Laugh It Up

God wants you to be completely serious all the time. Haha. Just kidding.
by Jarrett Stevens

When was the last time you had a really good laugh? I mean a seriously good, milk-coming-out-of-your-nose, about-to-wet-your-pants laugh? I have a friend who, almost every time you make him laugh, spits out whatever is in his mouth. There’s still strawberry milk in the crevasses of another friend’s dashboard from a “spit laugh” three years ago!

I love to laugh. I’ll bet you love to laugh too. So that leads me to wonder … why don’t we laugh more often with God? When was the last time you laughed so hard in church that it actually hurt? My hunch is that it’s been awhile.

The absence of laughter in our faith is a very serious thing because laughter is God’s idea, his gift to us. In light of the sin, pain and chaos of this world, it’s one of the few secret weapons we who know God have. I believe there are two big reasons why Christians don’t laugh along with God more:

1) Christians sometimes don’t understand who God is.

2) Christians sometimes don’t understand who they are.

A lot of people imagine God like a grumpy old grandpa who wants nothing more than for us to sit silent and still, minding our own business and keeping our hands to ourselves.

Who God Really Is
My grandfather, known to me simply as Big Jack, was a good but fiercely intimidating man. He was 6 feet 6 inches tall with tough, serious features and thick white hair. If you asked his friends—and even some family members—they’d tell you he was downright scary.

I think a lot of people imagine God like Big Jack—a grumpy old grandpa who wants nothing more than for us to sit silent and still, minding our own business and keeping our hands to ourselves. But that was only one side of Big Jack. I knew him better than that. I knew he loved me.

I remember one day riding in Big Jack’s brand new Cadillac. It was a beautiful car, and even better, it was the first I had seen with automatic windows. I was fascinated with them. So being a 4-year-old, I began playing with those windows. Up … down… up … down. After about 10 minutes of this, Big Jack whipped around from the driver’s seat and growled, “Hey you little fart, why don’t you stop playing with the windows.”

Without hesitation, I responded: “Hey you big fart, why don’t you come back here and make me!”

Now, most people who would’ve said that to Big Jack would have been thrown out that automatic window. Knowing this, my mom gasped and held her breath, waiting for Big Jack’s response. But instead of putting me in my place, Big Jack began to laugh uncontrollably. He laughed so hard he could barely drive. Sure, Big Jack seemed scary. And he could be rough when he needed to be. But he also liked to laugh. This is a lot like God, who loves when we laugh, likes to laugh with us, and delights in us as we fumble our way through life.

God’s Best Jokes
Have you ever thought about how funny some of the events and stories from the Bible really are?

Like the time God told 99-year-old Abraham and his 90-year-old wife Sarah they would have their first child. At first, Abraham laughed at God, but after the birth of Isaac, he learned to laugh with God. In fact, it was God’s idea to name the kid Isaac (which means laughter).

Or the time in 2 Samuel 6:14 when we see King David so caught up in worship that he comes dancing into town in his underwear! Add that to the list of things you can’t do in church.

Or in I Kings 18:25-29 (CEV) when Elijah is challenging the prophets of Baal. In the first historically recorded instance of “trash talking,” Elijah suggests Baal isn’t answering because he is probably on the toilet.

What about Acts 20:9-10? It’s the story of the time Paul preached for so long that a young guy named Eutychus fell asleep and fell three stories out of the window he was leaning against (funny) and died (not funny) but was miraculously brought back to life by Paul (OK, funny again!).

Then there’s Jesus. Don’t think that he didn’t know how to have fun. After all, his first miracle was at a wedding party where he turned water into wine so the party could keep rolling. Jesus did other wacky things. On more than one occasion Jesus used spit in healing miracles (thankfully not something he did when he turned that water into wine).

Jesus also said some stuff that would have been pretty funny to those around. In Matthew 23:24, he tells the Pharisees, “You blind leaders! You strain out a small fly but swallow a camel” (CEV). While this is a funny mental picture, it’s also an example of Jesus having fun with words. In Aramaic, the word for gnat, galma, sounds a lot like the word for camel, gamla.

In Matthew 23:27 Jesus told a group of Pharisees that they were nothing more than sparkling tombs, nice and clean on the outside, but filled with rotting corpses on the inside (to which I’d like to imagine Peter quickly replying, “Oh snap! Thou hath burnt him, Jesus”).

This is all fun, but God’s love for laughter goes much deeper than funny or playful Bible verses. It’s most revealed in the life, sacrifice and hope of Jesus. In his final dark hours before death, Jesus kept talking about joy. He told his disciples that while there is sin, pain and chaos in this world, they would have joy—we would have joy—by trusting and following him. In John 15:11 (NLT), Jesus told them: “I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

The joy Jesus talks about is a joy bigger than what’s going on in your life right now. A joy that can dance in the face of death. It is the joy of God that flowed from his heart into the everyday life of Jesus, and through his death was made available to you and me. It is the joy of Jesus that gives us every reason to laugh, to dance, to sing, and to know the heart of the Father.

Who We Really Are
Do you know this God of joy? Is he who you thought he was? Does he attend your church on Sunday? Can he be found anywhere in your everyday life? As important as it is for you to see God for who he is, it is equally important for you to see yourself for who you are. So, who are you really?

When it comes to seeing yourself rightly, you have to understand one very important truth: You are a fool. Seriously. You are a fool. You and I are meant to be fools for God in this messed-up world that thinks it has it all together. In 1 Corinthians 3:18, Paul says that you are called by God to be a fool for Christ. The way you live should be so radically different from this world that people are dumbfounded and demand to know more.

To be a fool for God is no easy thing. You can’t be a fool and be worried about what people might think. To be a fool for God is to get excited over the fact that God loves you. To be a fool for God is to believe that God would use you to bring joy into a world filled with sin, pain and chaos.

I think Christian professor Robert Hotchkins said it best when he said, “Christians ought to be celebrating constantly … because we have been liberated from the fear of life and the fear of death. We ought to attract people to the church quite literally by the fun there is in being a Christian.”

This is what God is inviting you to be. This is what our messed up world needs you to be. Will you learn to laugh with God? Will you be a fool?

Now What?

  • Think about it: Research shows that laughter has a role in fighting viruses, bacteria, cancer and heart disease. It is also known to release chemicals that fight stress and help you relax. God knew what he was doing when he put laughter in our DNA.
  • Try this: Discover what really makes you laugh and keep doing it. Hang out more with that crazy, fun-loving friend. Regularly watch movies that leave you rolling on the floor. Just be sure to take time to give yourself a much-needed laugh.
  • Memorize Proverbs 15:13: “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day” (The Message).

Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today International/Campus Life magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Campus Life.

January/February 2006, Vol. 64, No. 6, Page 44