What’s So Funny?
By Deborah Schoenfelder
“He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.”
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens;
A time to cry and a time to laugh . . .”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4
“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.”
This summer, I flew to Washington state to care for my twin toddler granddaughters. But it was no easy feat getting out to the great Northwest. I dutifully arrived at the Eastern Iowa Airport well ahead of the scheduled departure time, and went through the security drill: Shoes and jacket off, gels and liquids crammed into a quart bag, other items into a bin, my carry-on bag and purse onto the conveyor belt, and I proceeded through the scanning area with my hands over my head. All was good and I was soon at my gate with up-to-date information indicating my flight was on time. So I was expecting a long but uneventful day to get to Washington. Then the delays started, first to Denver because of severe thunderstorms. When I did get there, I had missed my connection with no more flights to my final destination that night. So for the first time in my life I slept in an airport, something I hope to never repeat. Add to that the experience of waking up in the middle of the first night at my daughter’s home on an air mattress, realizing I was again sleeping on the floor because the mattress had a slow leak. My luck didn’t change on the flight home due to inclement weather and a major mistake on the part of the airline, so instead of returning home late Thursday evening I arrived mid-morning on Friday.
I shared all of my airport mishaps as they unfolded via text messages with my daughter, and I clearly remember her response when I was finally home safely: “Wow, Mom, you’ve really taken all of this so well, much better than I would have. How did you manage to stay so positive, and even make it funny?”
As I thought about her question and all that had transpired, I wondered the same thing: Why wasn’t I mad at the world? Then it hit me that first of all, I wasn’t alone: Not on the airport floor that was my bed for one night, and not when I looked at the airport monitors countless times only to see that yet another flight had been delayed or cancelled (many others were also stranded). In addition, I had my husband and daughter to share my traveling woes with by phone and text messages. And most importantly, I had my faith that kept my nerves fairly steady and I had my sense of humor that I chose to engage.
Can calling on our sense of humor be part of our faith? Yes, I believe so. In fact, I think it is a requirement of our faith. There are many instances in the Bible where laughter is referenced, such as those I selected and shared above from the books of Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Psalms.
Humor and laughter is a way to cope in circumstances far less annoying than my recent travel experiences, and also in situations far more traumatic than what I endured. Laughter, when not at the expense of others, can release tension and put what’s happening into its proper perspective. We often hear pastors use humor in worship services. It helps us relate to the intended message, and it reminds us we all have more in common than we think. Put simply, I think humor that is used in a gentle and kind way, is healthy for us and just plain feels good. Here’s the words to a contemporary Christian song that celebrates laughter:
“I shake my head at my good fortune As I shake the dust off of my boots Yesterday I was an orphan Somehow today I belong to You Somehow today I belong to You
(Refrain): Ha ha, don’t it make you wanna laugh out loud? Ooh ooh, and shout, “Hallelujah!” Oh yeah, if you got joy go and let it on out Ha ha ha ha, laugh out loud
I was alive but I wasn’t living A prisoner of my fear and shame But when you find you’ve been forgiven Laughter will rise like a holy kind of praise So I throw my head back and offer up my thanks!
He said bring to me your heavy heart Take my hand and we’ll go whistling in the dark Here we go now!
Ha ha, don’t it make you wanna laugh out loud? Ooh ooh, and shout, “Hallelujah!” Oh yeah, if you got joy go and let it on out Ha ha ha ha, laugh out loud
Ha ha ha ha, laugh out loud”
(Laugh Out Loud, Jason Gray, 2014)
So when troubles seem overwhelming-maybe, in addition to using other healthy coping strategies, we should draw upon and even cultivate our sense of humor-to help us weather storms that are sure to come our way. It’s a gift from God that can help us through the most trying of times. Good news indeed!
Prayer: God of life and laughter, I think I need to lighten up and have a good laugh more often. You gave me this gift of humor, and using it wisely and on a regular basis can help me find joy in the everyday rhythms and mishaps of life. I will try harder to make use of humor in a way that lifts me and others up, and is pleasing to you. Thank you and AMEN!