Proverbs 17:22
March 17, 2019

When hydrogen and carbon dioxide collide, the result is life-sustaining oxygen.

When humor and faith collide, the result is laughter that helps save our souls.

The Bible says it like this: “A joyful heart is a good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22a

Now everyone knows that medicine can be abused. But taken correctly and in the right doses, medicine and save us from pain, heal our wounds, lift us from depression, and it can save our lives.

It has been said that laughter is the best medicine. It’s free. It’s natural. It’s healing. It requires no doctor, no prescription.  It can be administered a child or an adult.  Even animals can make us laugh.

If you never laugh there is a cost.  If you never laugh, it may be a sign that you are sick.  It’s a sign that you have little joy in your life and that you may have problems dealing with the stress that life brings your way.

There are times and seasons in life we will get kicked in the gut and life will try to pull the joy out of us. Every one of us will go through those seasons.

Hopefully, none of us will go through a more difficult time than Job.  Remember Job.  He’s the person in the Bible that lost his possessions, his family, and his health.  His friends gave him a lot of bad advice about his situation. They didn’t empathize with him and told him all his problems were his fault.

But one of his friends told him that God would “yet fill (his) mouth with laughter and (his) lips with shouts of joy.” (Job 8:21)

Those words may not have been very comforting when he was suffering and grieving, but at least they were hopeful. But I doubt Job could see his way through his pain to that day when laughter would return.

How can a joyful heart be good medicine if you don’t feel like having a joyful heart?

You can’t make someone joyful, can you?

Look, it is true that we cannot always change our circumstances, but there are times that we can change our perspective.

Finish this sentence for me: “When life gives you lemons…”  That’s right, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

This statement carries within it what we might call a comedic perspective on life.

Have you ever visited someone that was going through a difficult time and while you were with that person you laughed, you cried, you listened to their stories, and when you left, it occurred to you that you were the one lifted up?

That person’s perspective affected you in a way you did not expect. While things might not have been good, that person was still joyful.  The Spirit of God was still evident in that person’s life.   Their spirit of joy was contagious.

Developing a comedic perspective on life is possible when the Spirit of Jesus lives within us.  By this, I do not mean that everything is funny. What I mean is that even in the worst of times, we can have a faith that says, “This is not the final story. This situation, though it’s not good, will not dictate my attitude.”

No one exemplifies the comedic perspective better than the Apostle Paul.  Paul would have gone hungry as a stand up comic.   Paul described himself as a very zealous man.  He was a very serious, driven man, but let me show you the comedic perspective he maintained.

After Paul became a disciple of Jesus, his life was not easy. He was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger from countrymen, Gentiles, and Jews that pretended to care for him but they really wanted to hurt him. He was often hungry, thirsty, cold, in need of clothes, and the had churches he established pressured him for many things.

Paul wrote to the church at Corinth that only a fool would make these situations something to boast about. He said he WAS a fool, a fool for Christ.

A comedic perspective does not depend on everything to turn out right. Instead, this person does depend on the One who enables us to celebrate life even when everything is not coming up roses.

Trust me.  In this life, everything will not turn up roses.  Even when they do, to get to the rose, you have to avoid the thorns.

What did Paul have to base his comedic perspective on? The empty tomb.

Paul knew that the greatest joke ever pulled was the one God pulled off in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The reason we can have a joyful heart is that we have read the end of the story and it’s a celebration.   The Evil One wants us to get stuck reading the middle of the story and wants us to forget how this story ends.

It’s the beginning of a New Year, and Snoopy is dancing all around Lucy. He’s happy. He has a smile on his face.

“How can you be happy when you don’t know what this year has in store for you? Don’t you worry about all the things that can happen?” Lucy asks, trying to rain on Snoopy’s parade.

Snoopy becomes subdued. He whimpers.  He begins to walk away with an attitude of dread, much to the approval of Lucy.

“That’s better . . . live in dread and fear . . . be sensible,” she says.

But Snoopy cannot live this way. Though only a foolish dog, he seems to understand more about humor and faith than Lucy does. Therefore, much to Lucy’s chagrin, he bursts out in dancing and laughter and merriment” (Short:151).

Such is the nature of the person who has a comedic perspective on life.

When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, this comedic perspective should grow and develop.  People around us just think we are foolish.

For centuries, Jesus was portrayed as a humorless person and was rarely painted or drawn laughing or smiling until modern artists began doing so several decades ago.

Even though Jesus lived with a comedic perspective and incorporated humor into his stories, artists kept him subdued, expressionless, as if there was no joy on his face or in his life.

Jesus drew verbal cartoons by referring to the Pharisees as blinds guides and poked fun at the laws they made up while they ignored the most important ones. To illustrate this, Jesus said they strained a gnat and swallowed a camel.

He showed their hypocrisy by saying that they cleaned the outside of their cups in their religious rituals but neglected to clean the inside, the most important part. In doing so, he referenced the way they lived their lives, always wanting to look good on the outside while living with dirty hearts.

While others could see the humor in what Jesus was saying about the Pharisees, the problem was that they could not see it themselves.

