This week, my denomination’s annual General Assembly has been meeting. It’s a week of business and fellowship constituted by one-sixth of all the active clergy, and an equal number of elders, sent on rotation. This wasn’t “my year” to serve as a commissioner to the Assembly, but if time and travel allow, there’s a gathering that happens on the Wednesday evening of the week of Assembly that I wouldn’t ever want to miss.
There’s a bunch of folks, fellow believers, who get together on that Wednesday evening each year, and my main motivation for going is laughter. We laugh a lot. The group has some very gifted story-tellers (some of whom take licence with hyperbole to a fair extent), and we spend about 5 hours catching up on the time since we were last together, and sharing stories.
This past Wednesday evening was no different. And by the time I laid my head on the pillow that night, I felt like I’d had a good abdominal workout! It was wonderful.
Too often, we who follow Jesus forget about the value of laughter. After all, we reason, Jesus didn’t laugh, did he? There are no one-liners in the Gospels, are there? Well, in response to that, I have to say that (a) we don’t know that Jesus didn’t laugh, and (b) there actually are some one-liners in the Gospels – in fact, read in the original language with the first-century context in mind, the Gospels contain the most humour in all of Scripture. I can’t help but think that Jesus and his twelve friends, who spent so much time together, must have enjoyed some good laughs together (probably at the expense of the Pharisees!). Either we get so serious about our discipleship that we neglect to feed our funny bone, or worse, we don’t allow ourselves to laugh, because it’s somehow unspiritual. While it’s good to concentrate on our spiritual growth, a holistic picture of the life of the spirit also includes laughter – and laughter can be very spiritual indeed. (Anybody remember the ‘holy laughter’ phenomenon of the 1990s?)
The writer of the proverb reminds us that there is a flip-side to laughter: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17.22, NLT). One way to read that is to say that if our heart is not cheerful, it can result in a broken spirit. To be sure, a cheerful heart is good medicine; the Reader’s Digest has been telling us that for years! And now we know it’s in the Bible, too!
“…[B]ut a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Many of us have sung that song, haven’t we? Isaiah tells us that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40.31), and the writer of the proverb tells us that a cheerful heart is good medicine. I think those two can go together. We can, and we should, enjoy cheerful hearts as we hope in the Lord.
So get out there and enjoy a good laugh! God will use it to build your strength.
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