Laughing at the Days to Come

I have no idea what’s going to happen this year

Is anyone else starting the year off with that thought? Last year, I came to January with joyful anticipation of entering a fresh start—new goals, revived motivation, and crisp, clean pages in my planner to fill up with new daily to-do lists. While I may not have known all the details, the new year ahead appeared fairly predictable, so it was easy to focus on the personal goals I had for habit changes, character growth, and schedule consistency. It was easy to envision these goals because, as far as I knew, the circumstances in my life weren’t going to change much. 

My husband would continue working toward his seminary degree and interning at our church. My boys and I would finish our year of homeschooling, take a summer break, and then start all over again in August. Present friendships would grow, and new friendships would form. Nothing too remarkable, right? 

This year, however, January has a much different feel to it. Sure, I’m excited for a fresh start and would like to set some goals for the year ahead. The problem is that the next twelve months are quite full of question marks. 

Our third son (a surprise I hadn’t known about last January!) is due in just a few weeks. Will my baby be healthy? What will the transition from two to three kids be like? What’s going to happen to our homeschooling schedule?

Early this year, our boys will be tested for the genetic neurological disease that caused me to gradually go deaf in my teens and early twenties. Will we soon get some very discouraging news? How will I handle it emotionally?

In May, my husband will graduate from seminary and his pursuit of a pastoral call will be well underway. How much longer do we have with our friends here? Where will we be moving? How are we going to buy a house? Will we have to move right after we’ve started a new school year?

Presently, I am unable to answer any of the above questions. The year ahead is a mystery, and it forces me to acknowledge that though all my days have been written in a book (Ps. 139:16), only my Father in heaven has access to its pages. He alone knows all the changes, trials, and surprises in the year ahead and what His purpose is for each one. I am free to choose new goals, write new lists, and create a new schedule—but only as a lump of clay in the hands of a Potter who Himself decides how, in the next twelve months, He will make me more like His Son. Psalm 115:3 says it simply: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

To the world, this finite knowledge and very limited control over the circumstances of the days, weeks, and months ahead is a frightening reality. Perhaps that is why there are so many self-help books that promote more control in life—control over our finances, our health, our emotions, our careers, our time management, and our relationships. People do not want their lives to be run (or ruined) by disappointment, unexpected losses, inconveniences, and unnecessary hardships, and thus they seek as much control as possible over both the present and future. 

This approach to life stands in stark contrast to the laughter-filled life of the godly woman in Proverbs 31. In verse 25 we read, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” This wise woman is clearly living an industrious and intentional life as she cares for her family, keeps her home, reaches out to the needy, and engages in business. Though she may be facing an unknown future—perhaps one of change, loss, and unprecedented hardship—she is focused, not fearful. In fact, when she looks toward the unknown (and uncontrollable) days ahead, she is laughing

How Do We Laugh at the Time to Come?

What ought we to think of this laughter? Has this woman mastered the art of positive thinking? Is she naïvely looking through rose-colored glasses, imagining the days ahead to be trouble-free and full of ease? Not at all.

As one commentator puts it, “This woman has chosen her fears well. She does not fear the future (v. 21), but she has appropriately set her fear upon the living God (v. 30)! Thus, she is at peace with uncertainties.”1 Like the godly man who fears the Lord in Psalm 112:7, this woman “is not afraid of bad news; [her] heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” 

This woman’s laughter flows out of a steadfast fear of the Lord. In other words, her laughter flows out of a sound understanding of who her God is, and a daily life that shows she not only understands the truth, but also believes it and lives in light of it. 

As I look at the year ahead, wondering what trials and changes it will bring, this woman greatly challenges me to cultivate a God-fearing laughter toward the future. As women, we are often prone to anxious thoughts and worry-filled days, whether we are thinking about a mounting laundry pile or a bleak medical diagnosis. Emotions and feelings quickly begin to dominate, and before we know it, the truths we ought to be standing on are replaced with the shaky ground of “what ifs.” 

Changing “What If” to “Even If”

The woman who laughs at the days to come, however, does not live a life governed by the fearful question, “What if?” Rather, she calmly and confidently approaches the unknown with the words, “Even if.” 

Even if this or that trial comes, I know the character of my God and that He does not change.” 

Even if I receive the news I dread, I know that I am united to Christ and that nothing can separate me from His love.” 

How is she able to speak in this way? Rather than letting her feelings and emotions control her perspective toward the future, the fear of the Lord causes her perspective to be molded by the question, “Who is God in this circumstance?” which is then followed by the question, “Who am I in this circumstance?” With the loins of her mind girded up (1 Peter 1:13), she then turns her thoughts to God’s Word and answers truthfully in light of what she knows to be true about God and herself—even when those truths are sometimes hard to swallow.

If we would be women who cultivate a life of fear-defeating laughter, let us make it our aim in the year ahead not to spend our days wondering what may be; rather, let us spend our days becoming increasingly convinced of what is—the unchanging character of God, the glorious reality of what we have in His Son, and the unfading promise that one day He will bring us to our eternal home. 

Editor’s note: The thoughts in the above article are unpacked further in Tessa’s recently released book Laughing at the Days to Come: Facing Present Trials and Future Uncertainties with Gospel Hope (Reformation Heritage Books, 2019).

1 John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary (Fearn: Christian Focus, 2006), 720.

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