For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
Last Sunday, June 3rd, Minh and I were front and center in our church’s sanctuary for the launch of our book, Straining Forward. We had no idea how many people would show up, but a faithful team of supporters had put their hearts and souls into publicizing the event. In the days leading up to the book launch, Minh and I practiced answering questions we anticipated being asked: How did you two meet? What was your method for gathering information? Did the process of reliving your life story impact your faith? Agreeing that no question would go unanswered, we discussed the need for moral support if a question was asked that might prove difficult to answer.
Minh and I were pleasantly surprised when roughly 300 people poured into the church that evening. Many came ready to purchase a copy or two of Straining Forward, but just as many arrived carrying the book, which they had already read having bought it online. We invited the audience to ask questions as we took our seats in the comfortable chairs we had dragged down from the nursery. The microphones were passed around, and Minh and I graciously answered questions, often finishing one another’s sentences and giving each other nods of encouragement.
Though the questions were serious in nature, laughter frequently erupted due to Minh’s endearing way of speaking that can spur the listener to giggle with delight. How is that possible? Minh was abused. Raped. Tortured. Jailed. Where is the humor in any of this?
Mark Twain once said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.” In other words, as the distance from the original violation grows, the potential to laugh about it increases. Psychologists give this behavior a name; they call it “benign-violation theory.” Research shows that laughter at rough moments not only reduces negative emotions, it also enhances a person’s coping ability.
This is why Minh laughs. It is how she copes with her tragic past, and it is essential for her current mental health. Minh’s humor—like all good gifts—is from God.
At one point during the book launch, an audience member who was clearly grieved by what he had read expressed deep concern for all Minh had endured. She listened politely before passionately stating, “Do not feel sorry for me. Do not.” Her explanation was rich with insight. To feel sorry for her was to drag her back into the pain. To feel sorry for her was to diminish the breadth of her spiritual growth. To feel sorry for her was to deny the healing that had occurred. Rather than feel sorry for her, Minh encouraged us all to rejoice in her victory.
Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? 1 Corinthians 15:55
If Satan had had his way, Minh’s story would never have been told. The devil would have preferred for her to keep quiet, hiding in the shame of her past. Instead, Minh allowed Christ’s love to penetrate the darkness in her heart, provide hope in the wasteland, and light the way to His redeeming grace.
May we—like Minh and the apostle Paul—learn to boast in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint.
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND IS You Are the Light by Fee.
Lyrics: “We are the ones who will shine His light in the darkness of night.”