Introduction Laughter In The Rain


“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Perhaps almost on a level with Psalm 23 this promise in Jeremiah is one of the ‘go to’ verses for comfort and hope when things are tough.

When it was first delivered things were definitely tough for the Israelites.  It was nothing more than they deserved you may say. There are no surprises telling you that yet again this ‘stiff-necked people’ (Deuteronomy 9:6) had been openly disobeying God’s law with an ‘I can do it better on my own’ approach. There were many who claimed to be religious but behind the bells and smells, gongs and dongs it was a sham. Some didn’t even bother with the pretence – God just wasn’t important. Others, even more blatant in their disregard, practised idolatry.

They’d been warned, of course they had, but the prophets who told them it would end in tears were cold-shouldered, given the heave-ho, thrown out on the street. The Israelites much preferred the fake news sites telling them what they wanted to hear and there were plenty of false prophets around ready to get the popular vote.

Jeremiah even told of their heartbreak when losing the Holy City and seeing the temple demolished. But did they listen? No! Does God ever give up? No!

So he gave them this promise. Even so the Israelites were going to realise that although God wants the best for them the best sometimes involves going through the painful. CS Lewis said, “We are not necessarily doubting that God wants the best for us, we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

The best came in the painful form of Nasty Neb, the despicable despot, shocking sovereign of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was an uncompromising, ambitious, murderous monarch who gave the Israelites their first taste of pain. Then seven years later came back for seconds before returning for his final shock and awe in 586BC. It was now 19 years after his first visit when he finally destroyed Jerusalem, temple and all.

It was into this despair that Jeremiah gave the promise that God had a plan to make things good. To help them know some laughter in the rain. It wouldn’t be tomorrow or the day after, they would have to wait a long time – seventy years! You can imagine these words didn’t go down too well, especially after another prophet Hananiah had stood in the desolated temple saying that Israel would be restored within two years. Israel’s circumstance was a downpour of misery and nobody was smiling let alone laughing.

How many of us have known our own period of exile? We are in a struggle and words of hope are not very easy to hear? Is it ever possible to have laughter in the rain of horrible circumstances?

When we are walking with God even when it’s raining we are promised a future that is bright. Neil Sedaka sang: Walking hand in hand with the one I love. For the Christian, facing good times or bad, if we walk hand in hand with the one we love, see with eyes of faith and speak confidently of trust, it is possible to laugh in the rain. How? God’s Word, praise, and thankfulness are the umbrella, cagoule and wellies for stormy weather. God has a personalised blueprint for each of us. His promise is to give us hope and security. If we can let it unfold according to his timetable, then from the protection of our waterproofs, can we get to that point of faith where we laugh whatever the weather?

The trouble is, we all like things to unfold according to our timetable. They rarely do, so we end up getting frightened and whenever fear is around we know worry won’t be far behind. Just like Batman and Robin, thunder and lightning, day and night, fear and worry go together.

The Bible is pretty clear that we shouldn’t worry. Worrying plays havoc with our lives. We get something on our mind, it won’t leave us, we turn it over and over, it teases, torments and terrifies. Jesus himself even commented on it:

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” Luke 12:25

Well, other than ranking as one of the least followed bits of advice Jesus ever offered, we all know that if we worry too much it affects our health. Exhaustion, dizziness, you can feel sick, sweat, tremble or twitch. You end up short tempered, short of breath and falling short of who you really are.

All this as a result of worrying and it still doesn’t stop the problem! A poster reads: Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.

For all the self-help books ever published there is only one that has the answer to being free of the weight of worry. In it we read, ‘For I know the plans I have for you’. Here is God telling Jeremiah to tell a whole nation, trust me. Here is God who had holy plans for you before you were shaped in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5) telling you, trust me.

Easier said than done? Well we’ve got to begin somewhere and you may have to put in the hours of practice. When these words of promise that there is hope and a future for you, live in your heart, it will become the first day of a new life.

Stop worrying about the things that can go wrong and get excited about what can come right. God’s promise is that he’ll take care of you if you trust him. Stop worrying - it will probably never happen anyway.  By giving it to God, if it does, you can know that things will work out. Even if it’s not how you want, it will be in a way that is right for you.

A woman with degenerative back disease who is never pain free tells of how many times she has prayed for healing and that God finally healed her of the need to be healed. She says you should always choose joy over misery.
A father says: “Our daughter fell from her horse. In the space of two metres her body transformed from being free  to being imprisoned. Surgery to her spine, procedures on her brain. Massive medical costs, no income, career sacrifice, moments darker than ever thought possible. But through it I found something else I never thought possible. God's joy. Gladness and joy can overtake you, sorrow and sighing can be made to flee away. Even when you are face down in a cesspit you can know joy and rejoice in the Lord always. You can know that whatever you have to deal with, God is always  at your side."

Here are two truly brave, faithful people who, in spite of awful things in their lives, trust God in his promise for a hope and a future, choose joy and are testimonies to the fact that it is possible to know Laughter in the Rain.

from Laughter in the Rain