Nov 19 - Why Has God Given Me A Sense Of Humor?

Why Has God Given Me A Sense Of Humor?

November 19, 2017

 

WHY HAS GOD GIVEN ME A SENSE OF HUMOUR?

November 19th, 2017

 

In 2011, a guy named Bob receives a free ticket to the 7th and deciding game of the Stanley Cup finals from his company.  Unfortunately, when Bob arrives at Roger’s arena he realizes that the seat is in the last row in the corner of the stadium. 

 

But half-way through the first period he notices that there is an empty seat in about row 10 right at the center line.  So decides to take a chance and makes his way through the stadium to the empty seat.

As he sits down, he asks the gentleman sitting next to him, "Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?"

The man says “no, go ahead and use it.”

Bob was tickled pink to get such a fantastic seat.  So he says to the man next to him, "This is incredible! Who in their right mind would have a seat like this at the 7th game of the Stanley Cup final and not use it?"

The man replies, "Well, actually, the seat belongs to me, I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first hockey game we haven’t been together at since we got married in 1977."

Bob felt terrible, ”I’m so sorry to hear about that, but couldn’t you find someone to take her seat? A relative or close friend?"

No," the man replies, "they’re all at the funeral."

 

“To express certain emotions, especially mirth or delight, by a series of spontaneous, usually unarticulated sounds often accompanied by corresponding facial and bodily movements.” 

 

That’s a pretty funny description of laughter, when you think about it.

 

When we LAUGH, our body performs "rhythmic, vocalized, expiratory, and involuntary actions." Fifteen facial muscles contract and there is electrical stimulation of the zygomatic major muscle.  That’s the muscle that extends from each cheekbone to the corners of the mouth. It raises the corners of the mouth when a person smiles. Currents of varying intensity produce a wide range of facial responses.

 

The respiratory system is upset by the epiglottis half-closing, so that air intake occurs in irregular gasps, rather than calm breaths. Under extreme circumstances, the tear ducts are activated, so that while the mouth is opening and closing and there is a struggle for a sufficient amount of oxygen intake, the face becomes moist and often red.

 

Noises that often accompany this odd behavior range from controlled snickers, escaped chortles and snorts, and spontaneous giggles, to ridiculous cackles, noisy hoots, and uproarious laughter.

 

Having a sense of humour, smiling and laughing are not something we often think of as a spiritual issue.  However, maybe our sense of humour and the resulting laughter is a gift from God and maybe, just maybe, it reflects the fact that we’re made in the image of God. 

 

If that’s the case, then God has a sense of humour.  By the way, I realize that sometimes there can be a deep inner joy despite tragic circumstances.  But the Bible uses the language of joy also to speak of simple happiness

 

I have included an OT and a NT verse to make this point.

 

… The joy of YHWH (the LORD) is your strength.                                                                                          Nehemiah 8:10

 

What gives us strength is the joy of our God and the joy in our God.

 

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, ….”                                                                              Luke 10:21

 

Being filled with the Spirit of God means being full of joy.

 

Joy, happiness, laughter is a reflection of God’s character.  It is one part of God’s image that is given to each one of us. 

 

God is the author of joy! God is okay with our laughter! He CREATED laughter!
 

We often don’t think of God or Jesus as being happy or smiling or laughing. 

 

Most of us have an image of Jesus in our heads that focuses on his serious side, or the suffering that he endured.  We have a hard time thinking of him as smiling or laughing, but I’m convinced that he wasn’t nearly as glum as we think.

 

For example, Jesus liked to go to parties.  In fact he was accused of being a glutton and drunkard – something recorded in both the gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matt 11:19; Luke 7:34; cf. Prov 23:21).

 

Jesus also used a lot of pretty funny illustrations in his teachings. 

 

 

A camel squeezing through the eye of a needle,  straining out all the tiny insects out - but then trying to  drink down the stinky dirty camel that hasn’t been removed.

 

Attempting to remove a speck of sawdust from someone else’s eye while having a 2x4 lodged in our own eye; Placing a lit candle under a bowl so that it can’t give any light.  Trying to increase the length of one’s life by worrying.  These are just some of many examples. 

 

Jesus didn’t expect his followers to mope around or run around with a scowl on their face.  In fact, at one point, Jesus had to defend his followers because they were NOT fasting and mourning (Matt 9:15). 

 

In his prayer to God the Father, Jesus asked this for his followers, in reference to his death and the sending of the Holy Spirit:

 

...  I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.

John 17:13[1]

 

God wants us to experience joy in our faith, he wants us to experience the full measure of Jesus joy within us. 

 

[This is similar to John 15:11 - I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (full; overflow)]

 

It shouldn’t surprise us to read in Acts that being filled with the Spirit and being filled with joy seem to go hand in hand.           

