Those closest to me are the funniest people I know. Some of them have endured some of the deepest pain imaginable with long term suffering both physically and circumstantially. I’ve watched humor bring equilibrium and respite during the darkest days and deepest shakings. In my own life, I marvel at how laughter has been such a close companion on a daily basis — in seasons of joy as well as sorrow. Laughter is our birthright, a true God given gift, His idea and design, with very real medicinal qualities.
Science confirms: “Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. With so much power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing your relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.”1
Laughter seems like such a shallow topic when the world is dealing with acts of terror, persecution, poverty, violence and pain. Shouldn’t I stay somber in the place of prayer under the gravity of the degree of suffering in my world? There have been many seasons where I have been found facedown in travail — groaning for God to move, groaning with groanings too deep for words, liquid prayers. Most certainly there will be many more of these times to come.
But alongside the groaning is an equally relevant emotional and spiritual expression springing from the image of God we bear — laughter. For “there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”2
In the Bible, Abraham and Sarah both laughed in hearing the news that she would bear a child in her old age (mom: 90, dad: 100). Though our tendency is to think that the laughter was a wrong response, it can be just the right response. We can fall on our face as Abraham did, in laughter, facing the fact that that this possibility is as good as dead, and yet believe in the power and promises of God.3
God wanted their child to be named Isaac [meaning: laughter], not as a punishment for their responses, but as a reminder that in the face of the absurdly impossible “all things are possible with God!” Every moment of Isaac’s life proclaimed that laughter is the only appropriate response to the impossible-made-possible by God. I love Sarah’s words once she has moved from the place of cynicism to joyful belief: “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age… God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.”4 God has made me laugh. I love that. We can laugh boldly — with faith and thanksgiving.
The impetus for this particular blog was my musing at the fact that our staff at ChattHOP, both leadership and volunteers, are very funny people with a great and unique sense of humor. Laughter is often heard bellowing from our meetings. It hit me one day that this is no mistake, but a divinely orchestrated strategy from God. Laughter is not only a gift, but a spiritual weapon to be gratefully and joyfully wielded. “I will fill them with joy in my house of prayer.”5
“The wicked plot against the godly… But the Lord just laughs.” He sees their end. Jesus is “anointed with the oil of joy more than His companions” and “filled with joy through the Holy Spirit” as he witnesses Satan fall from heaven like lightning upon his disciples’ joyful return from ministry.6
The Godhead laughs!
Though darkness and evil are real and would tempt us to despair — Jesus has won, Jesus is winning, and Jesus will forever remain triumphant! This is the eternal good news, and the more we grasp the glory of this good news, the more deeply we are equipped with faith and joy as a spiritual weapon! We too can laugh at the days to come, even in the midst of inevitable suffering and evil.7 As Martin Luther said, “The Gospel is nothing else but laughter and joy.”
Recently, as I was waiting for my vehicle to be repaired, I saw a cartoon drawing on the auto mechanics’ wall of these little cartoon characters who were literally rolling on the floor laughing with the caption: “You want it when?!” While it was not so encouraging to read this during my long wait, it provoked me to laugh. What a great response to impatient customers! You want what?!? You want it when??? – bahahaha!!!
I am full time with a ministry of prayer and yet I can say that prayer appears laughable! Audacious requests are continually flung upward to God: “Lord, unite the Body of Christ in our city! Rescue the most despairing and hopeless! Revive your Church!” Or how about these: “God, heal the sick! Set the captives free! Raise the dead!” ABSURD!
I can imagine the hosts of heaven doubled over in a belly laugh — YOU WANT WHAT? YOU WANT IT WHEN? However, there is one very important distinction between this imagined heavenly response and the one posted on the sign at the mechanic’s shop. Both laugh that you dared to ask — but I believe heaven rejoices that you did. “You want what?! When?!,” He asks. “We want all that You want, Lord! We want to see it here and now in our day!!”
Our mission at the House of Prayer seems impossible. Only God can accomplish what He has called us to believe for in the place of prayer — this great work we have set our hands to. We may as well throw our heads back and laugh long and hard and deep.
Let’s ask and anticipate the absurd, and simply stay stunned at who God is and what He has accomplished through Christ — and that He is able to do hilariously more than we could ever dream of!
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126
2. Ecclesiastes 3:4
3. Romans 4:19
4. Genesis 18, 21:6
5. Isaiah 56:7
6. Psalm 2:4, 37: 12,13; Luke 10: 18-21, Psalm 45:7
7. Prov 31:25