Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow

Steve Brown
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What do we do with the sadness and the joy that living in a broken world brings to our lives? Most try to avoid the tears and focus on finding happiness, but does that really work? Denial might help to alleviate pain for the short run, but eventually lament must be faced and expressed. Learning to lament honestly to God is the surprising path to learning about real joy.  

When we experience or see tragedy, we expect tears, fear, and sometimes anger, and when we experience the good and pleasant, we expect joy and maybe even laughter. However, laughter and lament are often found together in unexpected places. How can we explain the opposite effect—laughter in the pain and tears in the joy?  

Steve Brown shares that speaking honestly about the ways we have been hurt and the ways we have hurt others opens the door to the joy of God’s presence even as we grieve. Instead of pretending that everything is fine, going to God with all of our laments fills us with the freedom and joy of knowing his love and forgiveness. This is the surprising message of freedom that Christians have to share with a world where pain is almost always cursed and laughter is almost always cynical.  


Steve Brown is a radio broadcaster and the founder of Key Life Network. A former pastor, he is also a frequent in-demand speaker and visiting seminary lecturer. He is the author of many books including How to Talk So People Will Listen, Hidden Agendas, Talk the Walk, and Laughter and Lament

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“Steve Brown is honest, hilarious, wise, and playful in speech, writing, and life. How often have we said, ‘I laughed, I cried.’ But seldom do we add, ‘and I am transformed and fixed on Jesus.’ This stunning book holds the heartache of the cross and the hilarity of the resurrection as the doorway for the kind of healing that will touch not only the heart but relationships, and even our polarized cultural travail. I promise you will laugh until you cry and then see your tears rise to praise. This book is a feast for healing.”
Dan B. Allender, Professor of Counseling Psychology, The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology; author of Redeeming Heartache

“Vintage Steve Brown—earthy, honest, refreshingly self-deprecating, and relentlessly zeroed in on the good news of unearned divine favor. This book will fend off cynicism and foster joy as Steve coaches us all into a life of Christian realism—both happiness and anguish, both uproarious laughter and bristling anger. Healthy Christians experience both, and knowing this fortifies us to live life well.”
Dane Ortlund, Senior Pastor, Naperville Presbyterian Church; author of Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers and Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners

Laughter and Lament breathes fresh air into the swirl of our emotions and points us to the freedom of learning our feelings aren't really even about us. They are signposts pointing us to the One who uses everything in our lives and wastes nothing in hope that we will become preoccupied with Jesus. This book gives tangible direction in the ups and downs of life to the promise of the gospel: it is for freedom we have been set free.”
Sharon Hersh, Therapist; author of The Last Addiction and Belonging; speaker; professor

“I imagine Steve Brown smoking his pipe, inhaling in meditations of all of his life lessons, and exhaling that into this book. He shares something that matters to our humanity: the freedom in gritty lament, the laughter that rises from relinquishing our false notions of control, and the boldness to invite others into this love.”
Aimee Byrd, Author of The Sexual Reformation and Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

“Steve Brown is honest with us. He faces life as it is, and he finds reasons for both real laughter and true lament. For anyone with regrets about the past and fears for the future, Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy & Sorrow offers counsel from a wise friend who has seen it all.”
Ray Ortlund, Renewal Ministries, Nashville, TN

“Christians are simultaneously saints, sinners, and sufferers. That means we have a lot to celebrate and a lot to cry about. In this book, my friend Steve Brown reminds us that the gospel sets us free to laugh and lament—sometimes at the same time. Laughter and Lament is a refreshing reminder that life is hard, Jesus is good, and God invites us to be honest about both.”
Eric Schumacher, Author of Ours: Biblical Comfort for Men Grieving Miscarriage and Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women (with Elyse Fitzpatrick)

“I have known Steve since he was my seminary professor a few decades ago. He has faithfully and repeatedly communicated the radical freedom that is accomplished because of the person and work of Christ and that grows in the soil of laughter and lament. The gift Steve gives us in this book is that God’s promises to us of freedom, love, and forgiveness come with and through the surprising pairing of laughter and lament, confession and absolution, light and darkness, death and resurrection, and grief and hope. Steve invites us to grieve because we all suffer, and we suffer a lot. Steve only does that because he knows that there is hope since God is faithful and the suffering we experience, no matter how devastating, does not compare with the glory that will be revealed.”
Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal priest; seminary professor; author God With Us: 365 Devotions on the Person and Work of Christ

“Steve Brown’s approach is one of a kind. Laughter and Lament could only be written by someone with Steve's experience, depth, and humor. This book is honest, meaningful, and hilarious at all the right times. Don't miss this gem. You'll learn to live and laugh with God like never before!”
Andrew Farley, Bestselling author; pastor; and radio host of The Grace Message with Dr. Andrew Farley

“Steve Brown deeply understands both laughter and lament, and he has written a book that treats our suffering seriously while lighting a way to actual, real-life joy. This isn’t trite ‘Christianese.’ It’s hard-won wisdom by the author who faithfully leads the procession toward a grace-filled life of freedom!” 
Kendra Fletcher, Author of Lost & Found: Losing Religion, Finding Grace

“All of us have broken bones from our journey, but few figure out how to dance with them. Along comes Steve Brown with this candid and liberating instruction manual—encouraging us to authentically embrace the mysterious music of intermingled laughter and lament. I devoured this book and was also motivated to get back out on the dance floor, even if it’s with a limp.”
Matt Heard, Founder of THRIVE; author of Life with a Capital L: Embracing Your God-Given Humanity

“Steve Brown has done it again in Laughter and Lament, unpacking Scripture so powerfully that we’re convinced there is no place that the grace of God does not triumph! ‘Contrary to what you may have heard, the God of the universe will laugh and cry with you’—this is only a taste of the treasure of this book. Pick it up and you won’t be able to put it down.”
Pete Alwinson, Founder of Forge Men; speaker; author of Like Father, Like Son: How Knowing God as Father Changes Men

“I love this book. It’s the best of the genre, read like a long conversation between friends. Steve’s wisdom has been worth my full attention. You’ll be challenged by his love and sound thinking and grace.”
Robert Wolgemuth, Bestselling author of Lies Men Believe

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1 Review

  • 5
    Encouragement to be real

    Posted by Joan Nienhuis on 12 01 2022

    We are going to have tribulation in this world, Brown reminds us. John 16:33 promises it. But we will also have laughter because John 16:33 also promises Jesus has overcome the world. So how does a Christian live in both of these realms? Brown is old enough and been a faithful believer long enough that he has no desire to impress anybody. He is just real. In fact, he writes, “God's gift to his people is the freedom to be real...” (239/2151) That means we don't put on a religious face. We have permission to be authentic and express our feelings, our frustrations, our anger. “Jesus didn't die to make us nice,” he writes. (625/2151) We miss out on deep intimacy with God when we fail to share with him the depths of our pain and our joy. Brown says he is not interested in being particularly spiritual. He's been there, done that. He cusses. In fact, he teaches readers how to cuss in Latin. That way people will think you are terribly smart and not know at all you are cussing. Some may think Brown irreverent but I see a man old enough to quit at playing the act religious game. He's real with God and he is real with us. Reading this book will give you the freedom to be real with God. It will give you the freedom to express pain and genuine lament, real repentance and the freedom of laughter. But be ready to be honest and real. No phony people will appreciate Brown's book. I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

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