More and more movies depict someone bravely trying to save the world from oblivion – or to restore it after annihilation. Economic forecasts, news channels, fired-up preachers and even our own circumstances may shout in unison, “The future looks bleak!” Yet, Proverbs 31:10-31 commends the woman who “smiles at the future” (v. 25 NAS).
Reading the passage, we see: This woman does not live in la-la land. She doesn’t sit around from morning till night, smiling. Nor does she frantically rush about, as if the future of the world (or her community or her family or her own life) depended on her efforts. Moment by moment, she does what God puts before her to do. As she takes the decisive measures he has assigned her, she smiles.
Don’t assume this woman acts so calmly because she lives in a calm season. Rather, assume the opposite. Anyone can smile when a rosy future looks quite assured.
But “worth far more than rubies” (Prov. 31:10) is a person who trusts her God when he says: “I know the plans I have for you … plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). In the midst of volatile times, such a person doesn’t succumb to confusion, despair or fear.
She smiles – and not just a Mona Lisa, maybe it is, maybe it’s not, smile. Thinking about the days to come, she laughs.
“Ah, she’s looking forward to eternity,” some would say. “She smiles because she’s thinking about the ‘sweet bye and bye’ ‘when we all get to heaven.’”
I’d suggest: Yes. And no.
In one volatile season, Mary and Martha watched their brother Lazarus die. The sisters hoped Jesus would come before Lazarus’ death – and would heal him. But only after Lazarus’ burial, while his sisters sat in their home in Bethany, grieving, did Jesus show up. When Martha learned he had arrived, she hurried out to greet him.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:21-24).
Let’s hit the pause button, and do a little Q&A.
Will Lazarus rise in the resurrection at the last day? Yes, he will!
Ah, but did Jesus also mean that Lazarus would experience a more immediate return to life? Yes, he did! That very day, Mary and Martha watched their brother walk out of the tomb, alive. Scripture doesn’t say it, but I’m guessing both sisters laughed out loud.
In terms of bright futures, we Christians tend to make two mistakes: (1) We look only at eternity. (2) We look only at this life.
I grew up in the camp that intones, “This world is just going to get worse and worse.” Thus armed with fatalism, rather than faith, such a mindset accepts every downward spiral as inevitable, believing the only future we can smile about is the heavenly one. In adulthood, I’ve discovered the camp that teaches, “We can expect all God’s rewards, blessings and fulfilled promises in this life. Oh, and heaven will be nice, too.” Such a mindset may dismiss anyone who doesn’t appear to receive said rewards and blessings as “not having enough faith.”
Jesus taught Martha that smiling at the future means staying between those two ditches.
Our Lord wants us to expect him to show his glory in our day. As he did in Bethany, he has done throughout history. He rises up and acts in his perfect timing – to resurrect and free individuals and families, to transform communities and nations, to fulfill promises and work miracles.
Our Lord also wants us to expect an eternal future so glorious we cannot fathom it, when we experience forever the consummation of everything good we’ve tasted, when our Father brings “unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Eph. 1:10).
So whether you’re male or female, be blessed like Martha of old. In those moments when life seems most fleeting and uncertain, or when all that seemed stable has blown up in your face, be blessed to know that Jesus has arrived. Be blessed to get up and greet him.
For he has come to do what Isaiah 61:1-3 promises: “heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners … comfort all who mourn … give [you] bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename [you an] ‘Oak of Righteousness’ planted by God to display his glory” (MSG).
Dying and rising again, the Lord Jesus opened the way so you can fully receive all this in the next life. And so you can experience much more of it than you’ve dreamed here on earth, in the days ahead.
With that kind of future awaiting, how can you help but smile?
Can laughter be a strategy for victory in a volatile season?
This series is adapted from the Key Truths e-column, “Smiling Just Thinking About It.” © Deborah P. Brunt 2008, 2014. All rights reserved.
Posts in this series:
Seeing a Future Hope