God Hears: Laughter

God Hears: Laughter

God Hears: Laughter. 

“It was like a dream come true when you freed us from our bondage and brought us back to Zion! We laughed and laughed and overflowed with gladness. We were left shouting for joy and singing your praise.” (Ps. 126:1-2).

God created us with the ability to laugh, and it is one of His greatest gifts, right there next to music. There will be those joyous times when we laugh our prayers to God. When we direct our prayerful laugh to God, He listens and it gladdens God’s heart. When He created us in His image, laughter was a part of the package deal, since we know God is a God of joy. If we couldn’t laugh, how could we express joy and gladness? How could we lighten our hearts along with God’s? Of course, there are many kinds of laughter, and some of them are downright devious. This was called the “laughter of fools” by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:6, and could include the laughter of ridicule, of derision, of arrogance. But could we even call that laughter? Thomas Howard had these pearls of wisdom in his remarks to his college students:

“I myself have wondered, now and again, whether a sense of humor is not a sort of natural capacity in us humans that’s some sort of a reflection of holiness. Humor has something to do with humility – pompous people can’t laugh. And with simplicity – sophisticated people can only offer tinkling and silvery mockery. And with purity of heart – lechers and gluttons can only leer. And with grace – clods and oafs can only grunt. And with charity – egotists are seldom amused. I think the saints are full of merriment. I want to introduce my children to at least the early reaches of those hilarious regions that we call Glory.” 

And then of course there is laughter that is not so insidious, the laughter of embarrassment, of surprise, of confusion and of nervousness. And there occasionally comes to us the wonderful laughter of relief. As it turns out, laughter can communicate quite a few things.

God seems to underscore the importance of innocent laughter to our spirits by making laughter so healthy for our body. There are an astounding number of benefits of laughter, all planned by the body’s Master Engineer, the Lord God. Laughter has the benefits of:

  1. stimulating the heart and lungs;
  2. increasing our blood flow and thus aiding our circulatory system;
  3. lowering our blood pressure;
  4. enhancing our intake of oxygen-rich air;
  5. producing endorphins, our natural pain-killers;
  6. improving our immune system;
  7. relaxing our muscles when tight and tense;
  8. lowering our stress hormones;
  9. improving anxiety and depression;
  10. elevating our mood.

Laughter comes so naturally to us that researchers have determined that laughter sounds come from babies as young as five months. Babies learn to laugh before they learn how to speak! This is why, if there is a universal language that crosses all cultures and ages, it is laughter. Laughter communicates, and is a part of human nature, no matter our language.

Judging from the way we are made, and Whose image we carry, God wants us to laugh. He wants each of us to develop a sense of gladness. Of course, this doesn’t mean we are always laughing. “For everything there is a season… a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Eccles. 3:4).

“The marks of joy are stamped all over the Christian life. The people of God are a laughing people. But it isn’t uninterrupted laughter – there are times of excruciating pain and sorrow that we experience in the world around us. And if there’s not enough love in us, enough concern to involve ourselves with people in their need, enough concern to bring tears to our eyes and heaviness to our hearts, our laughter will be a very hollow affair- and will end in eternal weeping.” (Eugene Peterson, from a sermon).

Abraham and Sarah had their time of laughter. They laughed so hard at the irony, the improbability of their old-age pregnancy that they even named their son Isaac, “laughter.” (Gen. 17, 18, 21).

Know that if you are in the slough of despond, or in the throes of grief or pain, God is truly listening. He wants you to eventually laugh to your heart’s content. God doesn’t want you stuck in sorrow or despondency. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21). Also know that if your laughter is rooted in arrogance or derision or shallowness, if you find yourself laughing at people instead of laughing with them, God wants to purify your laughter. He wants you to experience an innocent laughter rather the laughter of fools. Impure laughter is unacceptable in the kingdom of God. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” (Luke 6:25).

According to G. K. Chesterton, believers often need an antidote to taking ourselves too seriously:

“A characteristic of the great saints is their levity. Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One settles down into a sort of selfish seriousness, but one has to rise to a merry self-forgetfulness. Seriousness is not a virtue. Seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking oneself gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. For solemnity flows out of people naturally, but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy; hard to light. Satan fell by force of gravity.” (Orthodoxy)

Lord God, give me a readiness to laugh my prayers to you. Renew within me a constant openness to innocent laughter. Add a sense of humor to my common sense, Lord. In humility and in empathy with others, help me to laugh with those who laugh, but also to weep with those who weep. Thank you, Father, that we, being made in your image, are able to laugh and express ourselves with joy. Amen.