family describe you today? Would they use the word joy? You can learn to show more of this important quality. Nancy will show you how, continuing in the series, "Facing the Future with Joy."

Nancy: Some of you may be familiar with the True Woman blog. If you've not had the chance to go there ever or recently, let me encourage you to go to TrueWoman.com and engage with the blog. We have various women who are posting on there and a chance for you to interact with them on various subjects related to our True Woman movement.

As I was reading some of the comments on the blog not too long ago, there was one sentence that really jumped out at me, something that one of our readers posted. She was a younger woman who was despairing of ever being a true woman, a godly woman, and she said this: “Most older women I know are anxious and joyless.”

Audience: Hmm

Nancy: That's what I said. “Hmm. Ouch!” Because I now consider myself—I think rightly so—an older woman, not an old woman, but an older woman. When I read that, I thought, “Oh, that's true! How often is that true of me—anxious and joyless?” What a sad thing for a younger woman today to be looking at us older Christian women and saying, “Most of the older Christian women I know are anxious, uptight, and joyless”!

One of the mandates of the gospel is to be people of joy. It's not an option. It's a mandate. First Thessalonians 5, verse 16, “Rejoice always.” Psalm 5, verse 11, “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy.” “Serve the LORD with gladness!” Psalm 100 tells us (v. 2).

Psalm 113 talks about a woman being a joyful mother of children, and of course, we know that the fruit of the Spirit includes, among other things, joy. It's a mandate of the gospel to be women of joy.

Now, we're not talking about shallow, hollow, cheap joy that is dependent on what's going on around us, but we're talking about that deep, abiding joy that is rooted in the gospel. It's rooted in God. It's rooted in the truth of who He is, and that comes to mind as we look at these two verses in Proverbs 31 that we've been examining.

Proverbs 31, verse 21, “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.” And then verse 25, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” The New American Standard there says, “She smiles at the future,” and another translation says, “She shall rejoice in time to come.”

That word laugh, “she laughs at the time to come,” as it is in my English Standard Version, that word means “to laugh in pleasure, to make merry, to play.” It has the thought of being carefree. Now, it's not because the woman has no problems. It's because she knows to cast her burdens on the Lord, so she doesn't let those burdens stay on her.

She's not frivolous. She's not silly, but she walks with dignity through the trials and challenges of life. She laughs in pleasure as she thinks about the future. She is free from fear of the future. She looks to the future with confidence, with hope, and with joy regardless of its challenges.

Here are a few phrases that commentators have used in talking about this woman laughing at the time to come. One says, “She has a calm anticipation of the future.” Another said, “She happily looks forward to the future.”

Now some people maybe just are born happy, optimistic, looking at life from a positive viewpoint, but I find that most of us as women are challenged when it comes to anticipating the future with joy. We're so good at just talking about what lies ahead and making a big deal about it before it even comes, if it ever comes.

This woman has a calm anticipation of the future. I think that could relate to the immediate future, the circumstances that lie right in front of her. They're staring at her, the bills, a son or daughter who's getting ready to marry someone who is not in the faith. It's an immediate challenge in the immediate future, the days immediately ahead.

Then there's the longer-term future. There is that which is known about it—we think we know—and there's that which is unknown about it. Both can cause us to be anxious and joyless.

The woman we're reading about in Proverbs 31, the woman of strength and dignity, has a calm anticipation of the future because she trusts the wise and loving providence of a Heavenly Father who cares, who is able to control the future, who does control the future, the life to come, not to be feared for the woman of faith, the woman of strength and dignity who fears the Lord and who knows Jesus Christ.

Another commentator said, “She is optimistic about the future because she has prepared for it.” She's made preparations for it that she can make, and she's prepared her own heart by tethering her heart to the Word of God, to the character of God, to the ways of God before the storms come. She can be optimistic about the future.

Now, as I mentioned, the English Standard Version says in this verse, Proverbs 31, verse 25, “She laughs at the time to come.” That word laugh is used in another instance in Psalm chapter 2, and I want to just quote for you a portion of that psalm to give you a broader understanding of this concept of laughing because in this psalm, we see an instance in which God laughs. Psalm 2 tells us,

The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters." (vv. 2-3 NIV

So you have the armies of earth amassed against God, and what is God's response? “The One enthroned in heaven laughs.” It's the same word as is used in Proverbs 31, verse 25, “She laughs at the time to come.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath saying, "I have installed my King [King Jesus] on Zion, my holy hill." (v. 4-6 NIV)

Now, here's the picture. You have the nations, the kings, the armies of the whole world allied together to wage war against God, and here you have all these world powers aiming their most sophisticated weapons and missiles toward God. They're arrogant. They think they are all-powerful. They think they are invincible, but in fact, they are less than gnats to God.

All their military power, all their military might—it is nothing against the all-powerful God of the universe. There is not a thing they can do to hurt God, much less defeat Him. I read one commentator on this passage that said, “Puny man taking on the Omnipotent One—how laughable! It would be like a toy sailboat taking on a massive battleship or an ant trying to do battle against an elephant!” I thought that was a great word picture.

