Laugh. Be Merry. Live With Joy!
Have you ever thought about laughter? It’s such a lovely, strange, wonderful, human capacity. It is a uniquely human attribute. We’re the only beings in creation who laugh. And it is not a one dimensional thing either. We laugh at jokes and at the recognition of silliness. We chuckle, chortle, guffaw, giggle, and cackle. We laugh quietly to ourselves, and we laugh out loud with others, uproariously.
Of course, even laughter can have a dark side. C.S. Lewis in one of his Screwtape Letters gives us a sense of how even laughter can be used sinfully. How we can laugh at others failures, we can demean them with our laughter. We can laugh at the expense of others, or frivolously at bawdy humor. In other words, in our fallen condition we can laugh at the suffering of others and sin doing so.
But laughter in its most human, most healthy sense, is one of life’s greatest gifts. To see the funny side of life is one of the most endearing of human qualities. To be able to laugh at ourselves shows a true capacity for mature, comfortable humility. Laughter is a source of joyful pleasure, or simply the outward expression of true happiness.
What is even more interesting is that this most unique of human of gifts is directly from God. What does this reveal to us about God? If we are, as the scriptures say, “made in the image and likeness of God,” does this not imply that the gift of humor and laughter is of God, not just from God?
It is not hard for us to imagine that Jesus knew the pleasure of laughter. The Gospels give us only vignettes of the life of Jesus, especially from his three years of public ministry. They do not cover every moment of his life. They do not tell us about the very human moments of laughter and joy he would have had with his mother and father, Mary and Joseph, or the quiet times he must have had with his friends and his disciples as they walked from place to place, or when they were together around a fire in the evenings. In his humanity, we can believe, without hesitation, that he would have enjoyed the company of others and would have been able to laugh at the foibles of human character.
Joy is central to the Nature of God. When God finished creating all things out of nothing, out of His perfect Nature, He stood back and declared, “It is good.” Could that hum that scientists have recorded in the vastness of space, that poets and composers have called, “the music of the spheres,” be the reverberating sound of God’s creative laughter, still rippling through the entirety of the universe?
If a Christian is not filled with joy and laughter in his or her faith, something is missing. If Christians cannot laugh at themselves when they fall short of the ideal, something is surely missing. If Christians cannot laugh at their sometimes foolish and silly reasons for sinning, something is wrong. If a Christian takes him or herself too seriously and cannot abide anything but dour, serious, condemnation of a dark world, something is terribly wrong.
God created out of love, out of the joy that enlivens and inspires love. It is a fact, of course, that humanity is fallen, that suffering is real, and that it is a result of human foolishness, which is, ultimately, the result of pride. But Christians also know that, because God loved us, he sent his only begotten Son into this world to redeem us out of that love, to heal that broken relationship. We will not, of course, avoid suffering, because we are human and fallen, but we know that we are forgiven, that the gates of Paradise have been opened for us again, by and through the love of God. All of this is a matter of pure joy!
As Christians let us learn to laugh for joy, precisely because we know God and his love for all of us and all of his creation. Let us learn to laugh at ourselves when we act foolishly. This can only come from a healthy humility. Let us laugh because we know that, even though we are foolish at times, God’s love is unconditional and infinite, that He forgives us joyfully when we turn to Him in humble recognition of our foolishness. Let us laugh because our faith is rich and full and rooted in that knowledge that God is love, infinitely.
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.