Have you ever been able to laugh in the face of suffering? Rhonda Stoppe and her husband had experienced difficult times before where they learned about the faithfulness of God. But, as she faced surgery, physical therapy, pain and recovery from an accident, she wrestled with discouragement. She knew the joy of the Lord would be her strength, but she had to figure out how to fight for joy. During this difficult time, she learned 5 Tips to Laugh in the Face of Suffering.
On a recent episode of the Your Hope-Filled Perspective podcast, Rhonda and I also talked about how she learned to laugh out loud when life is hard. If you missed that episode, you can listen here [How To Laugh Out Loud When Life is Hard – Episode 151.]
Be sure to read to the end of the post for a Book Giveaway!
5 Tips to Laugh in the Face of Suffering
By Rhonda Stoppe
It was in 2019, before the world shut down. My Spring/Summer speaking schedule was packed with teaching events, and meetings with a number of people to discuss some pretty remarkable ministry opportunities.
On Monday, after I had just gotten home from an amazing speaking engagement, I was getting ready to travel to the next event. My husband said, “Hey, let’s go for a little quad ride.”
I thought, Hmmmm…I really don’t have time to play right now. I have so much to do.
But, since Monday is my husband’s only day off of work, and since he and I wrote a marriage book where we devote a whole section to the importance of playing with your spouse, it felt hypocritical for me to decline his invitation.
So, I smiled and said, “Sure. Let’s go!”
We live on a very large ranch in the mountains. Which means lots of wonderful dirt roads to ride on. Steve, who can be a pretty adventurous dirt biker, was always careful to make our rides easy and enjoyable.
On this particular day, the spring flowers had bloomed everywhere. Colors of yellow, purple, pink and white peered out of a beautiful blanket of green grass. With the breeze blowing through our hair, we set out on our little adventure.
After a while we stopped to check on a tank which was seated on a subtle incline. With me on the back, and arms wrapped around my man’s waist, we got ready to continue on our ride. Rather than going forward downhill, which is what Steve normally would have done, he decided against it so as not to scare me. He put the quad in reverse. And as we ever-so-slowly inched backward the quad rolled over on us in seemingly slow motion.
When I put my hand out to brace myself it shattered my wrist. Now, both of us were on the ground. My eyes were closed as I cried out in pain. Steve said, “Can you move?”
I groaned, “Noooooo.”
He asked again, “Can. You. Move?”
His tone caused me to open my eyes to assess the situation. There was Steve on his back, feet in the air suspending the quad that was teetering above us. With hands on the handlebars and feet on the seat he was fighting gravity from dropping the quad down upon us.
Of course, when I realized the danger I rolled out of the way as I cried out, “Yesssss!”
Then I watched Steve push the heavy quad up into the air with all his might. With one lunge he rolled himself out of harm’s way as the quad crashed to the ground near him.
Wow, right? What an adventure, huh?
We live in a canyon, far from civilization. The excruciating drive to the nearest hospital took nearly an hour and a half on an extremely winding road. I’ve had three children without pain medications. And I can honestly say this pain was right up there, if not worse than, the 52 hours of labor I endured with our first child. If you’ve ever learned the Bradley Breathing method for childbirth, you know I was relying heavily on that technique as we traveled to the emergency room.
The break was severe. My wrist was shattered and would require a bone graft and an insertion of a metal plate. Poor Steve. He felt terrible about the accident. But truly, he hadn’t done anything careless, it’s just one of those things that can happen.
I won’t go into detail how much surgery, physical therapy, pain and time was involved in the recovery but suffice it to say it was more than I bargained for.
And remember that exciting schedule I had in front of me? With every week that passed I would have to cancel another engagement. I kept thinking, “This is just a broken arm. Lots of people work with a broken arm. I’ll be able to get back at it in no time.”
But it wasn’t just a broken arm. Week after week I was forced to cancel commitments. Needless to say, I was heartbroken over the turn of events. I pondered why the Lord had allowed this to happen.
Between the sleeplessness, pain, and watching life go on as I lay in my bed alone, I wrestled with my discouraging thoughts.
I knew that the joy of the Lord would be my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Steve and I had been through difficult times before, and we had learned so much about God and His faithfulness amidst the storms.
So, as I lay there, I reminded myself, God has a plan. He will work this for good. His ways are above mine.
What it came down to was that it was a choice. I could either revel in my pity party or I could ask God to help me fight for joy. I chose the latter. What I learned amidst this season of suffering transformed the trial into a golden experience of prevailing hope. And what I learned, I’d like to pass on to you:
5 Tips to Laugh in the Face of Suffering.
1. Fight for joy
Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Think about it. This was Nehemiah’s pep talk to the Israelites when they were attempting to re-build the wall. Amidst the enemy’s accusations and threats Nehemiah basically said, “Hey guys. Here’s the game plan for this battle. Your strength lies in the joy of the Lord.”
The type of joy Nehemiah described was not based upon the ease of circumstances––quite the contrary. The joy of the Lord is a supernatural joy that transcends life’s ups and downs. It reflects an abiding satisfaction in God––who is your Lord and protector.
If that game plan is what God spoke through Nehemiah, then this is an effective battle cry for you and me too. Fighting for joy does not come naturally. The battle is truly won or lost in our mind. So, amidst suffering, choose not to dwell on the what if’s and if only’s. Rather, ask God to help you fight for joy to ward off anxious or discouraging thoughts. But how?