So the woman who walks with God, who fears God, who is clothed with strength and dignity that come from living in the presence of God, that woman can confidently laugh and smile as she faces the future and whatever it may bring against her because the future can no more hurt and defeat her as she is clothed in God's strength and dignity than the future can hurt God as the kings of the earth send their weaponry and might and power against the God of the universe.

If you're in Christ, He is in God. You are safe, and it's like an ant trying to do battle against an elephant, like a toy sailboat taking on a massive battleship.

There's nothing that can hurt or defeat your life if you are in Christ. That's perhaps what the apostle Paul was thinking in Romans chapter 8 when he said,

I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers . . . nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (vv. 38-39 NKJV)

So when we come up against these armies, these forces, these circumstances, these storms, these troubling events in our lives, we need to learn to counsel our hearts according to the truth, not to give in to our emotions or our rogue thoughts but to counsel our hearts according to what we know to be true from God's Word, to tether our hearts to His Word and to what we know about the future.

Now, let me tell you some things I know about the future. These are the things to which I can tether my heart, and you can as well. We know that this is a broken and fallen world, and therefore, there will be hardship, affliction, and suffering.

There is in this world, and will be until we come to the new world, sickness, death, pain, loss, and heartache. That's one thing you know about the future, so when it happens, why are we so surprised?

We know it's coming, but we get in this fairytale mindset that everything should be good. Then when pain comes or hardship or suffering, we fall apart because we haven't counseled our hearts according to the truth that hard times will come. That's one thing we know about the future we need to remind ourselves.

Here's another thing we know, and that is God is sovereign. He is in control, and nothing can touch my life or yours apart from God's permission. He knows. He knows what's coming. He knows what you're going to be going through. He is in control. You know that He will walk with you through every hardship.

I know that God will walk with me through every hardship and trial in my life if I will let Him. Now, can two walk together except they be agreed? I have to be willing to agree with God about His truth, who He is, who I am, and about His mandates to be a joyful woman of strength and dignity. As I submit myself to Him, I can be assured that He will walk with me through that journey.

I know that God is too wise to make a mistake, and I know that He is too loving to do anything that would ultimately harm me and that if He does seemingly harm me, it's for my ultimate good and His glory.

These are things we know. Don't just write them in your notebook. Write them in your heart. Get them in your heart. Remind yourself, and go back and counsel your heart according to the truth when your emotions are going bonkers, when your thoughts are saying, “It's all over! It's overwhelmed! I can't survive!”

We know that suffering purifies and sanctifies. That's truth. We know that it conforms us to the image of Christ, and so that's why the psalmist could say in Psalm 119, verse 71, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (KJV).

Now, in the middle of affliction, why do we forget that verse? We need to go back to it. It's good for me that I have been afflicted, and so we can even embrace the hand that holds the rod, the hand of God that disciplines and chastens and can make our lives seem difficult, knowing that He is purging. He has purified.

I talked on the phone yesterday with a woman who's just had a recurrence of acute leukemia, had been, she thought, cancer-free or in remission for some period of time. It was such a steadying and staying thing for us as we shared together, and she faces who knows what this future holds. God knows, but for us to be reminded together of the promises of God.

One of the words that came to mind is, “He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Pet. 4:1 NKJV). Now, I'm not going to exegete that verse here, but there is something about pain, about suffering, that makes sin less appealing to us. You want to have less heart and appetite for sin? You tell the Lord that, and He'll say, “Okay, I'm going to take you up on that, and I'm going to bring some things into your life that will help you love sin less.”

Now, I'm not saying that's always the reason for suffering or pain. I don't want to put all suffering and pain and affliction in any single category, but I know it's good for me that I have been afflicted because that's when I have come to learn and to love, to embrace, and to say "yes" to the statutes or the commands of God.

I know that God is a redeeming God who is making all things new, and I need to remind myself of that in the midst of uncertain times. I know that one day He will right all wrongs, and He will deliver us from all problems, all pain, and all sin, that He will eradicate those from the entire universe.

I know that time is short, and eternity is long. How foolish it is to waste the little bit of time I have here on this earth pining and moaning and resenting and resisting the very things God wants to bring into my life to help me be like Jesus, to help fit me for eternity!

I know that if I'll keep my eyes on the finish line, that Jesus is waiting there for me. Fixing my eyes on Him. “One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase, so bravely run the race” until we see His face, till we see the Lord.

Now, those who don't know Christ have no reason to smile at the future. They have every reason to dread the future, and I know I'm speaking to some of whom that is true.

They may prosper in this earth. They may be successful by human standards. They may think they're happy in this life, but all they will have to look forward to in the next is eternal punishment and separation from God for their sins—all of eternity.

Unless they repent and place their faith in Christ, they will one day perish. One day God will say to them, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.”

One day, those of us who have placed our faith in Christ, who do belong to His family, will hear Him invite us into His heavenly dwelling place, His home, for all of eternity. We'll hear Him say, “Enter into the joy of your Lord.”

Now, when you think about that future, how can you not smile? How can you not laugh? How can you not be a woman of joy, even if your eyes are filled with tears for the moment?

