There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
Younger readers may recognize this acronym. Most everyone would recognize the shorthand of “LOL” which stands for Laughing Out Loud. The next generation uses this shorthand when they text each other. LOLWROF takes LOL one step farther and means Laughing Out Loud While Rolling on Floor. Why write a post about laughter? Well, the bible has lots of humor, often overlooked, which is part of life, and anything that is part of life is fair game for a post. The word “laugh” appears 38 times in the bible and “laughter” another 10. That’s enough times to say that it is a topic to write about.
What isn’t apparent to many is that Jesus had a great sense of humor, much of it obscured by translations of the Bible from the original language. All too often, we run into humorless Christians. They are often somber, unsmiling, tight-lipped, or judgmental. They have missed the understanding that the Christian life isn’t to live in perpetual seriousness. In an article by Tim Schenck entitled The Often Overlooked Humor of Jesus, Tim writes “Jesus used humor to teach, heal, convert and ultimately redeem.” He did so to show that being profound and being humorous can go hand in hand. They are not “mutually exclusive.”
Jesus humor is often subtle, particularly in his use of humorous exaggeration, such as his retort to his Apostles on the efficacy of Prayer: “What father among you, if he asks for fish, will give him a snake? Or if your son asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12). You can visualize the snickers of his followers when they heard this.
Think about the people in your life who make you laugh. They are fun to be around and they often energize you. My oldest son describes me as having a “wicked” sense of humor. I’m not sure about his choice of words, but I enjoy humor. For example, I think God has a great sense of humor because He accepted me into His Kingdom just as I was. He’s been chiseling off the rough edges ever since I came to faith. My only issue is that I wish He didn’t use a sledge-hammer with the chisel.
I was reminded of my own experience this past weekend when we sang Mighty to Save where the lyrics go: So take me as You find me; All my fears and failures, fill my life again; I give my life to follow; Everything I believe in, now I surrender.
I have friends that I enjoy just being around because I know our encounters will result in a good laugh, or perhaps even an LOLWROF experience. One of them, Ed Hallberg, has been a friend of mine for many years. Somehow he just thinks funny. He often speaks in a deadpan way for effect. When I had cancer surgery years ago in Atlanta, I knew that driving back to Raleigh would be difficult. My doctor told me that on a long drive in a car, I needed to stop every hour and walk around for 10 or 15 minutes to keep the blood circulating.
Stopping that many times would make a 6-hour trip into an 8 or 9-hour trip. Ed knew about my surgery and called me up to see if he could help. He is an experienced pilot who had his own plane, and he offered to fly down to Atlanta and bring me back “just as soon as he got his plane fixed from his accident.” Yes, you read that right. That’s what he said which cracked me up. I, of course, declined his “generous” offer.
I later heard what had happened to cause him to have an accident wiht his plane. When attempting a landing at our local airport, a freak weather front overcame his plane turning a 5 knot headwind (which is about 7 miles per hour) into a 30 knot tailwind, and literally knocking his plane down onto the runway which damaged the propeller on his plane. He had an instant to react and he chose to abandon the landing since the propeller contact with the ground had jerked his plane off of the runway. He circled and landed safely. He was later told by a co-owner of the plane (a professional airline pilot), that he was so very lucky because normally vibration caused by a damaged propeller will rip an engine out of the plane.
Years ago, I decided that one of my roles in life was to try to inject humor and a smile into everyone’s life. I really can’t help it – I’ve been doing it for most of my life, sometimes cracking jokes or saying witty things. My goal is to make people smile or laugh – to enjoy themselves for a moment, particularly when life has been tough and unfunny.
I reflected on this topic when I wrote Fifty Years and suggested three things that would help any marriage succeed for that length of time. One of them was to laugh more, and even be prepared to laugh about yourself. While research isn’t definitive on whether or not laughter is the “best” medicine, according to Webmd.com, “[s]ome researchers think laughter just might be the best medicine, helping you feel better and putting that spring back in your step.” Proverbs 17:22 says it this way: A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
When I went through burnout several years ago, one of the symptoms I encountered was clinical depression. It was not fun, although in hindsight, I learned a lot about myself. My wife, who is the most positive person on this planet, had a hard time understanding my plight. “You are acting depressed!” she would tell me. “Get over it!” Easier said than done. Kind of like telling an alcoholic that the solution to their problem was very simple: Stop drinking! While that is accurate advice, it is not very helpful to someone who is addicted to alcohol.
During my most difficult days, one of the things that we had to do was try to stay away from people who were negative which would drain me. I’m sure you have them in your life, too. Even if you like them and consider them friends, their spirit is one of negativity which tends to take an emotional toll. When your emotional tank is empty, you have no margin in your life to handle it. You can literally feel their presence drain you. We made some hard choices by eliminating some people out of our social life, and limited our contacts to friends who were positive, cheerful, or emotionally upbeat and often made us laugh. It was the right solution for us during that season of our life.
From that experience, I reflected at my own life – was I having a positive impact on people around me, or was I draining them? I suppose, in hindsight, there were times when I drained people. I actually made a mental commitment to be an encourager of my friends. To help them have a smile or even a laugh when they needed it most. Just as Ed Hallberg did in my life. We need more Ed Hallberg’s in this world!
Jim Valvano, a famed college basketball coach was stricken with terminal cancer. Before he died, he was honored on a national sports television show. He was helped up to the podium to address the audience. In his stirring speech, he said this: “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.” Good thoughts, and absolutely in line with Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3, above where it says there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.
I take joy in having fun with my grandchildren, and hearing their laughter and giggles really makes my day. I would never want to be thought of as a gruff old grandfather who never laughed or smiled, or didn’t make them laugh or smile. I enjoy life, and laughter is a key component of that enjoyment.
My challenge here is for you to reflect on your own impact on others around you. Are you an encourager or a discourager? Do you make others smile or laugh? Do you energize them, or do you drain them? These are hard and very personal questions, and often, you can’t answer them by yourself. Find out from your spouse, close friend or mentor and see what an objective answer is. Anyone can become cheerful. You can choose to be a positive person who energizes others. Start today to make someone LOLWROF. Besides having more fun, your life (and theirs) will be greatly enriched.
FURTHER STUDY: Read about “The Often Overlooked Humor of Jesus”: http://www.clergyconfidential.com/2013/05/the-often-overlooked-humor-of-jesus.html
Watch a video of Jim Valvano in 1993 give his speech including Three Things: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuoVM9nm42E
WORSHIP: Listen to Hillsong sing Mighty to Save:
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