I poked my head into my husband’s home office long enough to see him don headphones for his next Skype appointment. Backing away to avoid interrupting, I glanced up at his computer screen and saw his co-worker’s avatar – a black and white photo of a somber-faced, suit-wearing male, more like a mugshot than a pleasant introductory portrait. “Now, that’s scary!” I thought as I turned to go, until my husband startled me with his opening greeting.
“Hi, Kevin (not his real name),” he said brightly.” Y’know, when I look at your picture, why do I feel like you’re going to break my knees?”
I sputtered, giggled, covered my open mouth with my hand and ducked into the hallway, hoping I closed the door before “Kevin” could hear my laughter bubbling in the background. “Like you’re going to break my knees?” Did he really just say that? How could he so quickly capture a moment and banter like that? I shook my head, chuckling, amazed at his ability to tease humor into any conversation.
And then I noticed what the lighthearted conversation accomplished: I wasn’t harried, frenzied and anxious any more. My morning had promised the worst of driven days as I planned to welcome 30 leaders to our home for a two-day seminar, and house six team members. If that wasn’t enough, my office looked like a cross between a bad episode of “Hoarders” and the aftermath of a black Friday sale at Walmart – and some poor soul needed to SLEEP in there. But now that I was laughing, the cleanup process seemed positively hopeful.
Somehow humor breaks through the worst of my introspection. It takes all my negative despair and restores joy and relationship. Laughter forces my spirit to brighten, and I regain hope in the midst of the world’s dark despair.
I wonder, is this just a clever coping mechanism or did God make us this way on purpose? A quick rundown of Bible stories doesn’t exactly produce fodder for a comedy routine – at least not a nice one – but humor must be in there somewhere, since we’re created in God’s image. After all, He created some rather bizarre animals (Armored armadillos? Long-legged giraffes? Waddling penguins? Rafter-hanging bats? Would a somber Creator have made those? Would YOU?). And he created (ahem) us, so HE must have laughed, right?
Come to think of it, almost every interaction with Jesus that I “see” or imagine involves Him smiling, laughing, walking through life with lighthearted security. When I’m anxiously praying that He’ll get me through my dreaded two-hour dental repair, He shows me a picture of Him holding my hand while He sits on the table, grinning, legs swinging, relaxed and unafraid. Even when He heals my greatest pains, holding me while I cry, He always ends with a smile, with joy and hope.
Yes, He weeps with those who weep and cries with us in our sorrow. He upends tables and throws money-changers out of the temple; but He also embodies joy. No one – no one – would follow a somber, intense exhorter who adds obligation and despair to already burdened shoulders. We follow a savior who endured the cross for the JOY set before Him, and his humor and lightness invade our despairing universe.
In these hard days of earthquakes, famines, violence and despair, we need this holy joy. Our personal desolations and corporate angsts drive us to places no one can endure. Humor, laughter, lightened hearts lift our darkened hearts and we see again Jesus’ hand and the hope of His breakthrough redemption.
Jesus assures that at the end of all time, we will have joy. We will laugh. We will rejoice. I, for one, cannot afford to wait until then. I will find a way to laugh now and practice joy for eternity. Together, can we risk this? Can we laugh and extend His joy to those mired in pain and darkness?