The Power of a Good Laugh: Humor in Times of Crisis
- 2008 5 Dec
As anyone who knows me knows, I love a good laugh. I’ve even been known to pull a practical joke or two, like the time years ago my assistant and I hauled a real stuffed bear into the hunting cabin of a friend late one night. Let’s just say he was surprised when he went back to the cabin and turned on the lights!
Why do I mention this? Especially now, when everything seems to be out of control in our society?
It’s precisely because things are so difficult right now that we need to make time to laugh. Over the past month on BreakPoint, we’ve covered a lot of sobering topics: the financial crisis, the mocking of Christians, sexual trafficking, the persecution of Christians in Iraq. And did you hear that an asteroid might smash into the earth in 2029?
In days like these, it’s hard not to get a sour expression—or to succumb to stress. And too much stress, as you know, is harmful to the health. One surefire way to reduce stress is laughing—which reduces stress hormones, stimulates the immune system, and helps stabilize blood pressure. In fact, one medical expert says laughing 100 times a day has the same cardio benefits as a 20-minute aerobic workout!
But humor can also help us keep things in perspective. Someone who laughs, particularly at himself, can never take himself too seriously. It’s the certain cure for pomposity. All humor is, after all, is recognizing human absurdity.
When Malcolm Muggeridge took over Punch magazine, he worried how he’d find funny stories to print every week. Then he went to the theater one night where Godspell was opening in London. At the end, when the crowd rose in applause, the Archbishop of Canterbury shouted, “Long live God!” Muggeridge never worried again.
Jesus understood this. Elton Trueblood, in his 1964 book The Humor of Christ, paints a picture of Christ as a deft comedian—a master at wordplay.
Trueblood writes: “Anyone who reads the Synoptic Gospels . . . might be expected to see that Christ laughed, and that He expected others to laugh.”
He frequently used humor and wit to make His point, as He did when He mentioned a camel going through the eye of a needle. When He said that the Pharisees strain at a gnat and swallow a camel, He was making a good pun because the Aramaic words for camel and gnat are almost identical.
If anyone had cause for being a bit down, it was Jesus. His was no easy life, facing satanic opposition and human scorn.
Yet Jesus could laugh. Why, because He knew that His sufferings could not compare with the joy that awaited Him. And the same should be true for all of us.
Trueblood says, “The Christian is [merry], not because he is blind to injustice and suffering, but because he is convinced that these, in the light of the divine sovereignty, are never ultimate.”
Sure, there is reason to be concerned about things that are happening around us today in the world, but there is even greater reason to put our hope in the King whose kingdom will never be shaken.
So next time you’re worried about the economy or an asteroid crashing into your house, remember, when all is said and done, it is good, not evil, that gets the last laugh.
This commentary originally appeared on BreakPoint. Used with permission.