by Gary Johnson
Every Christmas, my wife Leah says that she is going to buy me “Miracle Ear” for my gift. To her, it seems that my hearing is waning. Like many, I have what we call selective hearing. Yet, there is a sound that I have not heard in recent times, and perhaps you can say the same.
Where has all the laughter gone? Have you noticed its conspicuous absence?
Life today is not a laughing matter. COVID is making a comeback across the country and around the world. Businesses that were told they could open are now being told to close. Our nation is divided politically as never before. Civil unrest is unrelenting. Even Christians are at odds with one another. Even the American Psychological Association recently stated that 70 percent of Americans say this is the lowest point in US history they can remember. These are heavy-hearted days and there is little about which to laugh.
Yet, we need to laugh again – loudly and often. We need to enjoy belly-busting laughter. And why? Proverbs 17:22 reminds us that “laughter is good like a medicine.” We all want a vaccine for the virus, but we already have some great medicine for our souls that is readily available – laughter!
Laughing actually improves our breathing, increases our blood flow, reduces our stress, activates our “feel-good” hormones in the brain, and makes for a stronger immune system. Knowing this, who would not want to “take this medicine” and laugh out loud?
Think with me. Jesus had a fun side. In John 21, the resurrected Jesus appeared to some of His disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Peter and six other disciples decided to go fishing. It wasn’t an afternoon of recreational fishing, hoping to get a few bluegills for supper. The text reads that they fished through the night – and caught nothing. Ashamed for having denied knowing Jesus three times, Peter reverted to his old ways and went back to commercial fishing. Jesus appeared to them early in the morning and the boat was about one hundred yards from shore. He could have called out to them, “Hey guys! It’s Me, Jesus! Get in here!” But, He didn’t. He told them to “throw their nets on the other side of the boat,” and as they did so, the nets were filled with 153 fish! Been there. Done that. Jesus performed this miracle with the disciples when He firsts met them some three years earlier. Immediately, they knew it was Jesus and they took off for the shore. Peter even jumped in the water and swam, the laden boat moving too slowly for him. Talk about a practical joke. I can “hear” the gut-busting belly laughter coming from Jesus. Luke reminds us that Jesus “was filled with joy through the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21), and the same can happen with us. After all, the fruit of the Spirit includes joy (Galatians 5:22).
We have been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and God has a sense of humor. We often think of God as being serious 24/7, but we need to think of God as being our ultimate joy-giver. In Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale (HarperCollins, 1977), gifted author and pastor Frederick Buechner describes a joyful moment from Genesis 18.
The place to start is with a woman laughing. She is an old woman, and after a lifetime in the desert, her face is cracked and rutted like a six-month drought. She hunches her shoulders round her eyes and starts to shake. She squinnies her eyes shut, and her laughter is all wheeze and tears running down as she rocks back and forth in her kitchen chair. She is laughing because she is pushing 91 hard and has just been told she is going to have a baby…. The old woman’s name is Sarah, of course, and her old man’s name is Abraham, and they are laughing at the idea of a baby’s being born in the geriatric ward and Medicare’s picking up the tab. Maybe the most interesting part of it all is that far from getting angry at them for laughing, God told them that when the baby was born, he wanted them to name him Isaac, which in Hebrew means laughter. So you can say that God not only tolerated their laughter, but blessed it and, in a sense, joined in it himself.
Does it look like we have been baptized in vinegar and weened on a pickle? Maybe it’s time we start smiling and laughing again. Let’s resolve to watch more comedies than we do action, suspense, or even horror movies. And speaking of horror, rather than binging on fear-driven news updates, let’s read humorous stories. Are there funny stories from your past? Tell them again and again as if they were happening for the very first time. And let’s not forget to laugh at ourselves!
Years ago, someone gave me a piece of art as both a gift and a reminder. This piece of art has never left my desk. It is a well-known sketch of Jesus. Drawn in 1973 by the late Canadian artist Willis Wheatley, Christ, Liberator (probably more commonly known as “Jesus Laughing”) became a sensation. Why? Few Christians ever gave thought to Jesus having a sense of humor. This sketch reminds me to laugh like Jesus. After all, “the joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Go ahead. Laugh out loud. People will wonder what we’re up to.
News Story by Vancouver Sun about Willis Wheatley and the image: