Religion today has an image problem. Although we do not have as many “fire and brimstone” homilies as we did in the past, many people do not associate religion with joy, happiness, and laughter.
Religious leaders often try to motivate people to act “appropriately” through guilt or fear or punishment. Some see religion as suppressing pleasure or the happiness we find in life.
We need to turn this around.
A Yiddish proverb says, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.”
The Bible tells us, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (Prov 17:22).
Congregationalist clergyman Henry Ward Beecher echoes these sentiments when he says, “A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road.”
The late actor Victor Borge reminds us, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”
A good way to deal with stress is to develop and maintain a sense of humor. Theologian Karl Barth says, “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.”
That’s a powerful statement.
Writer William A. Ward reminds us, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”
Humorist Mark Twain once said, “Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with.”
The ancients honored laughter as a spiritual healing tool and it was celebrated by the world’s great religions. Laughter should be an important part of our spiritual lives. Think what could happen if it were.
Rev. Susan Sparks, an ex-lawyer turned comedian and Baptist minister, tells us what laughter can do for our spiritual lives. She says that laughter can help us remove the fearful mask of a God who doesn’t laugh. It can expose the myths that we don’t deserve joy. It can help us see the big picture when we are faced with adversity. It can help us forgive ourselves and others.
Laughter can allow our child to come out and play as a spiritual component. It has the power to heal – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It can help us keep our faith when God is silent. And laughter can help us live with elegance, beauty, and generosity of spirit.
Like music, laughter is a universal language. By immersing ourselves in humor, we can shatter the crust around our hearts that has kept us from fully experiencing the grace of life as God intended. Laugher can lead us to a higher and better place, no matter what our circumstances. It’s a much-needed salve for a world that often forgets how to laugh.
Israel’s former Prime Minister Golda Meir said, “Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart don’t know how to laugh either.”
We also have to laugh at our misfortunes. Finnish poet and composer Elmer Diktonius maintains, “I was strongest when I laughed at my weakness.”
Jesus often used humorous examples to drive home a point. For example, he said, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Lk 6:41)
When Jesus referred to the Pharisees he said, “They are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.” (Mt 15:14) This is, of course, a comical visual image of the religious leaders of the day. Then we have the hilarious image of straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel (Mt 23:24). Jesus had a sense of humor.
If we want to live a long, happy life, remember this: The person who laughs, lasts.
Posted on Fri, July 25, 2014
by Rev. Wilmer L. Todd