Rob Campbell   -  

Someone in our church has taken it upon themself to provide for me some old Far Side cartoons. They will send me one of the daily calendar ones whenever it strikes them to do so. I should also mention that they usually do this on a Sunday before church. I really love those cartoons and had forgotten how much I loved them.

The one I was shown recently is about a group of scientists doing a controlled study on a “Geezer-O-Meter.” There is a clear windowed box with an extremely elderly man sitting in a plain chair. The guy is wrinkled beyond description. Above him on top of this experiment box is a scientist who is with a fishing poll, dangling a goofy and creepy looking clown doll in front of the old geezer. The obvious implication is that the response of the old fella would then register on the “Geezer-O-Meter.” I love that picture. Especially since it was shown to me around my birthday! I guess I am now supposed to be the geezer in the box!

I think everyone recognizes how much laughter adds to life. You have probably heard the little quip, “laughter is the best medicine.” Health-wise, laughter releases endorphins which is the body’s feel-good chemical and laughter decreases stress hormones. Laughter though, is a little complex and not as straightforward. Think about these references to laughter in the Bible:

Proverbs 14:13 – Even in laughter, the heart may ache.

Psalm 2:4 – He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
This passage speaks of nations and kings turning from God and then God’s response. I would not think this is a jovial sort of laughter but the text uses the word for laughter nonetheless. Or, how about this one:

Psalm 126:1–2
1  When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2  Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”

This passage refers back when Israel was delivered from their captivity in Babylon. It is interesting to note that this is a passage of reflection that calls people to remember when they did laugh. To think back to better days.

And how about this infamous passage. The response to a seemingly impossible situation:
Genesis 17:17 – Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
Then in Genesis 18 Sarah laughs again to herself about the news given to her husband Abraham. That inner laugh did not go unnoticed by God. He saw it and brought it up. And Sarah lied – about laughing. Listen to the exchange:
Genesis 18:15 – But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Here is this whole dialogue between Sarah and God about laughing. Direct and to the point. The issue though was under the surface – in Sarah’s heart. So here is something we can conclude about laughter, it has the power to lift our spirits and the hearts of others to exhilarating joy. Laughter can also disguise even the most difficult inner thoughts. In the end Abraham and Sarah work through the complications of the situation and believe God. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they chose to believe God in the middle of the challenges. She then says:

Genesis 21:6 – Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.”

Quite the turn of heart – laughter as a disguise for unbelief to the pure joy of a heart that has tasted the goodness of God.

How about you? When was the last time you laughed? Was it with friend? It should be no surprise that a Forbes article sited laughter as a key component of relational health in marriage and with friends. In the words of the Ecclesiastes 8:15- “I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”

As you share a meal with friends think about this – Proverbs 15:15 “the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.” And most of all remember the most Guest at your summer gathering and what He thinks of you:

Zephaniah 3:17
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.