Got Joy?

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It seems like everyone is arguing these days. In the media, in families, on Facebook, on the streets. If it’s not about politics, it’s about COVID. If it’s not about COVID, it’s about religion. If it’s not about religion, it’s about climate change, or what’s wrong with the education system, or how to discipline the kids, or who’s the baby daddy, or money, or… you get the picture. We like to argue. This is nothing new. In both of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, he addresses arguments that were taking place in the Christian church. In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul asks “a loyal yokefellow” to mediate a dispute between two women of the church. Study any period in history, or read your Bible, and you will find strife—wars and rumors of wars, treachery, assassinations, and evil in every shape imaginable.

Have we learned anything from the famous arguments in history? Of course we have! Well, maybe. Okay, not really. But today, for a delightful change of pace, let’s talk about laughter. The Bible is a serious book, right? After all, David cried (a lot) and Jesus wept. But laughter runs through the Bible, too.

When Abraham’s elderly wife Sarah gave birth to Isaac, she declared, “God has brought me laughter…” (Genesis 21:6) In Hebrew, the name Isaac means “one who laughs.”

When Bildad comforted Job, he told him, “[God] will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” (Job 8:21)

When the Hebrew captives returned to Jerusalem, they sang, “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:2

In the sayings of King Lemuel, a wife of noble character “is clothed with strength and dignity, [and] she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25

King Solomon declared that “A cheerful heart is a good medicine….” (My translation: Laughter is the best medicine.) Proverbs 17:22

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “…Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:21

My thinking is that if it’s ok for folks in the Bible to laugh, it’s ok for us, too. I can’t think of anyone who loved to laugh more than my dad. One of the reasons that his nickname was “Hoot” is because he was so funny. He loved jokes, funny stories, and the humor sections in Reader’s Digest. Daddy could find the joy in any situation, and if it didn’t exist, he created it. Even when Alzheimer’s robbed him of his personality, he always smiled when he saw us. Dad loved gospel music–I don’t know if he ever heard the Southern gospel song “Jesus Laughing,” by Mark Lowry, but he would have sung it loudly. In the song, Lowry describes a picture which portrays a laughing Jesus, an image that we don’t see in the well-known portraits of Jesus. Here’s the first verse and the chorus:

              There’s a picture on the wall that brings me comfort.

              My weary eyes rest on it from time to time.

              It’s a sweet unique depiction of the Savior,

              The only one I know quite of its kind.

              (Chorus) It shows Him laughing, our Lord is laughing,

              His head thrown back with joy upon His loving face.

              And for a moment there something happens

              I feel at peace just seeing Jesus laughing.

(The picture that Lowry describes is a likely the 1973 drawing by artist Willis Wheatley, which is covered by copyright law. However, if you’d like to see the image, author Douglas Todd uses it to illustrate one of his 2014 blogs.)

We know that laughter is good medicine—literally. Elizabeth Scott, an award-winning blogger on stress management, describes the health benefits of  laughter: it lowers blood pressure and reduces stress hormones, it can help relieve pain and increase immunity, it provides a good workout for the heart and it moves our focus away from anger and negative emotions. We know all of these things, but often we build our lives around negatives. My dad would tell you to stop taking yourself so seriously and laugh as much as you can. I’m pretty sure that when Dad got to Heaven, Mark Lowry’s song describes exactly what happened:

              In my heart I hold a gentle vision

              And one day when I reach the other side

              He’ll hold me in His arms and whisper welcome,

              And as I look into His smiling eyes…

              I’ll join His angels singing and clapping

              The victory won with me and Jesus laughing.

I’m pretty sure that there was an increase in the heavenly laughter level when Hoot got his wings. Miss you, Dad!

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3 thoughts on “Got Joy?”

  1. One of the best traits my dad had was laughing about “stuff”. I miss that. He could be serious one minute and laugh the next. Laughter is good medicine. There is something about it that makes me feel good, inside and out. I mean anything that is joyous to laugh about, and there used to be a lot of comedians who could instill this in many people.

    That’s the first time I saw that image of Jesus laughing. I love that.

    I remember seeing my dad when he was very close to dying, and he could still laugh.
    It’s interesting that you wrote this for today. Yesterday, I was building a gate for the deck (to keep the dogs from going after Mr. Groundhog, way overdue). As is the case, I screwed something up and got mad. About the time I was about to rip out some profanity, instead, I just laughed at myself. It really felt better, and I didn’t pollute the neighborhood like I used to do. The gate got built, too!
    Very nice and timely article, for me. Thanks, Teresa.

  2. Forgive me, I’m doing my Teresa Ford reading of Sunday’s submission on Monday…
    Great article and memories, we all could benefit to remember this.
    TRUE STORY: Speaking of the need to laugh, my cat Stinky chunked up a HUGE hairball ON the windowsill while I am reading your laughter article! This has never happened before, it was from his perch overlooking the River, and it was perfectly placed! ( easy cleanup too) I laughed quite heartily and as mentioned in previous comment, I could have got upset and utilized “ spicy Mariner” language, but instead of chose to laugh ( and to marvel ). It was a great way to start the day. This was the course right after I looked up the word yokefellow… Have a great week my friend…

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