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January 11, 2020Humor, Leadership, Revitalization

When You Don't Feel Like Laughing

When was the last time you laughed?
When You Don't Feel Like Laughing
Image: Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

How do you laugh? Well, if you are my wife, you have a deep laugh that leads to a snorting sound when trying to catch your breath. If you are my mom, you have a wheezing sound where air rushes out the mouth making it hard to catch your breath and respond in any way—and you’re left with stuttering sounds in between the wheezing.

Honestly, both laughs are quite comical, which makes me laugh.

I don’t mean to pick on two of my favorite women in the world, I only mean to use them to make the point that laughter does a body good.

Laughter can be a means to express derision, or it can be a way of dismissing something in a
light-hearted way. The Bible actually uses laughter to describe both occasions.

But these are not my intended definition of laughter in this post. My intended definition is an
expressed emotion that results from something that was lively, amusing, joyous, or pleasurable. In other words, something—maybe a joke, something our child did, a Facebook repost of a funny video, something humorous that happened to us (like wardrobe or a hair clipper malfunction), a story someone told you, our environment, our condition, etc.—made us laugh.

This laughter, in short, is healthy. For instance, Psalm 126:1–2 states,

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, exclaims, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall
laugh” (Luke 6:21b). In both these passages, laughter is a positive, healthy, and good expression that stems from God’s joyous work in one’s life.

When is the last time you laughed?

I know there are times and seasons in my life when I’m too exhausted, and if I’m honest, too
depressed, to laugh.

What about you? When’s the last time you laughed? It may have been a while. Maybe you feel as though you’re in a place where you don’t feel like laughing. Maybe you are in a dark place, a depressed state, and laughter seems as far and cold as Antarctica. Yet, you desire to laugh once again—to utter a chuckle, a joyous emotional vocal smile.

Let me share four things I would say you need in order to allow laughter to flow once again.

First, you’ll need the GOSPEL to give you light.

The gospel—the announcement of Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension—is the primary tool for breaking through the damming darkness and doom in one’s life to open up the potential for laughter to break through. The gospel story itself has a temporary moment of darkness and doom.

As Jesus hung on the cross, breathing his final breaths, darkness came upon the earth and the ground began to quake. All hope was seemingly gone.

As Jesus’ lifeless body was buried in a borrowed sealed tomb, the disciples buried themselves in a locked upper room. They were afraid—scared for their lives. The fear that gripped their souls paralyzed their vocal cords. No prayers, no songs, no jokes, and no reminiscing the highlights of ministry.

However, the resurrection changed everything. Jesus’ resurrection resurrected hope, life, purpose, meaning, and mission for the disciples, and yes, the potential for them to smile, to laugh once again.

The gospel—the good news of Jesus—brings light to darkened lives. No matter how dark you may think it is, Jesus interrupts the darkness and the doom by shining his radiant light that gives great news of great grace, great love, and great hope.

Second, you’ll need a COMMUNITY to hold you tight.

I recently watched a TED Talk where Sophie Scott, a cognitive neuroscientist, addressed why we
laugh. In that talk, she explains that people are thirty times more likely to laugh if they’re with someone else. In other words, people are more apt to laugh in community than isolation. While there’s certainly the possibility to be lying in bed cracking up at a video reposted on Facebook, the place where we are more likely to laugh is in community.

This is fascinating. Why? Because I believe the Bible teaches that we were created for community, to be in relationship with one another. We were not created in isolation, but in the Triune God’s community, and were created to reflect that community within human community.

Think about it this way: by living in community one is more likely to experience something lively amusing, joyous, positive, healthy, and good that prompts them to laugh.

If you are in a dark place and you feel like your life is falling apart, community can be a frightening place. Some may feel that they will be judged or unwelcomed if they are vulnerable about their darkness.

But the reality is that the Bible teaches that the community of God shouldn’t be a frightening place, but a place of hospitality, acceptance, healing, restoration, and renewal.

The church, the community of God should be a place, a people, where the weight of darkness in one’s life is squeezed out by the tightness of the community’s hug.

In other words, the warmness of the community’s love has the potential of melting the darkness in one’s soul.

Over time, as we subject ourselves to the community’s love, we allow our souls to be plowed with the love and truth of God where seeds of hope are planted and in due time fruits of laughter produced.

Third, you’ll need a SONG to help you through the night.

Year ago, I was reading Louie Giglio’s book, Comeback, where Louie shared a part of his story where he had a bout with severe depression. During a battle in the wee hours of the night, Louie prayed, “God, I don’t know what else to do, but if you’ll give me a song in the dark, I will praise you” (13, Comeback). He goes on to write,

“Almost instantly this little line of praise to God just dropped into my mouth. It was, ‘Be still, my soul, there’s a healer.’” As he repeated those words over and over like a broken record, he said more words came to him. They were, “His love is deeper than the sea. His mercy is unfailing. His arms a fortress for the weak” (14).

For the psalmist, for Louie, and for us, songs from the Lord can be powerful truths we sing over our lives that awaken hope within our spirit.

As we sing God’s song over our lives in the darkness of night we may not see the turbulent waters subside, but we will have a divine calmness that rushes over our soul.

The more we sing God’s song over our lives, the more we condition our hearts to be ready to respond in laughter at an appropriate time.

Fourth, you’ll need to keep the BIG PICTURE in sight.

The last thing all of us will need as we attempt to break down the dam of darkness and doom that prevents us from laughing is to keep the big picture in sight. What’s the big picture? We see the final destination of where the trajectory of history is heading in Revelation 21—the time when heaven and earth collide in the New City Jerusalem. This is the big picture.

As God dwells in the midst of the new city, where he will be their God and they will be his people, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).

In the new city, there will be no more pain, sorrow, suffering, grief, hurting, or loss. Keeping this final picture of hope in sight should prevent the darkness and doom from penetrating deep in one’s soul. While darkness and doom are real, the return of Jesus and the restoration of the cosmos are real as well.

The big picture in all its glory speaks a word to us in the here and now telling us that we haven’t heard the final word, our dark situation isn’t eternal, our emotional doom will not loom forever; but our Healer, Redeemer, Savior, and King has gone ahead to prepare a glorious city for us where we will live with him forevermore in a place of eternal bliss and perfection.

In light of this, hope is present, and laughter is, once again, possible.

Allow the gospel to give you light, God’s community to hold you tight, a song to get your through the night, and the big picture to stay in sight.

Josh Laxton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the Billy Graham Center, Lausanne North American Coordinator at Wheaton College, and a co-host of the podcast Living in the Land of Oz. He has a Ph.D. in North American Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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When You Don't Feel Like Laughing