Sherm and I have been given an extraordinary gift during this time when each news report causes us fear, anxiety, and sadness, fear of being out of control, anxious about those without jobs or income, and incredible sadness (as well as pride) at the stories of our current heroes on the front lines. So we have asked, “How can we counter the fear, anxiety, and sadness with a different perspective? Can we begin to think of this time as a God-given Sabbath, a time of quiet and reflection, a time to relax and regroup?”. Our friends are helping us do just that! They have been emailing us with the most amazing videos, cartoons, and jokes that have us laughing our heads off. That’s the gift for which we are so grateful.
Norman Cousins, author of the groundbreaking Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration, was one of the first to popularize the idea of laughter as medicine, in 1979. Cousins had overcome a painful battle with connective tissue disease by prescribing himself laughter. “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep,” he wrote. Laughing, he wrote, is like inner jogging. It helps us heal by activating the immune system.
When I was a student at Union Theological Seminary in NYC (about 100 years ago) I read Reformed theologian Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Play. The Christian life, according to Moltmann, is not to be envisioned as a ‘purpose-driven life’ but, perhaps, as a game of delight in the God who creates and redeems the world for nothing. Learning from children, finding ways to enjoy God, celebrating the good news of Jesus Christ, all demonstrate the Easter event in the world. Yes, Easter reminds us that God has the first and the last word, that life not death wins out, as does joy over sorrow and laughter over weeping. Yes, God has the last laugh!
We have not chosen this new style of life nor would it have been something we preferred. But this is what we have, so what does it mean to be disciples who regard Jesus as Lord at this moment? Father James Martin, Jesuit priest and best-selling author of Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life, writes about the sacred link between humor and spirituality. He says this: “Jesus continually says, “I have come so that your joy may be complete.” Humor is a virtue because it helps us not to take ourselves too seriously. Laughter is an enjoyment of God’s world. It’s a wonderful gift from God.” As Karl Barth said, “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.”