Reviewed by: Anita Klumpers
Laughing at the Days to Come: Facing Present Trials and Future Uncertainties with Gospel Hope, by Tessa Thompson. Reformation Heritage, 2019. Paperback, 192 pages, $13.00. Reviewed by OP member Anita Klumpers.
In Scripture, laughter often expresses scornful derision (Ps. 59:8). Sometimes it conveys great joy (Ps. 126:2). In Laughing at the Days to Come, Tessa Thompson uses her own experiences to demonstrate how both types of laughter are appropriate for God’s people who grapple with suffering.
Thompson was diagnosed at fifteen with NF2, a rare and hereditary neurological disease. Initially, she wasn’t concerned that the tumors forming on her auditory nerves would affect her thoroughly satisfying life as a Christian teen. When the hearing loss progressed faster than she’d anticipated, her world shrank. She spent years coming to terms with increasingly serious health concerns, the difficulties of participation in a hearing world, and what this trial revealed about her understanding of a sovereign God.
After briefly describing her symptoms, diagnosis, and initial response, Thompson details her progressive manifestations of laughter at her disease. She laughed first in lighthearted denial, then with absolute confidence God would heal, and forayed briefly into stoic, gritted-teeth laughter. At each stage, God was leading her to the conviction that he chooses how suffering and trials sanctify his children.
The Christian assesses suffering and trials through a unique lens. Our eternal perspective enables us to laugh with “spiritual sobriety”—a seemingly incongruous juxtaposition. “God’s Word and Spirit enable us to be sober, God-conscious women who are daily responding to the good, bad and potential circumstances of life with calm and correct thinking” (63). The believer isn’t expected or qualified to walk through suffering by sheer determination. We’re given the perfect example of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and confidence in the discipline of a loving Father.
Thompson gets specific in the final chapters. Her dawning realization that God wouldn’t miraculously heal her drove her to pray in submission to his perfect will and promises. She encourages participation in the body of Christ as a necessary and healthy component of submission. We’re called to “a life of faithful worship and selfless love” (153). The book concludes with the triumphant assurance that suffering Christians can laugh at earthly days to come, because they are temporary.
Laughing at the Days to Come is a satisfying, nourishing, well-written book. It reveals the author as a gracious woman who doesn’t place herself and her story front and center. Each anecdote, each fresh trial, each hope and fear is dwelt on only briefly before Thompson turns the reader’s eyes from herself and directs them to the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The entire book is drenched in sound doctrine, the mystery and beauty of “now and not yet,” and a profound trust in the sovereignty of God. Thompson points us past fleeting pleasure in temporary healing on earth to the laughter of joy-saturated eternity.
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