Over the holidays I was at a family gathering enjoying good food, good friends, and laughter. I was talking with the family matriarch affectionately called “Memaw” by her grandchildren. Looking at me she made a comment about the embroidered decorations on her sweatshirt and the effects of their strategic placement. We started to laugh about the private joke between us. We got laughing and could not stop. The tears were streaming down my face as others around us to start to laugh at us. I cannot remember the last time I laughed that hard. There is something about that laughter that gave my heart such joy and companionableness.
Christians have a long-standing reputation for being serious minded people who are not prone to humor, laughter, or play. In our own country’s early church history the Puritans did much to cement this reputation of serious piety. They spent long hours in church and rigorous hours in daily Bible study and prayer. They are known for their restrictions against music, dancing, and bright colors. Holiness seemed to be likened to judgment, suffering, and severity.
John Wesley recognized the danger of taking this serious attitude to the extreme when he said: “Sour Godliness is the devil’s religion.” Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “If you’re not allowed to laugh in heaven, then I don’t want to go there.”
Even though we are eager to bring joy, laughter, and good humor into our family lives, we are often hesitant to bring the same qualities into our relationship with God. Are we worried that God does not have a sense of humor? If we want to bring laughter and play into our relationship with God we are going to have to expand our view of His attributes to include laughter and fun.
To move in this direction we must first define what a “sense of humor” means. It is a perspective on life that has the ability to see the comic in creation, humanity, and the ability to laugh at ourselves. Human relationships do not survive well without the ability to have a sense of humor. We are all too familiar with how the struggles and communication barriers block our ability to know and be known to each other. When we can step back and see the humor in our predicaments it softens our hearts to move forward toward each other.
The same principle applies to our relationship with God. If all of our prayers are solemn, serious, and focused only on weighty matters of importance, we will miss opportunities for light and playful prayers. Tears and laughter are often linked in the Bible. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to weep and a time to laugh (3:4). Luke 6:21 offers the promise of laughter when he writes “…Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” It is difficult not to love someone when you are laughing with them. Have you experienced the love that comes from shared laughter?
When we laugh together we build relationships; we build sympathy for each other, and we become kindred spirits. Good humor and laughter depend on solid trusting relationships. We cannot command laughter nor can we dictate trust. We can be willing to seize the funny moments to laugh out loud when least expected, find humor in our own situations. We can share laughter with others and discover love. We can delight in God and experience God’s unconditional love for us.
If we believe that God will laugh at us if we share our joys and excitements, than we will remain silent for fear of being ridiculed. If we can learn the joy of laughter that comes from the love of laughing with someone finding humor in human experiences we will then learn to laugh with God.
If you have been hurt by laughter in the past, and this prevents you from laughing now, write a prayer to God about your specific need. As you write your prayer detail the hurt you have experienced and how the memories still hurt. Be willing to ask God for what you need to heal these hurts. Think about the places in life where you would love to receive the gift of laughter. Pour out your heart and longings to God, He will not scorn, mock, or belittle you. You can rest in confidence God will not laugh at you.