 

And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.                                                                            Acts 13:52

 

It shouldn’t surprise us that joy is second only to love in Paul’s list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22).

 

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.                                          Galatians 5:22-23

 

We better realize, that it isn’t unspiritual to laugh and to find joy in life and to rejoice and be happy.  I might be criticized for saying this, but I don’t believe that being miserable or having a face as if you’ve just bit into a lemon is a sign of spiritual maturity. 

 

You know, as followers of Christ we believe in the GOOD News, not the bad news or the mediocre news.  Well, if that’s true, if we believe that the news about Jesus is good, then it makes sense that what we believe reaches our hearts and therefore our faces?  Some of us have to tell our faces … hey face, remember it’s good news.
 

Joy, humour and laughter is a demonstration of our faith in God.  Faith and hope and joy is part of an essentially positive outlook that demonstrates to others that we believe in the hope of the resurrection, in the power of life over death, in the power of love over hatred, in the power of God over all circumstances in life, in the hope of eternal life.

 

Think about it for a minute.  If we wish others to experience the presence of God, we can only invite them if we are joyful people.  Who in the world would want to join a group of miserable people?

 

People should want to come to church because they want to find out what all the laughter and joy and celebration is about.  They should be able to ask the question, “Why are the people at Friendship Church happy?” 

 

That’s not to say that there cannot be times when we are sad, when we grieve, when we cry, when we suffer, when we have to endure physical pain or emotional upheaval.  I don’t think that we have to pretend to be happy when we are not.  However, deep unhappiness should not be the norm for a believer - even though it is possible for a genuine believer to deal with depression. 

 

Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that our sense of humour and laughter is a part of God’s character, that joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and that there are some amazing benefits as a result of it.

 

A story is told about a man on his knees at a grave site praying intensely, tears streaming down his face, and repeating over and over the question, “Why did you have to die?  Why did you have to die?”  An onlooker went over to the man and said, “I couldn’t help but notice how much grief and emotional pain you’re experiencing.  I’m so sorry about your loss.  Who are you mourning?

The crying man took a moment to collect himself, then replied, “My wife’s first husband.”

 

The author or Proverbs knew of the positive effects of happiness and joy.  He writes

 

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but when the heart is sad the spirit is broken.  … For the despondent every day is bad.  But for a happy heart life is a continual feast.                                                                   Proverbs 15:13,15
 

Live is like a continual feast when we are joyful and happy. 

 

A heart at peace (a relaxed attitude) gives life to the body, but an upset (heart) rots the bones. … A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones …. A happy heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.                                                                                               Proverbs 14:30; 15:30; 17:22

 

The famous American preacher and abolitionist, Henry Beecher (1813-1887), once said,

 

 

Mirth (= amusement/laughter/levity/jocularlity, merriment) is God’s medicine.  Everybody ought to bathe in it.                                                  Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

So you shouldn’t just take a small amount of amusement and laughter, you should take a bath in it, get it all over, splash around in it. 

 

It is well known that humour helps the healing process in the physical body.  Laughter releases endorphins, decreases the stress hormone levels, stimulates our immune system, and helps us to relax. 

 

The Mayo Clinic reported that laughter aids breathing by disrupting our normal respiration pattern and increasing our breathing rate.  Hearty laughter increases circulation which improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues throughout our bodies.
 

Laughter even helps to control pain by raising the levels of our brain’s natural endorphins.

 

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology reported that people with a good sense of humor generally tend to outlive adults with a poor sense of humor.
 

Humor also helps in improving our creativity and memory. Our minds more readily remember something if we can connect it with something hilarious.


Laughter helps lighten some painful situations.

 

LAUGHTER is an amazing thing!  It’s a tension dissolver.  It’s an antidote to anxiety.  It’s just like a tranquilizer, but without any side effects (Arnold Glasow).  And it’s free!  You don’t even need a prescription.
 

Laughter is life’s shock absorber!  If we want to have less stress in our lives, we NEED to learn to laugh at our circumstances!  We have to find ways to see the humour even in the frustrating things that happen!

 
Someone once asked President Lincoln (1809 - 1865) how he handled all the stresses of the Civil War. He answered,

 

With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.

 

Bob Newhart (now 88 years old) said that ...

 

 

 Laughter … allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.                Bob Newhart 

 

 

St. Theresa of Avila, a Spanish nun from the 16th century, is famous for saying, and I quote,

 

A sad nun is a bad nun. …. I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits …. What would happen if we hid what little sense of humour we had?  Let each of us humbly use … (our sense of humour) to cheer others.

 

She believed that a novice who laughed had the necessary disposition to deal with the rather difficult life of being a nun in the late middle ages.

