Laugh

I’ve read laughter is good for you.  As I understand it, the more you laugh your body releases certain endorphins that help your body’s immune system fight disease and other possible invaders.  If that is true, I should be able to live a long and healthy life.  I grew up on a home of joy and laughter and my father is a master storyteller and has always kept us laughing at his stories.  Laughter was always a part of the home Kathy and I built for our boys and then as the family expanded to include two daughters in law and a growing group of grandchildren, we always had fun and lots of laughter.

It occurs to me that most of you don’t laugh enough, including me.  Our daily struggles and challenges weight us down with worry and anxiety and the good laughter we so desperately need is absent.  When was the last time you laughed uncontrollably?  You should.  Take some time and watch reruns of Carol Burnett or I Love Lucy and just laugh…in spite of your pain…in spite of the news.  Laugh because you trust in a God who never forgets where you are!

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.[1]

He has all things in His hands and while He works His universal plan for all the billions on earth, the stars in the galaxies and everything else, you should laugh at the way your grandson spills his milk or the way the cat keeps falling off the couch or a dozen other things around you designed to make you laugh.

I’m struck by the indescribable joy found in the hearts of Paul and Silas in Acts 16.   The scene is one that does not appear to be joyful. In fact, it is downright shameful that these men are even in jail, much less beaten and bleeding. They did not deserve such treatment and morning will bring some respite but they don’t yet know that.  Instead, they “laugh” in a spiritual way by singing songs of worship and praise to the Lord despite their present circumstances.

Anyone can sing if things are good and there is no pressure.  Such songs are often trivial and flippant.  This is a different context…they are singing in spite of what appears to be a very painful experience.  How could they do that?  They know and trust in the power of a Mighty God.   Their hope and foundations are not rooted in the desirable circumstances of life. If joy can only be found when the bills are paid, the children are well and all is good, then of what purpose is such joy?  No, it is because of joy when things are not well that the soul chooses to sing and be joyful.

It was not easy for these believers to sing and it will not be easy for you and me to sing when life is not we wish it to be.  Believe me, I know.  As we gathered in the cemetery with our family to place Kathy’s earthly body in its final resting place I said to the officiating ministers “when you are done, I want to sing!”  I did not feel like singing.  In fact, it was an unlikely place to sing anyway.  So morbid and cold.  Yet, I wanted my family to sing in that setting as a testimony that despite how awful we felt about the loss of Kathy in our lives and no matter that this was one of the worst days of my life, there can still be a song.

  • It is the song that tells God we still believe.
  • It is the song that tells our Enemy he can never win our hearts.
  • It is the song that says to our remaining family, life will go on because God is going on and He will continue to hold us in His hands.

 

Believe me, I don’t want to sing in such moments but sing we must.  We sing our songs in times of pain because God is faithful to keep our sorrows in mind and we know that nothing is missing in His plans for our tomorrows.  The words are not as important as the melody of our hearts.  That day, I could hardly form the words and through my tears, I sang a song of praise to the God who is my only hope through the darkness of my future days.

Ours is not a song of denial, as some would suppose.  We are not denying our pain or even our present circumstances.  Rather, we are singing in faith because we know God has always taken care of us and that His love is our covering when life does not make sense.

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.[2]

It is the love of God and our confidence in it that keeps us from losing our minds when life is so hard.  To know that God loves us and that He promises that love will sustain us in life’s most terrible moments brings joy to a heart that is so sad.

Many years ago in a desperate personal time of anxiety and dread, God spoke to my spirit these words, “If you really believed I loved you, you would not be afraid!”  It was a transformational moment to grasp that God truly did love me and if so, to consider what could I possibly fear from such a loving and compassionate God?  The writer in Romans goes further when he offers, What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?   He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”[3] It is a most profound question.  In essence, Paul reminds us that our God is without comparison and with Him on our side, who could possibly oppose us?  Not that we will not be opposed and not that there is any inference that opposition of all sorts may come, sickness, death, pain, suffering, sorrow, betrayal, hardship, etc.  No, I think the verse clearly infers such opposition will arise against our lives and happiness—but what is it in comparison to our God?

Yet, he goes further to add that we should remember this God has already given to us the best gift of all—His only Son, Jesus Christ to be offered as a substitution for our owns sins!  Paul rhetorically asks that if God would do that, what would he possibly refuse us in the days to come?  Think about it, God has already proven how much He loves you and me by putting Jesus on the cross and allowing Him to be brutally beaten and murdered for our sins—even before we choose to believe in Him!  After such a demonstration of love, how could we possibly even consider that He is not watching over us strongly and providing the daily grace and strength that we will need.

My dear friend, you are covered.  Despite your present circumstances and the agony of your soul, embrace the joy of your soul. Sing your song and let it fly!  Make the neighbors fear for your sanity.  Ring out the melody that is deep within, the tune that only you can sing and have a moment of unfettered joy.  The freedom to know God is securing your present and your future allows the heart to have great joy.  Peter writes that this kind of joy is GLORIOUS and INEXPRESSABLE.

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.  You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.[4]

Did you catch the weight of those words?  Your life and even your present awful feelings of pain and suffering or possibly the ugly outcomes of other’s decisions toward you provide a context for God’s best work in you!  These present moments are not the final outcome of your life; rather Peter says the outcome of your absolute trust in God when life is at its most awful is the salvation of your soul and eternal life.  You will live beyond this moment.  You will not be defined by what others have said or done.  You will find new joy even if the present moments seem empty and void of former moments of happiness and gladness. God promises and He can be trusted.

It was a promise I made to Kathy that resulted in our decision to bring her home from the hospital and allow her the dignity to exit this life from the house she loved and among the company of our family.  It was not an easy decision but one that we will always cherish because it allowed us to steal moments with her from eternity in the final days and hours of life.  While she was still coherent and fighting for every day, she would make every attempt to get out of our bed.  It took maximum effort on all our caregivers to keep her in the bed.  From time to time, we would allow her to take short walks from the bed to the top of our staircase and the family would gather down at the bottom. From there she would speak to us, often in confused ramblings (because of the medicines) but sometimes in coherent and entertaining thoughts.  One such night as we gathered below to listen, she began telling us something and as she did, her sister began laughing at what she was saying.  In the distraction, Kathy turned her attention on her laughing sister and then said to all of us “Well my sister is laughing hysterically. Why don’t all of you just begin laughing hysterically, go ahead laugh!” and so we did…we laughed and laughed and even though it was fake laughter, the remembrance off that moment stirs something inside of me that life should be lived within the confines of periodic moments of hysterical laughter.  Our lives may not always be filled with hilarity but it can always have joy because of who He is and what He means to us in the darkest of times.

I miss Kathy in so many ways.  You know the mind is tricky in how it brings to your remembrance things you might otherwise have thought were forgotten in the midst of your pain.  Kathy loved to laugh with me and there are many such moments I recall when laughter was the order of our day—no matter what else was going on.  So, typing these words, I remember Kathy’s laugh and I determine to continue laughing each day and allow joy to be my companion throughout the remaining years of my own life.

As she left the staircase and slowly returned to her room that night, she looked over her shoulder and repeated, “Remember to laugh hysterically (then she added) and unzip modestly and don’t forget to give a generous gift to the American Cancer Society!” It was a small hilarious moment that will perhaps last a lifetime in our memories.

All three suggestions are good ones.  I’m committed to them all.


[1] Psalms 28:7 NIV (emphasis mine)

[2] Psalms 90:14 NIV

[3] Romans 8:21-32 NASB

[4] 1 Peter 1:7-9 NLT

 

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