After living through 20 years of surgeries, emotional pain, trauma, and disappointment, it was obvious that my life wasn't going to change any time soon. Then God spoke to me through a little sign that read, "If you don't laugh, life will laugh anyway." I put it on my refrigerator and set about finding humor wherever I could. I read a scientific article about the proven benefits of laughter each day. I became an avid reader of the Sunday comics. I purposely chose TV shows and movies that made me laugh. I read the Bible with Proverbs 17:22a in mind. ("A merry heart does good like medicine.") In the process, I discovered something that was new to me at the time. I already knew that life is often very hard but that God is always there to fight for us. The new thing I discovered was that, if we're open, He'll come with a sense of humor. And when we recognize the humor of God, we'll end up laughing. Or at least we'll chuckle. Let me give you some examples.
Jesus told a group of fishermen that He'd turn them into fishers of men. Can you imagine their first reaction? Imagine looking over the side of a boat into a fishing net you've just brought up from the sea and in it are all sizes and colors of people squirming and jumping around like the fish do when they are caught.
Then there was the time the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus came along and told them to fish on the other side of the boat. Yeah, right. Like they hadn't fished on both sides of the boat or hadn't turned the boat around during the night.
How about when Jesus accused people of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. Can you picture someone actually doing that and not knowing they'd done it?
Read the Gospels as if you were writing a musical. There are at least two stories you could use for comic relief. One is the story of a hated, but powerful, businessman who is so short he can't see over the crowd to catch a glimpse of Jesus coming into town. But he wants to see Jesus so badly, he throws away his dignity and his concern for what people will think and climbs up in a tree with his bare legs showing.
Or how about the time Jesus came to a home in Capernaum, people crowded all around Him, and in walks two blind men? How did they find Him? And how many houses did they bang into before they found Him?
Jesus loved to laugh and have a good time. I believe He was laughing (or chuckling at least) when He told His disciples, "If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?" (Luke 11:13) The contrast is truly laughable.
Jesus loved parties. It didn't matter if the party was in His honor or not. He liked them. He had a good time at the party Zacchaeus gave for Him. He was thrilled when Matthew threw a party to celebrate his job change from tax collector to following Jesus full time.
Jesus gave us the example of creating a good time of clean fun as a tool to relieve stress and pain. Just think about the beginning of His ministry. He'd had a tough season. He left home and all that was familiar. He spent 40 days in the desert with no food or water, wrestling with the devil. Then He calls a bunch of know-nothing Galileans. He changes their job and in the process, that changes His job as He suddenly has to deal with a bunch of puppy-dog people following Him around everywhere, asking inane questions. It's not easy.
So what does He do? What are His options?
- He could go into the desert to pray and fast like John the Baptist would do. John and Andrew would understand that choice.
- He could go do something, take on a project of some kind. Peter would like that. Action!
- He could settle everyone down under a fig tree and call for a period of meditation and contemplation. That was a typical Jewish thing to do and Nathanael especially would like that.
- He could go visit another country, for a change of pace and scenery. Leave Galilee.
And Jesus knew how to laugh. He liked to laugh. And He created occasions for laughter.
Just think about how Jesus came to earth. Previously, God came to earth with the flaming swords of Eden, He flooded the globe, He rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. But now He comes as a baby? A baby that has to be carried, fed, changed, rocked, bathed and burped?
And His parents? This is a funny story if there ever was one. For the Creator of the universe to choose to be born to a couple like them? Mary was a peasant girl with a crush on a guy named Joe. Joe was a carpenter. He wore a nail belt, had rough hands and sawdust in his hair. He had no job security, so was dependent solely on the whims of the community. More than likely, his shop was on street level and the family lived in a basement type cave under the shop. And this is where God is going to grow up and have supper every night?
How about the Apostle Paul. He was a Christian-killer who turned into a Christian leader. Then he was a preacher who became a prisoner. He became an old man. The churches he worked so hard to establish would all eventually die. He was sick. And yet the humor and purpose of God caused Paul's thoughts and actions to influence the teaching of every school within 200 years. They've been read in thousands of languages and impact every major creed, read by every major figure in the world. All this from an old man with bad eyes, who was in prison for an odd faith. Folks, you just can't make this stuff up.
Look at some of those Old Testament stories with fresh eyes.
- "How are ya going to deal with that giant, David?" "Well, you see, I've got this little rock . . ."
- What'cha goin' ta do 'bout them Philistines, Samson? "Oh, I'm just going to use this donkey's jawbone . . ." "What makes you think you can do anything with that?" "It'll work 'cuz I have long hair." Yeah. Right.
- "Ezekiel, we've got this eyesore on the edge of town. What do you think we ought to do about it?" "Oh, you mean that valley full of dry bones? Don't worry about them. I'll just prophesy over them and they'll grow flesh and skin again. Then I'll just tell the four winds to breathe on them and they'll come to life again. So just put your bulldozers away, guys. Those bones will just get up and walk out of that valley by themselves. Problem solved."
- Joseph's brothers got jealous of their little brother so they sold him into slavery. That's not funny. Later, Joseph is the one who literally saves their lives by providing them food and shelter. That's not funny either; it's nice. Years and years go by with the brothers living under Joseph's protection. But the moment their father, Jacob, dies, the brothers become so scared they get silly and start whining, "Joseph, Daddy said to be nice to us." That's ironically funny.
Can you see how the scriptures are just full of some really good comedy writing? Humor with a purpose and a lesson. Funny stories about how God, in His own humorous way, brought healing and hope to hopeless, painful people and situations? Psalm 2:4 lets us know that God sits in the heavens and laughs. Do you hear Him? What's He laughing about today?