 

Maybe if we can learn to laugh at some circumstance, we can learn to live with it

 

Laughter is healing for the bones.  Humour is fun and it’s funny and it’s spiritual.  Regardless of denomination.

 

Sometimes regardless of religion.

 

Even if we stop looking at our personal lives, we should realize that the benefits for humour are significant for the Christian community, the body of Christ.

 

In the midst of some bad times in the Church, the People of God can use laughter from time to time. That's not to say that one laughs about the pain or sin in the Church. Rather, humor can help us to heal.

 

People who have a hard time seeing things in a funny light, who can’t laugh at themselves or some of the situations they face, have a much, much harder time in their relationships.

 

The late musician/comedian Victor Borge (1909 - 2000) once quipped that ...

 

 

 

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.                                                                                         Victor Borge
 

 

I’m not sure I agree with him 100%, but laughter sure breaks down barriers and connects

 

Why do you think that is?  For one, a sense of humour and laughter can improve the atmosphere, it can loosen tensions, it can diffuse an argument, it can make things more relaxed. 

 

When humour is self-depreciating, it can further a lack of pride and a proper sense of humility.  When we tell jokes about ourselves it deflates our egos, which is a good thing – and improves our relationship with others. 

 

Sometimes religious people take themselves way too serious. 

 

A story is told about a very religious barber.  A Roman Catholic priest comes to have his hair cut and afterwards wants to pay, but the barber insists that clergy don’t have to pay.  So the next day when the barber comes to work he finds at the doorstep of his shop a thank-you card from the priest with and a nice bottle of wine.  That day a Presbyterian minister comes to have his hair cut, and as before, the barber insists that clergy do not have to pay.  So the next day, he finds at his door step a thank you card, and a beautiful gift Bible.  That very day, a Baptist pastor comes for a haircut, and again, after finding out that the person is a minister, the barber insists that the haircut is free.  The next day as he arrives at his shop he finds, to his surprise, 5 more Baptist pastors.

 

A story is told about a Baptist pastor and a Mennonite pastor driving to a Christian book convention and getting into such an animated argument about predestination and free will, that they drive off the road and hit a telephone pole and both die and go to heaven instantly. 

 

So they get to the pearly gates in heaven and they’re all excited, you know, because they spent their whole lives serving God and they’re wondering what heaven will be like. 

 

So the Baptist pastor steps forward and knocks.  Well, the huge gates fly open, the trumpets sound and a hundred angels start to fly around, singing halleluiahs.  Then a long red carpet rolls out, all the way to the Baptist pastor.  And out come all the saints of old and they hug the pastor.  And then there is another trumpet blast and out comes Jesus himself and he embraces the pastor and says, “Welcome to heaven.”  And they all go inside the gates into heaven laughing and singing.  Then the carpet rolls back up, the gates close, and the angels fly off and the Mennonite pastor is left standing in front of the gates by himself.  And he thinks, “Man, if that’s the kind of welcome for the Baptist pastor, what will my welcome be?” 

 

So he knocks on the door.  And he waits.  And knocks again.  And waits some more.  Finally after 1/2 hour of knocking and waiting, a little side door next to the pearly gate opens up and St. Peter sticks his head out and says, “Hey you.”  And the Mennonite pastor says, “Who me?”  And St. Peter says, "Yeah, you." So the Mennonite minister walks over and St. Peter says, “Hi … um … so … come on in … and ... uh … welcome to heaven.” 

 

And the pastor says, “That’s it?  Come on, the Baptist gets the trumpets and the angels and the red carpet and the saints and even Jesus, and all I get is this lousy welcome?” 

 

And St. Peter says, “Oh yeah, right. … Well you have to understand something.  Mennonite pastors up here are a dime a dozen ... but we haven’t seen a Baptist pastor for nearly 20 years!

 

You can’t take yourself too seriously, even if you’re religious.

 

Also, if we have a sense of humour we can sometimes speak the truth about a situation that otherwise we couldn’t – that too improves our relationship with others as well.

 

Also, if you are able to get someone to laugh, either in your home, or in a conversation, it usually is a sign that they feel welcome and at ease.  You know, the people I enjoy hanging out with the most are people who make me laugh. 

 

WE need LAUGHTER in all of our relationships!   Laughing with others is an integral part of healthy relationships.  We miss out on a lot of fun in our marriages or with our kids or with our friends or with our co-workers or with the people at church if we don’t laugh together.

 

To go back to the book of Proverbs again:

 

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.                        Proverbs 12:25

 

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.   Proverbs 15:30

 

What’s true of a kind word, good news and a cheerful look is also true of a funny word.  Laughter is contagious.  It can lift someone’s spirits.

 

Proverbs 27:19 tells us that our hearts are a reflection of who we are

 

As water reflects a face, so a man's life reflects the heart.                                                                        Proverbs 27:19

 

However, maybe we can take it a step further and say that perhaps the face sometimes is a reflection of the heart. 

