By Elaine Marie Cooper
Author’s Note: This blog posted over a year ago on another site. With all the stress of elections and storms, I pray that you can take a breather and find a moment to smile. Perhaps even laugh.
When I was a little girl (but old enough to read) my brothers, sisters, and I looked at a wedding invitation sent to our parents. As each of us read the beautiful font announcing the happy occasion, we each fell on the floor laughing. So what did we find so funny? It read:
Announcing the marriage of Onessima Boelke to Valentine Putz.
We looked at each other through our jovial tears, and said, “She’s going to become Onessima Putz!” Peals of laughter ensued. We even managed to draw my mom into the humor of it. That, in and of itself, was the best part since Mom was not easily humored. It was a moment of pure hilarity that I have never forgotten, mostly because Mom did not often laugh.
But that memory always reminds me of the importance of having a sense of humor—even when circumstances are difficult.
Anyone who has read any of my posts or interviews before knows that my husband Steve and I have endured major stress in our lives. Yet somehow, laughter has become a welcome friend even in the most dire of circumstances.
I will never forget an evening at home when my daughter was ill with a brain tumor. While the setting was not funny in the slightest, what ensued still makes us laugh.
We often read chapters from James Herriott’s books to our daughter Bethany since she really enjoyed the tales of the Yorkshire veterinarian. His stories described his large animal practice during the 1930’s through the ‘60’s. This one particular evening, my elderly mom was reading a chapter to Bethany and the story concerned artificial insemination in cows. So picture a woman in her 80’s reading to a cancer patient about a sensitive topic not often discussed in such detail. I think we all nearly landed on the floor, weak from laughter, listening to my very proper mother trying to get through the reading. And yes, even Mom ended up laughing!
It was a moment of joy that relieved our stress.
So isn’t that what humor is? The opposite side of pain that relieves the tension in our everyday lives?
Consider some of the physical benefits of laughing (courtesy of http://www.humor-laughter.com):
- Lowers the levels of cortisol in our body. Cortisol suppresses our immune system
- Acts like exercise in stimulating our hearts and lungs. Improves our breathing capacity
- 15 minutes of laughter equals the benefit of 2 hours of sleep
- Laughing for 15 seconds adds two days to your life span (I have NO idea how they figured that one out)
- Laughter causes endorphins to release into the body with the same exhilarating effect as doing strenuous exercise (I, personally, would prefer to laugh than exercise—but that’s another topic).
A study by the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore states that laughter along with an active sense of humor may help protect you against a heart attack. They quote the old saying of “laughter being the best medicine.”
So what does the Bible say about laughter? Well, it first appears in Genesis. Both Abraham and Sarah are caught laughing when God promises them a child in their old age.
Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself. “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Genesis 17:17 NIV)
Then the Lord appears in a visible form to Abraham and, within earshot of Sarah, promises that by next year at this time, Sarah will give birth to a son.
“Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of child bearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’” (Genesis 18:10-12 NIV)
Notice that this particular laughter was at the irony of the situation. It was also rooted in pain, as both Abraham and Sarah had long hoped and prayed for a child. I suppose they laughed so they wouldn’t cry.
But as God is in the business of keeping His promises, Sarah did give birth to a son in her old age. The laughter this time was joyful.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”(Genesis 21:6 NIV)
It was a release of heartfelt happiness born after so many years of barrenness. I’m sure if she was able, she would have rolled on the floor laughing. But you never know—any 90-year-old woman who could give birth may have been doing an out-and-out belly laugh!
Laughter in the Bible is often described in its contrast to painful situations. In Psalms126:2, it describes former captives who are now released, returning to their home and filled with mirth:
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.”(NIV)
Again in Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, laughter is side-by-side with pain:
- “Even in laughter, the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.” (Proverbs 14:13 NIV)
- “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” (Job 8:2 NIV)
- “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4 NIV)
I cannot imagine getting through the difficulties in life without the comfort of humor. It can be found in even the most desperate of situations, if we pray for the eyes to see it. I thank God for His joy.
So when was the last time you were consumed with laughter? Life is filled with stress and certainly there are times when laughing is inappropriate. (Think of a certain candidate in a recent vice-presidential debate…) But could it be that humor is a gift to us when times are tough? When we are beset with financial worries, concerns about our children, fears over a loved ones’ health—maybe God’s remedy to help us cope is as close as a giggle, a smile, a laugh-filled moment.
If anyone wants to borrow the hilarious movie, “While You Were Sleeping,” you can. I own two copies. I have watched the first one so often, I was afraid I’d wear the DVD out so I bought another when it was on sale. I know I can always count on a good laugh when I watch it.
May your life be filled with joyful laughter.
photo credit: maureen_sill via photopin cc