The year was 1962. A bug spread through Tanzania. This was no Ebola virus nor flu germ. A laughter epidemic infected the nation. A few school girls had a fit of the giggles. Their laughter soon spread to neighboring communities. It swept across the country. Several schools even had to close down! It took half a year for this laughter pandemic to subside.
Joy Is Contagious
Do you know someone who laughs funnier than he jokes? I have a friend who laughs like a quacking duck or a honking horn (I can't decide on the simile), and it makes me so blooming happy. Should it not occasion holy happiness that on our worst day with God, we're better off than on our best day without God? The psalmist said, "Then our mouth was filled with LAUGHTER...then they said among the nations, 'The Lord has done great things for them'" (Psalm 126:2, NKJV).
It's little wonder kids loved to be around Jesus. He was so ruddy jolly. Jesus was anointed with the oil of GLADNESS above all His fellows. He fought with religious people loads of times, sure. But the Bible says the common people did not hear Him sadly but GLADLY. He said, "I give you a JOY that no man can take from you."
Sadly, the older we get, the less joyful we become.
According to one study, the average child laughs more than 200 times every day. The average adult, 14-17 times a day. Perhaps Jesus was onto something. He suggested we be like kids. He said that, unless we be converted and become as children, we'll never enter God's kingdom, which kingdom is JOY in the Holy Ghost, to borrow the theology of St. Paul.
The german reformer Martin Luther claimed that we have as much laughter as we have faith. How much we guffaw is a good litmus test for how much we trust God. When we put all our eggs in God's basket and count our blessings before they hatch, we'll crack up, our mouth will be filled with laughter, and the nations can't help but join our rejoicing.
Joy cannot be taught; it must be caught.
Luther (whom I pretty obviously like) went to such lengths as to say, "If there's not laughter in Heaven, I don't want to go there." Fortunately, there is laughter in Heaven. "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh" (Psalm 2:4, NKJV). David declared that when the wicked gnash their teeth against the just and plot against them, the Lord LAUGHS because He knows their end. In laymen's terms, God knows He's betting on a fixed fight.
When I was a kid, I used to get beat-up by this bully on my block all the time. Her name was Christina. Jokes. But whenever a bully picked a fight with me, I never actually got in a fist fight because I beat feet in a hasty retreat. I need only run into the presence of my dad. He was a Chuck Norris doppelgänger. Suddenly I could do like David and trash talk my foes and call them "uncircumcised Philistines" and things - not because of who I am but because of whose I am. So too, Abba Father is so buff that Isaiah says He lifts islands as though they are little things. He's not an iron-curler like Schwarzenegger but an isle-curler. God laughs at your foes because your adversaries have to go through Him to get to you.
God doesn't take you deeper to drown you, He just knows your enemies can't swim. He laughs when people talk about you behind your back (they're behind you for a reason). Even if your enemy uses spy cams and deflated footballs…if God is for you, who can be against you? The Lord is so amused by the notion that your enemies think they can beat you that He actually chuckles. We have a laughing God! Paul said we are to be imitators of God, which means we ought to resurrect the chortle!
A good laugh is fantastic on your health.
According to the Hebrew wisdom tradition, "A merry heart does good, like medicine..." (Proverbs 17:22, NKJV). Medical scientists have divined that laughter releases neuropeptides in your body and thereby strengthens your immune system. Laughing 100 times has the same effect on your body as being on a rowing machine for 10 minutes or a stationary bike for 15 minutes. (If you want good abs, laugh at all my jokes. Just sayin').
Inversely, if you use humor to attack people, like the madman in the Bible who throws firebrands, arrows and death and says, "I was only joking", you will raise your blood pressure. But when you laugh at your own mistakes, you lower your blood pressure. Always eat humble pie, it's non-fattening.
We can be sardonic like Sarah and sarcastically laugh when God says we're going to have a baby who eats mush, wears diapers and has no teeth when we're so old we're about to wear diapers, eat mush and have no teeth. But God will birth the baby whom we'll call Isaac - translation: laughter - because God ALWAYS gets the last laugh. "...Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5, NKJV). Don't laugh in mockery like Sarah; laugh jubilantly like Isaac because the Lord will do great things.
The philosopher John Locke said, "Laughter is a sudden glory." I think that's beautiful. If you want a teaser trailer of coming attractions…a sneak preview of paradise, then have a few laughs today. Your laughter will strengthen your immune system, lower your blood pressure, fortify your faith and maybe even change a country! Oh, and you'll have better abs too. Wink, wink. Seeing as how Jesus put the "fun" back in funeral, let us dance in defiance of the dark and be just a little bit swifter to laugh.