Recently, someone emailed a series of ink drawings to me of Jesus laughing--tossing a toddler into the air, playing with children, smiling with Mary and Martha, cuddling a baby. Jesus' mission to earth was a solemn and heart-burdening one; however, He surely found joy, at times, in His journey on earth.
Few unbelievers will be attracted to a life in Christ by a joyless Christian. Gene Jackson, a pastor and evangelist, once said, "It is amazing how many Christians don't want to laugh on their way to heaven; they've been seasick ever since they got on the Old Ship of Zion."
Early in my father's life, he wanted to be a comedian in Hollywood. He practiced funny faces in front of a mirror and developed a spontaneous laugh that sounded so real that it was infectious. When things got tense around our house, he would say, "Let's laugh," tip his face upward, and let go. Before the rest of the family knew it, we were all laughing with him. Developing a joyful approach to troubled times lessens tensions and fatigue.
As Barbara Johnson says, "He who laughs, lasts!"1 Not every day will be a good one, but determining to laugh during difficult days and lightening our spirits with laughter will carry us around the bumps, through the swamps, and over the mountains of life that stand between us and our goals.
It doesn't mean that we take a light view of the troubles and difficulties that we face. Many depressing events are serious indeed and require strong solutions. However, when we trust in God and in His powerful problem-solving wisdom, we can have a joy-filled heart, even when unhappy events rule our days and our hearts are breaking. Deliberate joy defuses the land mines of emotional stress and strain.
On a day of celebration, Nehemiah told the Jews who had returned to Israel after seventy years of exile, "‘Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength'" (Nehemiah 8:10).
How can I laugh when I'm not happy?
One young lady began life on her own hundreds of miles from family and home. She felt tense, depressed, and easily irritated. "Lord," she prayed, "I need to find joy. Please help me!" Passing a mirror, she was shocked by the scowling face she saw--her own. She deliberately grinned a Cheshire-cat kind of grin at herself. It brought a weak smile to her face. She did it again. Before she knew it, she was chuckling at how silly she looked. In the next few weeks, she repeatedly used this "ruse" to make herself laugh. It felt foolish and contrived, but it worked every time and helped her slide into her new life without a major emotional upset.
God has joy and laughter for each of us, even when we are living in sobering days. As Abraham Lincoln said, "Every person . . . is responsible for his own face." Let's laugh.
1 Barbara Johnson, Stick a Geranium in Your Hat (Dallas: Word, 1990).