Yes, I Can Laugh Again - Part 1
"If Mary had Jesus, and Jesus is the Lamb of God, does that mean Mary had a little Lamb?"
This week, we continue talking about 'Yes, I Can' by looking at reclaiming our ability to laugh.
Whether a joke is corny (like the above) or rib-ticklingly brilliant, its impact is unlikely to be examined in church. Laughter is not a topic that we speak about a lot in church, yet both the Bible and modern science agree on the great benefits of laughter.
The Bible teaches that a relaxed, happy attitude actually lengthens a man's life, and uncontrolled negative emotions shorten a man's life. It says, "A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones." (Proverbs 14:30 NLT). It is also now a documented scientific fact that people who laugh a lot live longer than those who don't. As George F. Worts said, "He who laughs lasts."
So, let's look at some benefits of laughter:
1. It promotes health and healing
The Bible says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 NIV), or as Jamaicans put it "tek kin teet kibba heart bun". Both are now backed by modern scientific studies. An American Medical Association report cited research revealing that every organ of the body responds to laughter. Laughter aids digestion, stimulates the heart, strengthens muscles, and activates the brain. Happy people also get sick less, and when they do get sick, they seem to be able to mobilise their body's own natural healing powers.
2. It reduces tension
In our hectic, fast-paced, high-tech world, it is easy for our lives to become formal, ritualistic and predictable, and tension is a natural outflow. But laughter is a tension-reducer and has a way of disarming fear and hostility. As Proverbs 15:15b MSG says, " ... a cheerful heart fills the day with song."
3. It helps us through difficult times
Nehemiah 8:10 KJV says that "...the joy of the Lord is your strength". We can laugh our way through difficulty. After Jamaica's disappointing performance at the 2017 World Championships, we decided to 'tek bad sinting mek laugh' with funny Internet memes that spread like wildfire.
But somehow, many of us cannot connect God with happiness. When we think about holy, we generally don't think about happy, we think solemn and quiet. But is that a true reflection of God? King David in Psalm 122:1 NLT said, "I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord", i.e. to church. It's okay for church to be fun!
God encourages holy glee because God is happy.
Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 1:11 NKJV of " ... the glorious gospel of the blessed God." The word used for 'blessed' in the Greek means 'happy'. So, commentators tell us that we can substitute 'happy' in place of 'blessed' here. Jesus demonstrated this Godly characteristic when He walked the Earth, and it's important to notice what Jesus did because he was the exact reflection of God the Father.
When the 72 disciples returned to Jesus with a good report of their work, Luke 10:21 NIV tells us how Jesus' responded: "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit ..." It was an exuberant display of happiness - laughing out loud and high-fiving those around Him.
God wants us to be happy.
We see this in two ways:
1. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:4 NIV that we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who have the Holy Spirit living on the inside " ... participate in the divine nature". If God is happy by nature, then we, who are made in His image, should also be happy by nature.
2. The first message that Jesus preached was about happiness ... "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." (Matthew 5:2-5 NIV). The word 'blessed' has the idea of an inward bliss, an inward happiness.
Jamaica ranks halfway down at 76th in the 2017 World Happiness Report. What has happened to our laughter, happiness and joy? We are living in a world that teaches us to chase things that should make us happy, but often only rob us of our laughter and joy. The world's joy is based on happenstance or circumstance. We have to cultivate a 'God-stance' - laughter, happiness and joy - that finds its source in God.
I pray you have yourself a good laugh this week - for God's sake and your own. Next week we will look at how we can cultivate the habit of happiness.