Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come” (Prov 31:25).
Proverbs 31:25 paints the picture of a woman who lives out of the security that the Lord is in control of the time to come, that he cares for her and the people she loves. “She laughs at the time to come” is not frivolous laughter borne out of a trouble-free life. No, this woman fears the Lord (Prov 31:30), and so she views the world through a grid of hope rather than dread or cynicism. Because of her relationship with God, she is able to face the future with a confident assurance. She has a certain strength, dignity and joy about her.
I wonder if the trials and dangers the Proverbs 31 woman faced in 1000BC were so very different from ours?
“She laughs at the time to come?” That’s a tall order for 2021, given the blanket of doom that’s shrouded our world in the past nine months. If we’re honest, many of us are shaking in our shoes at the time to come! Behind our masks, we aren’t laughing nearly as often as we used to. And we’re not even sure how best to take care of each other when even a hug or a funeral is translated as an act of unkindness. Many are grieving and facing unspeakable losses.
Everyone is battling. Not only are we struggling to navigate the landmines of illness, debt, social isolation, life-and-death choices, depression and death, but many Christian parents are fearful of how our children will navigate a brave new world, which has untethered itself from God’s law and redefined good and evil for itself.
If we’re honest, it’s much easier to fall headlong into fear, than to forge ahead in hope.
But as God’s redeemed people, we dare not place our hope in our ability to perfectly navigate our fragile lives and our futures. We dare not place our hope in a vaccine, or a financial miracle, or a Government, or a strong immune system. Instead, if we have surrendered our lives to the Lord Jesus, we dare to put all our hope in him, who knows our limitations. Our weaknesses. Our fragility. We dare to proclaim him as the Saviour, who is redeeming many lost people through this pandemic and guiding everything toward his ultimate goal—the final judgment and the new heavens and new earth (2 Cor 5:10; 2 Peter 3:13). We dare to seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness (Matt 6:33), knowing that God will work all things for good in order to make us more like Jesus (Rom 8:28-29).
Unlike the atheist Bertrand Russell, who built his life “on the firm foundation of unyielding despair”, a believer can live with confident assurance that our times are in the Lord’s hands (Ps 31:15). God’s wise and sovereign providence gives Christians hope and purpose during every season of our lives and at every point in history.
My times are in his hands.
I love the way that Charles Spurgeon expresses this great truth from Psalm 31:15:
“All that concerns the believer is in the hands of the Almighty God. ‘My times’, these change and shift, but they change only in accordance with unchanging love, and they shift only according to the purpose of One with whom is no variableness nor shadow of a turning. ‘My times’, that is to say, my ups and downs, my health and my sickness, my poverty and my wealth—all those are in the hand of the Lord, who arranges and appoints according to his holy will the length of my days, and the darkness of my nights. Storms and calms vary the seasons at the divine appointment. Whether times are reviving or depressing remains with him who is Lord both of time and of eternity; and we are glad it is so…But David’s times were in God’s hand in another sense; namely that he had by faith committed them all to God. “Into thine hand I commit my spirit, thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”
Living by divine providence
But, if the truth be told, I’m a very slow learner. It’s so easy to see God’s wise and purposeful sovereignty in characters like Joseph and Paul and Jesus, but I find it so hard to surrender to providence when it’s closer to home: This holiday, unbeknown to me, I was bitten by a tick. Soon my body was wracked with raging fever, headaches and muscle aches. Worst of all was the fear and guilt that set in. Fully convinced that I had COVID, I believed that I had already infected my entire family, including my elderly parents and other family members with immune problems. In my delirium, I had visions of an entire clan gasping for breath on a remote Eastern Cape farm. And I was the murderer of them all! I worried and fretted about every worst case scenario.
I’ve discovered that many people are currently living with this kind of guilt and fear of what may (or may not) happen in the future, but I’m so grateful that the Lord used my elderly parents and a local Christian doctor to remind me that our times are in the Lord’s hands (Ps 31:15). One of my children also brought this home when she read to me Jesus’s teaching about worry in Matthew 6. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt 6:34).
Jesus holds the keys.
When, as an old man exiled on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John saw a vision of Jesus, he was awestruck and fell at Christ’s feet like a dead man. Nothing could prepare him for Jesus in his heavenly glory. But this is the assurance that Jesus gives his beloved disciple as he lays his right hand of comfort on him:
“Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades (Rev 1:17-18).
John didn’t need to be afraid because he was in the presence of Jesus who lives to never die again. His victory over sin and death was a permanent victory and he alone has the authority and power to determine life, death and eternity for us too. We can trust that he never lets the devil borrow the keys.
What an awesome picture of the Lord Jesus for us to keep at the forefront of our thoughts! It is our helmet of salvation to protect our minds. And it was this memory of the risen Christ that gave all his disciples the courage to keep seeking and serving God’s kingdom through one of the most oppressive periods of history. This is the vision that I would like to shape my own thoughts as I live out whatever days the Lord has given me on his earth: The Lord Jesus, who was there at the creation of the universe, still holds the keys to life, death and eternity, even during COVID. “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:16-17) “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36). Even times of unemployment and disease, times of revival and restoration – All our times are in his hands.
There’s not a single day that slips through the net of his providence.
“Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,when as yet there was none of them” (Ps 139:16).