Did you hear the one about the family that never laughed? It’s a bad one and not worth retelling. Laughter is a wonderful ingredient to add to the mix of family life. When Dad and Mom can’t or don’t laugh, then children fail to develop part of what it means to be a mature human. God made us to laugh and when we laugh we feel alive.
According to science, laughter is good for our health. And we don’t really need science to tell us that. We feel it deep in our funny bones. Scripture also gives us this plainly in a proverb and shows us in many other ways. Our Lord used humor. St. Paul employed (quite rude) humor when battling the Judaizers.
As I get older and the tragedies and trials stack up, I find that I am tempted to laugh less. I think this means I need to laugh more. Not the laughter of fools, but the laughter of exhausted, expectant joy.
Many people view Ecclesiastes as a depressing, sinful man’s view of life, and basically dismiss it as not useful excepting as a “bad example of how to think.” It is a lot of things, but not that. Among a myriad of monumental observations, the author repeatedly lays it out precisely like it is. He describes the fleeting nature of life and the heavy burden placed on man. He rehearses the endlessly repetitive cycle of life and its profound futility. And what does he continually come back to when it’s time to recommend our reaction? Joy. “So I commended joy…” over and over. Ecclesiastes is serious business. It is wisdom literature at the peak of its powers. It is heavy and hard and a pathway to laughter.
“Joy,” C.S. Lewis said, “is the serious business of heaven.”
Yesterday I was in the Intensive Care Unit, sitting beside a friend who had broken his back and can’t feel his legs. We laughed a lot. His legs don’t work, but his wit walks on. It was, in the heavy reality of the moment, one of the best weapons we had left in our arsenal.
There are all kinds of ways to laugh, some of them, of course, evil. Satan bends what God intends. He is (literally) a pervert and that’s what he does. He doesn’t make up new things, he bends good things. But laughter is God’s creation. And, in a serious way, all of God’s creation induces laughter. We get food how? From the ground? Babies come into our lives how? It’s magic and it’s hilarious. Life is not a joke, but if it was it would be a funny one.
Sarah laughed when she heard the promise that she would have a son. And God gave her Laughter, burping and peeing and pulling her gray hairs. This Laughter was sad and set to die on an altar, but was rescued instead. Joy! And this Laughter had a son himself, Jacob, who visited the House of God, the Gate of Heaven. And Jacob had sons and more and more sons appeared through the years.
God promises us laughter too, and of this promise we are assured, because a son has come. A son promised, delivered, put on the altar and…no, not saved, but the Savior. Not redeemed but the Redeemer. Not replaced but the Replacement.
He became the Man of Sorrows, so that we might become the Sons of Laughter. Jacobs with a roguish smile and a ladder to heaven.
So, laugh. It’s a gift! I commend joy. Families ought to get serious about it.