2. Rejoice in the Lord
While lying in my recovery, and struggling with discouragement, I recalled Philippians 4:4 where the apostle Paul instructed the suffering Philippians: “Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice.”
Paul first instructed them to rejoice. Then, he commanded them to rejoice. I pondered, Here’s a guy, who himself is unjustly imprisoned, teaching people to rejoice in the Lord.
There’s something weighty about the advice of a person who has suffered themselves. So, Paul’s instruction holds the authority to advise others how to suffer well.
I meditated upon the words, “Rejoice in the Lord.” I thought, “It says to rejoice in the Lord. Not in my circumstances––but in the Lord. So, how can I do that?”
If I was going to rejoice in the Lord, I needed to ponder who He is. Which leads me to the next tip for laughing in the face of suffering.
3. Trust God’s Character
It’s hard to rejoice in someone you do not know. And it’s even harder to trust someone whose character has not been proven. That’s why God took time to reveal details of His character within the pages of scripture. Every Bible story unfolds, not only the responses of the patriarchs and people, but more importantly it reveals the trustworthy, sovereign, and powerful character of our God.
So, while lying in my pain-filled state, I chose to go over the familiar Bible stories I have known from childhood. In each biblical account I mined, as for gold, the character qualities of God revealed in the stories.
And do you know what happened? A deep abiding trust in God grew in my heart. A joy-filled peace washed over my soul as I contemplated Jehovah, the God who sees, the God who hears, and the God who works all things together for our good and for His glory. Although my circumstances were not what I had hoped, I was able to laugh in the face of the unknown, because I knew the One who holds the future––and He holds your future too.
4. Think on what is good
It’s not easy to think on what is good, right and honorable in the face of suffering. And yet, this is the exact instruction Paul gives to equip the Philippians to be peacefully joyful. When storms come. When suffering seems to have no end in sight, looking to Jesus––like Peter when he walked on water––is the path to suffering with hope filled joy.
5. Surround yourself with joyful people
When calamities come, oft times one after the other, you can either isolate yourself in fatalistic thinking, or you can ask God to send you friends to help you laugh in the face of the trials. Friends who will remind you that He is working a greater good in your life than you might ever imagine.
To laugh in the face of suffering, is not suggesting that you won’t grieve, cry, and even wail over sorrowful seasons. When Mary and Martha grieved Lazarus death, Jesus didn’t chastise the sisters for their lack of joy or faith. Rather, Jesus wept with them, knowing full well He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead and show them something about Himself they and the disciples might never have known without their grievous experience.
Grief is a part of life. Loss is something we all must endure. To pretend like we are happy when our world falls apart is the height of hypocrisy, a recipe for loneliness, and not at all what I suggest.
In fact, this wrong thinking in the church causes people to feel even more alone when they are hurting. When my best friend’s husband died suddenly, the flippant comments people made packed with Christian-ese and Bible verses to put a band aid on her pain was not what she needed.
Rather, she needed those close to her to weep with her. To ache over her loss. To not have all the answers. But also, to remind her of the glories of heaven where her husband now resides. And to tell stories of her husband that made her smile and laugh. And to promise her that we would keep her husband’s memory alive by telling those stories to her children, that’s what she needed to help her fight for joy.
The Bible says that, “We may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted” (2 Corinthians 1:4). The best comforters are those who have suffered well. What if God’s purpose in your suffering is to equip you to comfort others in a way that you never would have been able to without the sorrowful experience?
Learning to laugh amidst the storm isn’t easy, but with God’s help it is worth the effort. Knowing God’s character and trusting Him when life is hard is the key to facing life’s trials with His abiding joy. And when you determine to fight for joy, His light will shine through your joyful life to draw others to know Christ. Soli Deo Gloria.
How have you been able to laugh in the face of suffering? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
About Rhonda Stoppe
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. With more than 30 years’ experience helping women build no regrets lives. “I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night, “ is what audiences say about Rhonda’s enthusiastic, humorous, transparent teaching, and zeal as an evangelist.
She’s committed to fulfill the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture and easy to read––like you’re visiting with a friend over coffee.
Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs including: Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, & hosts The No Regrets Hour. She’s an evangelist and speaker at women’s events, College Women’s Chapel, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and Homeschool Conventions. Sharing the gospel at her NoRegretsWoman Conference is her sweet spot. Rhonda is a regular contributor for Crosswalk and many other magazines.
Rhonda ministers alongside her husband Steve, who for 20 years has pastored First Baptist Church of Patterson, California. They live out their own Real Life Romance writing books and speaking at their No Regrets Marriage Conferences, but their favorite ministry is their family. They have four grown children and 10 grandchildren. To learn more about Rhonda’s speaking topics, watch her teaching and to book Rhonda for your next event visit: NoRegretsWoman.com.
Audio Book Giveaway
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, How To Laugh Out Loud When Life is Hard – Episode 151, Rhonda Stoppe is giving away a free copy of the audio version of her book, Moms Raising Sons to be Men.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you learned about the learning to laugh in the midst of suffering and you will be entered into the contest for your chance to win a copy of her book.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday, March 14, 2022. Continental United States only.