She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25 NIV
This verse from Proverbs 31 in the Bible comes under the manmade heading “The Wife of Noble Character,” so when I saw a post on social media that condensed to “She laughed,” so did I. It instantly moved to the top of my list of favorite verses.
Being a good wife and mother had forever been more important than any other goal even though I didn’t spend much time in the Bible to figure out how to do it God’s way. I read self-help books, talked too much about the hard parts that I didn’t know how to fix, and tried hard in my own strength.
So, when I saw Proverbs 31:25 printed under the words “She laughed,” I stopped scrolling and looked up the verse.
I used to laugh to deny or cover up hard things.
I laughed to hide my pain, fear, and how broken I felt. I laughed so friends thought I was funny and fun. I laughed and made fun of myself so no one else would.
The first time I realized my laughter wasn’t funny was when I heard about the death of a high school friend. I was at our church’s monthly youth breakfast when friends let me know he died early that morning. I couldn’t stop laughing.
The same year, I shopped with a friend who asked me why I laughed after everything I said.
Another time, a colleague confronted one of our fellow teachers again and again while we sat at a table in the school’s lunchroom. I laughed (the kind of laugh you hold in, which makes you shake even more) so hard that the table started shaking. I felt like the little kid in church who couldn’t stop even when her parents gave her the look.
Before I figured out that I didn’t think life was that funny, a new friend told me I was the happiest person they had ever met. I didn’t correct them, but I knew their comment wasn’t true unless the only people they knew were unhappy.
I don’t regret faking happiness and laughter. I don’t think I could have handled people feeling as sorry for me as I felt for myself or avoiding me when they finally got tired of my unhappiness. And sometimes it worked and I actually felt happier when I pretended I was.
I like to think all that pretending prepared me for the day it happened – the day I stopped trying hard and laughed out loud at a sermon that described how ridiculous and arrogant and burdened I’d been while playing God.
It reminded me of my friend Betty who said to me, “If you sat yourself down and watched yourself go by, you’d laugh yourself to death.”
She tried to convince me about how silly I looked trying hard to oversee all the things I couldn’t control and all the people I couldn’t fix. God has things He wants us to do, but trying hard to be my own God and everyone else’s – that’s not one of them.
It’s freeing and, yes, funny (a huge relief) to finally stop trying so hard, to relax into who God made us to be, and do what He’s given us to do.
In This Together,
Oops, I posted an overview of this section about Happiness before I actually finished it. I’ll be sure to update everything as soon as it’s completed.
FYI: I’m blogging my book titled On The Other Side of Trying Hard: Healing, Happiness, and Holiness. Because the blog posts will eventually be an entire manuscript instead of stand-alone stories, some posts may leave you hanging. I hope you’ll hang in here with us anyway ‘cause a happy ending is coming. Each blog post title includes the chapter title first. The phrase in parentheses is one subheading within the chapter. I’d love to hear your reflections, questions, and suggestions. I’m over-the-top grateful you’re here.