 

Not always, of course, because we’re sometimes good at covering up, wearing masks, pretending we’re OK when we’re not. 

 

But if we are the kind of person who frowns and look angry or upset all the time, it’s a reflection of our heart, of our character – and the fact that we don’t seem to be able to get a lot of joy out of life.  If we smile and laugh a lot, it is a reflection of who we are. 

 

So look at the difference between the two types of people as illustrated by cats.

 

I don’t know about you, but, generally speaking, I’d rather be a happy person than an unhappy one.  I’d rather be a person who likes to laugh than one who is constantly frowning.

 

Now, I am completely aware that some people are hurting financially because of the economic times.  They’ve lost their jobs.  Their retirement savings have taken a hit.  They have a hard time paying the mortgage or the rent. 

 

I am completely aware that other people are struggling in their relationships

 

I know some who struggle with serious health issues or have loved ones who do so. 

 

I know that some are grieving the loss of a loved one

 

I know others who struggle with clinical depression

 

And I would never want to make light of these realities or say that laughter fixes everything.

 

But I still think that one way that we can sometimes deal with hard times is when we combine our faith with humour.  Toughest times in my own life - Calvin and Hobbes; funny movies ...

 

If we are not careful, we can sometimes use our humour inappropriately.  The expression of our joy can be like pouring salt into wounds.

 

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on baking soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.                                    Proverbs 25:20

 

Vinegar poured over baking soda creates quite a reaction and the release of a lot of gases (used to unclog drains).  Taking away someone’s coat on a cold day will in fact make that person squawk.  In other words, there will be quite a negative reaction if someone sings happy songs to a heavy heart

 

Paul reminds us that when someone is weeping, it’s probably best to weep with them. 

 

Rejoice with those who rejoice.  Weep with those who weep.                                                                  Romans 12:15

 

However, given this caveat that joking around is not always appropriate, I think there is nothing wrong with being proactive when it comes to injecting humour and laughter into our lives.

 

I believe with all my heart that as followers of Christ we have a lot to laugh and be joyful about.  In fact, I think we need to laugh so we can relax, heal some of the emotional wounds we carry, help us to deal with the stresses we face in life, and get us unstuck and move on.

 

We need to encourage this capacity within ourselves for seeing the things that are good and right and funny, and incorporate joy and laughter into our daily lives.

 

We need to hang out with people who have a positive spirit and like to joke.  People who crack us up.

 

We should read what makes us smile and laugh. 

We should watch stuff that’s wholesome and funny. 

 

I find some character’s hilarious.  In fact, the older I get, the more I seem to enjoy funny animated films – maybe it’s part of reverting into my second child-hood. 

 

Why should we be intentional about finding joy?  Because life is NOT easy.  So it IS a wonderful gift to be able to laugh.  With all of the stress in our fast-paced world, with all of the stress in our relationships, we need to utilize this vital resource that God has given us!
 

But there is an even more important reason I have already alluded to, which is that what God has given us in Christ should overflow in us to joy.

 

Paul reminds us of that fact when he writes to the believers in Philippi:

 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!                                                                                Philippians 4:4


We are to always be rejoicing, always find something to be happy about, in God. 

 

Deal with depression.

Challenge my negativity.

Become more thankful.

Reevaluate my situation.

Spend more time with God.

Find to do things that make me happy (not just superficially covering up my pain or unhappiness).

Be creative - craft, ... whatever brings joy and pleasure. 

Make a resolution to laugh more.

Read a joke or funny comic for the day calendar each morning.

Learn to smile more often.  As you get into the shower; as you enter your home;

 

Get a coffee mug that makes you smile. 

            Work:  My college will be with you soon

Read your favourite comic strip.

Hang out with people who have a sense of humour, who are funny, who make you laugh.

Figure out what makes you laugh (your own sense of humour).  Find more of it.

Do something that’s fun.

Read clean jokes online.

Listen to comedy radio in the car driving to and from work.

Watch classic funny movies.

Watch funny YouTube videos.

Spend time with pets ... I find that dogs make me feel good.

Don’t take yourself or life itself so seriously.

Do something silly - singing loud in the shower.

Turn down the volume on all the sad and awful news out there.

Get out.

Listen to music that makes you smile. .. don’t worry be happy makes me smile.

 

HOW CAN I BE MORE INTENTIONAL ABOUT FINDING AND SHARING JOY AND LAUGHTER?

 

Prayer:  for more joy, more laughter, more happiness, greater ability to appreciate funny,

 

[1] NIV.  ESV - ... that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.  NASB - ... that they may have my joy made full in themselves.  EÜ - ... that they may have my joy in fullness within themselves