This is one of the reasons that having a sense of humor is a sign of good health, especially if we can learn to laugh at ourselves.

We all know that we are not perfect.  But so often, we fail to see ourselves as others see us, imperfect human beings capable of good things, but also people who sometimes miss the mark.

We don’t like it when people hold up a mirror and show us ourselves when it’s not all that flattering.

We can become angry, live in denial, and strike back, or we can react in a different way.

When our actions have wounded people, it’s not funny.  We have to apologize and seek forgiveness.  But other times, before we have wounded anyone why not laugh at ourselves when we are shown those things that others see?  Otherwise, we become just like the Pharisees.

There’s a word for people that can’t laugh at themselves and think that everything they do is right.   It’s not a very nice word that some people use for a farm animal.

Not only have I been one at various times before I wised up, but I have also at times acted act like our Puritan ancestors who almost never laughed and lived such humorless lives that one person describes a Puritan a person that was afraid that someone, somewhere was having a good time.

Here’s my confession. I still have some Puritan blood running through my veins. That’s the reason I’ve had to find some clowns in my life to hang around because I’m not one naturally.

Many of the friends I made in college and seminary were people that made me laugh. I needed them. There were God’s gifts to me. They helped me balance the serious with the comical.

Let’s face it; this world is filled with a lot of serious stuff. Some people will not get serious about anything, and that’s a problem. But most of us are affected by the serious issues of life in a way that threatens to take our joy away and leave us so turned inward on our problems that the world turns dark and gray.

Even if someone like Bildad comes and tells us that our laughter will return, unless we are made to laugh, it’s likely to mean little to us in times of suffering.

But If we practice using humor daily and look for it everywhere we go, it will help us transcend suffering and difficult times when those times do come.

Perhaps some of you heard of the woman who went into the bedroom one morning and said, “Freddy, get up; it’s time to go to school.”

Freddy pulled the covers over his head and said, “I’m not going to school; the kids don’t like me.”

Fifteen minutes later she went back; he was still in bed. She said, “Freddy, get up; it’s time to go to school.” He pulled the covers over his head and said, “I’m not going to school; the teachers don’t like me.”

Fifteen minutes later she went back; he was still in bed. She said, “Freddy, get up; it’s time to go to school!” He said, “I’m not going to school; the bus driver doesn’t like me.”

This time she screamed at him, “Freddy, you are fifty-three years old and the principal of that school; now get up and get going!”

Now haven’t we all had days like that? We didn’t want to get up and go to school or go to work because of something that we had to face that day that we were not looking forward to. Where is the joy in that?

We can all learn to see life from the perspective of Romans 8:28: “All things will work together for good for those that love God and are called according to His purpose.”  When we do, we can invite God into our space and expect joy to show up even in the midst of difficulty.

When it does, when humor and laughter happen, we can rise above the pain, above tragedy, above suffering, above difficulty and transcend it. Sometimes it’s only for a little while, but that little while is a gift from God.

Think about it like this. When you are laughing, when you are immersed in laughter and joy, are you thinking about your pain? Do you think about your problems? Do you think about your suffering?

Even if it’s only for a few moments, humor allows you to transcend the difficulties of this world.

Victor Frankl lived through hell during his incarceration at Auschwitz. He attributed his ability to survive in spite of all of his suffering partly because of the humor which he and others maintained.

What could you possibly find humorous in a concentration camp? One has to look hard, but humor is around us everywhere if we look. When we see it, it is “another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.”

Frankl wrote, “It is well known that humor, more than anything else in the human makeup, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds. (68-69).

The woman that taught me makeup back in the day when clowning was in vogue was Daisy Rademaker. Daisy trained out some clowns that went on to clown for Barnum and Baily Circus.

Daisy wore a hat with her clown costume filled with yellow daisies.

During the Pegasus Parade before the Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky, Daisy always walked behind the horses that were in the parade. Whenever the horses did their business in the middle of the parade route, which they

usually did somewhere along the way, Daisy ran to the pile of fresh manure and placed single daisy right in the middle of the pile.

I can tell you from experience and from walking with hundreds of people through all kinds of problems in life, this world isn’t just going to just rain on your parade, this world is going to plop some manure on it somewhere along

the way.

How are we going to respond?

Daisy’s message to the crowd along the parade route was that you can respond to the mess like this: plant a daisy in it.

Christians can be those people that stick a daisy in that pile. We can be those people that look for comedic perspective in the midst of the pain.

This is not about denial. When you take medicine, you are not denying that you are sick.  You are acknowledging that you are not well but that you need some medication to help make you better.
Used in the right way, good humor it is the medicine that God has given to us to heal.

Paul never denied that he was suffering, but in the midst of his suffering, he let everyone know that Jesus was the one that helped him maintain his joy.

The comedic perspective is given to us by the Holy Spirit to see things as God sees them.

That doesn’t mean things are always funny. It does mean that this world should not be able to take away our joy.  So yes, that means that we will laugh when others will not or cannot.

We need holy laughter, unspoiled by sin, to remind us that God is the one that helps us rise above all things unholy, unfulfilling, and un-Christlike so that we might live the abundant life Jesus promised we could live.

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