Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Laugh All You Like

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

                        Proverbs 17.22

Serious Business

Following Jesus is serious business, nothing to be taken lightly or treated casually. It leads us to confront core weaknesses and demands constant attention. But it also produces bright blooms of joy, as often in dark seasons of sorrow as moments of unalloyed happiness.

The trick is learning to be sober, rather than somber. We must be clear-headed about the world around us. Yet as people of faith, circumstances don’t dictate our attitude. We set our sights beyond the visible; we bank on God’s promises instead of natural facts. In John 16.33, Jesus tells us to expect trials. “But be of good cheer,” He adds, “I have overcome the world.” (KJV) We rise above our emotions long before our struggles end because Christ already triumphed over the problems we face. We remain cheerful.

The Upbeat Obligation

Sincere followers of Christ examine their behavior against His measures. His statement in John goes beyond recommendation. It gives us an upbeat obligation. Meeting it requires consistent effort. Some of us are cheery by nature. But others—for example, the “half-empty” crowd—really have to work at it. We habitually, consciously depose our dispositions. When our mind predicts gloom and doom, we tighten the reins and turn toward optimism and opportunity.

Why did Jesus make a point of reminding us to stay joyful? The answer comes from Proverbs. A cheerful heart is therapeutic. It seeks out positive angles for navigating life’s dreariest curves. Often it may not find any good where it presently is.  So it looks around the bend by faith. Wherever it may be, it refuses to be crushed. Proverbs says a crushed spirit dries up the bones. It makes us weak, brittle, and afraid—basically, incapable of doing the work God created and placed us here to do. A happy heart makes a productive life.

Laugh Junkies

Just because we laugh at silliness doesn’t mean laughter trivializes serious situations. A lot of times, it’s the key to unlocking our minds and fears to face the reality of what’s actually happening. A buddy of mine says, “I’d rather die laughing than cry myself to sleep.” It’s our choice and Jesus told us what to do. He’s already overcome the world. The worst it throws at us can’t compete with His promises. Don’t get boxed in by what’s appropriate.” The natural mind frets over what it can’t control; the unnatural mind forgets about limitations to believe. Yeah, troubles come. So? Laugh all you like. Become a laugh junkie. It’s great medicine—powerfully habit-forming with only positive side effects!

Most of us have probably seen this, but I couldn't resist using it. I love this kid! Nothing startles him and the bigger the noise, the harder he laughs. (BTW, the title, roughly translated, is, "Can Hubby Make Baby Laugh?")

(Tomorrow: Cutting Through)

Personal Postscript: Laughing Matters--an Informal Inquiry

We're all plagued by recurrent anxieties that present themselves as no laughing matter. Yet when these Achilles' heels surface, it very well may be when laughing matters most.

In my case, money makes me nervous. I'm just not gifted with the talent or enthusiasm to manage it closely. It seems the Tempter knows this. (If not, he knows it now.) So he exploits every chance to taunt me with financial worries and doubts. But with God's help, I'm learning how to handle it. First, I start with a reality check of what my situation is. It's never as dire as my fears suggest. Second, I'm learning to laugh at my insecurity over things I can't control while whatever needs to happen for my peace of mind transpires. And here's what I'm discovering: time really does fly when you're having fun. When I focus on staying cheerful, answers and reassurances come much sooner.

Am I daft about this? I'm interested whether you also laugh defensively at certain anxieties. If so, post a quick comment. It can be as simple as, "I laugh at my fear of loneliness." Or it might be, "I need to learn how to laugh at how much I worry about what others think." You get the drift.

So when does--or should--laughing matter the most for you?


Missy said...

Here's another example of being on the same page.

My meditation this morning from Richard Rohr's book, Radical Grace:

"We have committed ourselves to joy. We have come to realize that those who make space for joy, those who prefer nothing to joy, those who desire the utter reality, will most assuredly have it.

We must not be afraid to announce it to refugees, slum dwellers, saddened prisoners, angry prophets. Now and then we must even announce it to ourselves. In this prison of now, in this cynical and sophisticated age, Christians must believe in joy."

When I think of laughter in Scripture I always think of Sarah busting a gut at the idea of having a child in old age. I love that the name Isaac means "laughter." Somehow, Sarah got the last laugh.

Missy said...

(Sometimes I laugh inappropriately when I don't know what to say...)

Tim said...

Thanks for mentioning Sarah, Missy.

It's fascinating to me how non-believers laugh when they think something's impossible, while people of faith (like Sarah) laugh because they know anything is possible with God.