Celebration is a major theme in the Bible. Yet I have heard a preacher describe sour-faced Christians who look as if they have been “baptized in vinegar and weaned on a pickle.” Life can be serious—and we need to be serious about serious things—but life can also be very funny. We need to learn to lighten up and laugh. I never used to have a picture in my mind of Jesus smiling or laughing until I saw a painting of him laughing while he played with children. The painting was a depiction of the scene from Mark 10 when Jesus told his disciples to let the little children come to him so that he could bless them. I now have a print of that painting hanging on my office wall to remind me of Jesus’s lighter side. How can anyone be around little kids for long without laughing? Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that God himself created smiles and laughter, as well as the ability to have a sense of humor.
I will never forget the day when a little girl named Lyndi made me laugh until it hurt. And it happened on one of the most painful and stressful days of my life. In fall 1991, all the missionaries in eastern DR Congo evacuated the country to escape political unrest. The country was coming apart at the seams. Rioting, looting, killing, and raping had erupted in the capital city of Kinshasa and were spreading across the country to other major cities. Being the field coordinator for our group of missionaries, I had to stay an extra day in the country to wait for our mission pilot to fly the rest of our missionaries into the city from their jungle stations. I was standing beside a small van that held my wife and two young children, getting ready to say goodbye to them. The van was part of a long line of vehicles at the border, carrying missionaries and peace corps volunteers who were evacuating the country. I hoped to join my family the next day in Bujumbura, Burundi, but there was no telling what would happen in this self-destructing country. As I stood there, worried—in fact, scared to death—I heard laughter coming from a vehicle behind us. I went back to investigate, thinking Who in the world is laughing on a day like today? When I found Jay Beeman, a missionary colleague, doubled over in laughter, I asked him, somewhat gruffly, “What is so funny?” He took a moment to compose himself, then told me what his little girl Lyndi had just told him: “Daddy, I am so happy today. God has finally answered my prayer! I have been asking him for a chance to go to Bujumbura with all my missionary friends at the same time, and today he has answered my prayer!” And I start laughing, too. God had given me the gift of laughter through the words of a child on the day when I needed it most.
REFLECTIONS: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh? When was the last time you laughed with your spouse, kids, or grandkids? What things make you laugh? Make a point of scheduling time to play with some small children.
A cheerful heart is good medicine.