There's a lot we don't know about the future, but we need to cling to that which we do know. We can't control the future, but we can trust the One who does control it. There is no need to fear.

Vibia Perpetua was a twenty-two-year-old young woman who was martyred at the end of the second century in the city of Carthage, North Africa. We have a detailed account of her martyrdom based on the diary that she kept up to the day of her execution and then three eyewitness accounts that were written shortly after her death. As you read these accounts, it shows a woman of strength, dignity, and joy, even in the face of excruciating trials.

Perpetua was from a wealthy background. Her father was a nobleman. He loved her dearly, but he was not a believer, and that made her life difficult at points. She was married. She had one young son. Perpetua and her brother Satyrus were arrested because of their profession of faith in Christ.

Arrested along with them was a slave named Felicitas, who was eight months pregnant. They were thrown into prison along with others and condemned to die in the arena. While they were awaiting execution, as we read these reports, the story emerges that Perpetua cared for the other prisoners and encouraged them to be fearless in suffering for Christ.

Perpetua's father came to the prison often, and he would sometimes be holding her little son in his arms. He pled with her to renounce her faith so that her life could be spared. Here's a part of her journal. She says:

When I was in the hands of the persecutors, my father in his tender solicitude tried hard to pervert [or turn] me from the faith.

"My father," I said, "you see this pitcher. Can we call it by any other name than what it is?"

"No," he said.

"Nor can I . . . call myself by any other name than that of Christian." . . .

"Daughter," he said, "have pity on my gray hairs; have pity on thy father. Do not give me over to disgrace. Behold thy brothers, thy mother, and thy aunt: behold thy child who cannot live without thee. Do not destroy us all."

Thus spake my father, kissing my hands, and throwing himself at my feet. And I wept because of my father, for he alone of all my family would not rejoice in my martyrdom. So I comforted him, saying:

"In this trial what God determines will take place. We are not in our own keeping, but in God's."1

Two days before the Christians were to be executed, Felicitas gave birth to a daughter. The prisoners' final meal together was celebrated on the eve of the emperor's birthday as they were to be sacrificed the next day. They celebrated their last meal as a “love-feast.” The jailer watched the spiritual strength and dignity of his prisoners and was so taken by the whole thing that he ended up giving his heart to Christ.

The next day, March the 7th, in the year 202, Perpetua and four companions were led to the arena. We are told that this young woman was radiant and high-spirited. Without hesitation, she stepped into the stadium, and she refused to wear the pagan, religious costumes that the Roman officials tried to dress the condemned prisoners in as a symbol that they were being offered as sacrifices to the gods.

The crowd demanded that the Christians be scourged. Then a boar, a bear, and a leopard were loosed upon the men, and the women were attacked by a wild bull. Perpetua was thrown and tossed and then gored by the bull but managed somehow to survive. She called out to the others to stand fast in the faith and love one another.

At that point, a young gladiator attempted to stab her to death with his sword, but his first blow failed. So the eyewitness account is that she guided his trembling hand to her own throat for the second fatal blow, and then it was written that, “She and her companions went to death with joy and light hearts,” joy and light hearts.1, 2 

“She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. . . Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future” (NASB). “She shall rejoice in time to come” (KJV).

As I've thought about this verse, this passage, what God has been working in my own heart with it, there's a hymn that has come to mind. Many of you are familiar with it, but I want to read the words to you and remind us to counsel our hearts according to the truth of God's Word.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake 
To guide the future, as He has the past. 
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake; 
All now mysterious shall be bright at last. 
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know 
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart, 
And all is darkened in the vale of tears, 
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart, 
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears. 
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay 
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on 
When we shall be forever with the Lord. 
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone, 
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. 
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past 
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.3

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been encouraging us with the words of a classic hymn. The instrumental version is from Chris Rice. I hope that no matter what threatens your joy today, you will find peace in the safety God provides.

Storms come and go in our lives, and we want you to be prepared for the next time winds begin to howl in your life. Our team has written a helpful Bible study booklet called, Worry, Woes, and Worship: Moving from Fear to Faith.

This is a study of Habakkuk. Now it feels like we live in tumultuous times, but most of us haven’t faced anything like Habakkuk did. In his day, nation was invading nation, injustice was being done, and it seemed like God wasn’t answering his prayer.

The truths Habakkuk learned during this time of intense struggle will be a huge help to you when you’re facing the storms of life. This booklet, Worry, Woes, and Worship, will help you learn to choose faith over fear. We’ll send you a copy of this study when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

I hope you’ll join us again tomorrow, when Nancy says . . .

Nancy: Welcome to our first international conference of Revive Our Hearts (spoken in Spanish).

Leslie: Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

http://www.stfelicitas.com/patronsaint.html

2 Perpetua's account appears in Davis, William Stearns, Readings in Ancient History vol. II (1913); Duruy, Victor, History of Rome and the Roman People (1883); Gibbon, Edward, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1896-1902). "Death of a Martyr, 203 AD" EyeWitness to History, www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2004). www.reference.com/browse/Perpetua

3 "Be Still and Know." Katharina von Schlegel.

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