“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” Victor Hugo
Years ago Norman Cousins documented the therapeutic value of laughter in his book called Anatomy of an Illness. While hospitalized because of a degenerative connective tissue disease, he overheard doctors discussing his case. When he heard one comment, “I think we’ll lose Norman,” he checked himself out of the hospital.
He moved into a hotel where he watched Charlie Chaplin and Candid Camera films for hours each day. By experimenting, he discovered that 15 minutes of belly laughter was good for two hours of trouble-free sleep. He went off all medicine except high does of vitamin C and laughter. And he got well.
While Cousins’ method would not work for everyone, he provided tangible evidence and later documented many other cases that prove the truth of Proverbs 17:22 (NKJV): “A merry heart does good like medicine.”
Medical science has long accepted that depression can hinder healing (or aggravate conditions like ulcers). Cousins showed that the reverse was also true; laughter can produce infection-fighting proteins as well as natural pain killers. He not only laughed his way to recovery; he became a consultant to thousands of physicians who wanted to know how to use the medicine of laughter.
In a time filled with anxiety and a constant barrage of depressing news, laughter can become increasingly rare. It becomes easy to accept the spirit of the era and wallow in gloom and doom. We may even begin to feel guilty if we are able to find the humor in any given situation while those around us are dour.
A psychologist noted, “We don’t laugh because we’re happy—we’re happy because we laugh.” But some people never give in to humor because they take themselves and everything around them too seriously. Those of us who have learned to laugh at ourselves will never lack entertainment. When we learn to take God more seriously and ourselves less seriously, we lighten up.
Great people of faith have often been people with joy bubbling up in them and overflowing in laughter. Historians reported that the first Christian martyrs sang and even laughed as they were being killed. (Their vision was focused on where they were going instead of where they were.)
Martin Luther loved a good joke and once remarked, “I would have less wish to go to Heaven if I knew that God would not understand a joke.” What Luther realized is that God has a sense of humor. Many other theologians have also understood the necessity for laughter. Elton Trueblood wrote a book called The Humor of Christ, which was included in a book catalog called “Books to Tickle You to Life.”
Many have forgotten that real faith should have spontaneous joy as part of it. They need to be tickled to life. While not all situations are funny and not everyone has a naturally keen sense of humor, every believer can have joy. It is one of the byproducts of faith. (While some people may have joy, many have apparently failed to inform their faces of it.)
God, who gave us the gift of joy, also reminds us that He is its source: “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Those who criticize others for an active sense of humor tend to forget that. Spurgeon, often called the “prince of preachers” was once reproached by an irate woman for his humor shared from the pulpit. But he replied with a smile, “Madame, if you only knew how much I held back, you would commend me.”
Remember, the one who laughs, lasts.