Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Why Laugh

Sometimes life just takes a person down this devastating spiral of hardship and loss, and laughter seems impossible. One day I asked my husband why we don't laugh as much as we used to. Watching the college students perched around the cafeteria tables throwing their heads back in pure mirth made my spirit cringe inside. I used to be that way. What happened? Life rolls forward and you realize that things just aren't as funny as they were when you were 18 and naive about the world. Children get sick, parents die, finances fail, and you learn more--more about the plight of others. Your head is plagued by the horrors of trafficking, suicide, abuse, and rejection. And the heart doesn't make out any better.

Mark Twain, arguably the most humorous American author, stared down his own monsters of despair. He buried a younger brother, lost three children (a son at 19 months and a daughter at 24 years old and a third child the year before his own death), and went from being one of the wealthiest people in America to having $200,000 in debt.  At one point, he even contemplated suicide. But he never pulled the trigger. He used a different weapon: laughter. He said it was man's "only one really effective weapon."  But he didn't believe that humor could come free of sorrow. Tragedy birthed it for him.

I don't agree with his position on heaven being a humorless existence, but I can see how he'd come to that conclusion. Often what makes us laugh most now wasn't so funny at the time it happened. 

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” 
― Erma Bombeck
Yet, some things seem beyond redemption, don't they? For those who have no hope, humor has roots in cynicism and  scorn, but true humor stems from deep assurance that in the end all is well.  It will all be worth the tragedy. We get the final laugh, so to speak.

When we laugh, we speak of something deeper going on in our souls. We have a reason to rejoice. Even when our husband hurts us, our children reject us, our friends abandon us, and the world seems to have decided we are the ones to bully now, we are still able to overcome.

Sometimes I think, "I can't take much more bad news. Somebody tell me something good." I have to decide what I'll focus on: the temporary troubles or the everlasting bliss. When I first read the following quote by Madeleine L'Engle, I wasn't sure how to digest it. It felt sour in my mouth, but I think her idea carries truth. If our ability to laugh and rejoice is tied to only that which is material and temporary then our joy is not linked to the One true thing that can forever carry us.

“It's a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”

― Madeleine L'Engle
 "Even in laughter, the heart may ache"(Proverbs 14:13) but it is medicine to the soul (Proverbs 17:22) and reminds us that God is doing great things and will continue to (Ps. 126:2).

Please hear my heart: there is a time to weep, mourn, and no, not everything is laughable. But we should eventually get to that point where we can laugh without care to the future. If God can, why can't we?
So, when you feel beyond your ability to laugh, run to His courts.
      Psalm 16:11  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
      Psalm 37:13 But the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.

Mark Twain published a story about "Aunt Rachel" whose real name was Mary Ann Cord, a slave woman who lost her whole family. Each one was sold out from under her, even her youngest little boy Henry. One day, Twain asked her how she'd lived such a trouble-free life, for  "She was a cheerful, hearty soul, and it was no more trouble for her to laugh than it was for a bird to sing."                                                                                                         “Misto C –, is you in ‘arnest?”
It surprised me a good deal; and it sobered my manner and my speech, too. I said: –
“Why, I thought – that is, I meant – why, you can’t have had any trouble. I’ve never heard you sigh, and never seen your eye when there wasn’t a laugh in it.”   She faced fairly around, now, and was full of earnestness.
“Has I had any trouble? Misto C –, I’s gwyne to tell you, den I leave it to (you.http://www.pbs.org/marktwain/learnmore/writings.html).   The story to follow will astonish. 

Job 8:21 

He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.

Perhaps your life looks like a Job memoir and you wonder if God is playing a cruel joke. He isn't, but sometimes life does.  All may not be good yet, but rest assured, God isn't finished. And once we get to the final punch line, we'll be able to lean back and smile wide.  Yet even now, our humor isn't dead. It can come in the wake of storms because we know: 

Psalm 16:8-11 

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.

1 comment:

  1. so good. and so well written! -HK