Laughter in the Midst of Life’s Challenges
Laughter is the best medicine some say. Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.”
We human beings are complex characters, and we come in many types of personalities. We respond uniquely to life’s challenges. Some may use laughter as a cover for doubt, uncertainty, shock, sarcasm, among other responses. And of course, there is laughter in genuine mirth, there is nervous laughter and deep belly laugh until you cry laughter. Laughter can also be come contagious. There is a big difference between laughing at something and laughing with someone.
I imagine we have all used laughter in each of these ways during our lives. There are unique laughs laughed by unique people, friends and family. My uncle Gordon loved to laugh, and his laugh was infectious. One did not always know why he was laughing, but when he laughed, we all joined in the moments of pure joy. My uncle Gordon lived to be 62 years old with Down’s syndrome, and I still miss his laugh. He also liked to make people laugh with his special stories and jokes.
Back to Genesis 18… we meet up with Abraham and Sarah in Mam’re which is Hebron, about 70 kilometers south of Jerusalem. The culture and customs of the day were to welcome the strangers in your midst. So, the three visitors were welcomed into the tent, feet washed and bodies fed, in order for the conversation to follow. After a good and hearty meal prepared by Sarah and the servants, the visitors told Abraham that in due time, Sarah would have a child. She overheard this, and thought it to be a joke, so she laughed! When confronted about why she laughed, she denied that she had laughed. What would you do, if you heard such news?
After the visitors were well rested, refreshed and fed, they continued on their journey, and as was the custom, Abraham joined them part way. Along that path, the Lord shared with Abraham that he would be a blessing to the nations and that he should teach his children and household to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice.
More often it is in the midst of our most chaotic, jumbled-up, messy moments of life that God shows up most profoundly. Sometimes we are aware of this, and other times not until after we reflect on what happened do we realize the impact of the profound.
And of course, God is present with Sarah when she overheard the news. And like her husband, she laughed. We know this because God asked Abraham why Sarah laughed. In the profound moments of what God might be doing with them at this time in their lives.
Consider these lines from William Blake’s poem, Auguries of Innocence.
(Hu)Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
God is with us in the midst of life moments of greatest joy, and God is with us though the inevitable chaos and sorrow that life brings. God is with us in our friends and family, and God is with us in strangers who suddenly show up and bring us a word of hope, love, and clarity in the midst of the jumbled, chaotic messes of life. God is with us in the familiar and God is with us in the unexpected. (1)
Responding to God’s call on our lives is more than laughter… it is faithfulness in the midst of life’s challenges… which, I believe, is learning to live with each other by doing righteousness and justice. What that looks like is reflected in our life journey. I am reminded of Micah 6:8, “what does the Lord require of us, but to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our Lord.” Jesus calls us to love one another, which encompasses all of this.
In the letter to the Romans we are reminded that God is with us in the midst of all aspects of life. Verses 3-5, share that “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
I am reminded of John Wesley’s understanding of justification… “he agreed with the Protestant Reformers that justification is making our relationship with God right through Jesus Christ. But he understood justification in a particular way: God’s mercy and grace show in the suffering and death of Jesus on our behalf, pardons our sins and restores our capacity for love of God and neighbor. This occurs in the exercise of faith that is a gift from God to actively trust in Jesus and receive God’s pardon and acceptance. It results in a renewal of the image of God in us that had been damaged by sin, so that we might begin lifelong growth in Christ-likeness as the Holy Spirit enables us to love God and neighbor. What God has done for us (justification) and what God does in us (sanctification) are together a part of God’s work of restoring the whole of creation back into right relationship to God.” (2)
No matter where we are, we have to take the time to remind ourselves of our unique connection being created in fullness of God’s love. We don’t have to resist the moments to laugh, to cry, to express reality. It is because of this deep relationship that we can laugh, in genuine mirth, in doubt, etc. and that we can cry at tragedy and sorrows and she’d teach in moments of joy. We can seek the joy, and recognize the sorrow.
This week in the midst of the fire in London and last week the fires in Knysna near Cape Town area of South Africa, people have been helping each other in various ways… numerous reports of people brining water, food, blankets, clothing and other items for families in both London and Knysna in the midst of their challenges. In the Cape Town area people helped each other find safe places to relocate families and individuals especially those living in group homes. We continue to pray that through wisdom and action, a justice and righteous centered solution will happen for all whose lives have been lost and whose homes were destroyed.
This week I joined an interfaith group journeying with ECO Peace Middle East who are working together as Jews, Christians and Muslims, as Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians on caring for the water in the Jordan River and the Jordan Valley. It is working together with justice and righteousness in regards to living together and using resources together. It is a small step, it is one example of the real work of life. Relearning to care for each other and the place we live together.
Around the world, we have to continue to work together with the understanding that we need each other. How we actively care for refugees, for the stranger, for our enemies, and others encompasses God’s call on our lives.
Justice is not equality, justice is equity. When we were young, my father instructed us, when sharing for example a piece of cake with our siblings, one person cuts the pieces and the other person choose first. So, at first we did our best to cut them as equally as possible, then after some time, I told my brother that I would cut the cake and this time choose first, or rather serve him… at first he was not sure, but before he could be upset, he noticed that I served him the bigger piece.
I believe that righteousness and justice look something like taking care of the earth, taking care of each other, regardless, no questions. When someone is thirsty, give them to drink, when hungry, food, etc. Take care of the earth while we are here, respect it, and keep it better for those who come after us.
The Matthew gospel message today, Jesus sends the disciples out into villages to remind the lost sheep about how to live, how to love and serve God… being part of the kingdom is living righteousness and justice. And, very importantly, there is laughter in the midst of life’s challenges!
Are we able to have moments of laughter in genuine mirth with others? Can we laugh at the profound moments of life? Can we acknowledge God in the life’s challenges?
God is in the moments when we care for other… seek Laughter, righteousness, justice, love, kindness, and walk humbly with God this week.
- Adapted from notes by Dr. Dawn Chesser, “From Chaos to Community”
- Notes from Wesley Study Bible page 1373.
- Picture taken by Rev. Kristen L Brown in Hebron