It is interesting what things stand out in our memory. I remember the church I grew up in had a beautiful sketch of Jesus, laughing, on the wall. It was a beautifully framed, and mounted, sketch of our Lord having a good, from the belly, laugh. I often looked at that picture and wondered how I should respond. Were we as a congregation in error having something like this on the wall or was there something I was just missing? No one ever talked about Jesus laughing or enjoying humour. I just assumed that He took things very seriously and was too busy trying to get people to see the truth to take what I thought was a lighter side of life.
The problem was that I saw these two dynamics as opposing issues rather than Jesus, in His humanity, celebrating JOY! Nehemiah reminds us that, “…the joy of the Lord is our strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). The people in Nehemiah’s time had returned from years of captivity and their city was in a devastating state. They had lots of things to discourage them and distract them. But, in the midst of this, Nehemiah reminded the people to focus on the Lord and His word and celebrate His goodness in the context of their challenges. Joy filled laughter helps us focus on the Lord, His person and resources. It creates clear and creative thinking, it lifts our spirits, renews our mission and gives us strength. Laughter is a crucial part of joy and the celebration of joy. Jesus wants us to experience and be strengthened by His joy and part of that is expressing wise and encouraging humour (John 17:13). I like the wisdom this commentator displays…
“There are over 48 references about laughter in the Bible. And in the verse in Proverbs, it says that laughter holds as much healing power as medicine. In fact, research has shown laughter to be therapeutic. There are health centers across the country treating patients suffering from conditions like depression, stress, and diabetes with laughter therapy. Now medical science agrees with what the Bible has said about the benefits of laughter. According to a study conducted by the University of Maryland, laughter is a powerful remedy for stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance after a good laugh. Laughter lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you more focused on the positive. Furthermore, it relaxes the whole body relieving physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes later. It boosts the immune system, triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals promoting an overall sense of well-being, and can even temporarily relieve pain. And laughter, protects the heart. Wow, God knew what He was doing when He gave us the prescription for laughter.”
So, as we start this week, write yourself a prescription to laugh – to experience joy - to have a chuckle. I think we need to be reminded of that from time to time. I missed the significance of that picture in my church, long ago, but am now starting to appreciate the message it was sending. I encourage you to celebrate humour and laughter in accordance with your personality. Let it be your friend and your catalyst in a Christ centred life.
– In Christian love Pastor Ralph