A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22
There was a time in my life when joy had dried up like a barren wasteland. I was bitter over the way I had been treated by some people who were close to me. My prayers didn’t seem to be making a difference, and I looked for relief. Where did I find it? In laughter. I found a favorite television show whose reruns came on every night, and those moments of merriment each day got me through those “desert” times.
Many books, like Norman Cousins’, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient, have been written on the subject of laughter. The above verse from Proverbs confirms what medical science has recently discovered. A merry (other translations say joyful or cheerful) heart is like a medicine to the body. According to HelpGuide.org, laughter relaxes the body, boosts the immune system, triggers the release of endorphins, protects the heart, burns calories, and helps to diffuse anger. Now that’s a lot of benefits.
Another asset gained from laughter is that people will likely enjoy your company more if you make them chuckle. Why was Ronald Reagan liked by people who held different political views from him? He had a great since of humor. He always seemed to be optimistic and have a smile on his face. If you get a chance, type in “Ronald Reagan jokes” into YouTube and enjoy a few laughs. People naturally gravitate toward happy people, especially ones who make them laugh. How many times have you seen a beautiful woman marry a not-so-good-looking guy, and when asked why she married him, she says because he makes me laugh? Humor is an attractive quality. No one likes people who take themselves too seriously. We all need to be able to laugh at ourselves.
The well-known preacher, Chuck Swindoll, has an entire CD on jokes that he has told in his sermons. I listen to it in my car sometimes, and it always seems to make me smile. Swindoll said that he wants to be remembered as someone that could laugh and have a good time, not as a long-winded preacher who came down hard on life. He said that he gets letters from radio listeners who say, “You can quit preaching, but don’t stop laughing because yours is the only laughter that we hear in our house.”
Of course we can’t laugh all the time. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” And in verse 4 it says, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” It also says that, “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” Some things we can’t learn when everything is going well. Hard times make us examine things and grow in character. We all know that life isn’t just one big party. Reality has a way of setting in and cutting those good times short.
A friend of mine once expressed concern about the lack of humor in the Bible. I pointed him to 1 Samuel 21:15. David was fleeing from Saul, and he came to Achish, king of Gath. When the king’s servants recognized David, he became afraid and feigned madness and scratched on the doors of the gate and let saliva run down his beard. Achish’s response was classic, “Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house.” The NIV’s translation is even funnier, “Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” Achish is saying I have enough mad men here. I don’t need anymore. It’s subtle, and that’s what makes it so good.
My advice would be to find a way to laugh at least once a day. Find a clean TV show that makes you laugh out loud. Or maybe it’s a friend that always tells a good joke. It’s easy to let the problems and responsibilities of life make us long-faced. We need to remind ourselves to lighten up once in a while and have a good guffaw.
Well, I can’t write a blog post on laughter without closing with a joke. Ronald Reagan liked to tell jokes about the Soviet Union. He said there was a ten-year wait on acquiring an automobile in the old Soviet Union. And you had to put down the money in advance. So one day a man went and bought an automobile. The man at the car place told him to come back in ten years. So the buyer said, “In the morning or afternoon?” The seller kind of chuckled and said, “What difference does it make? It’s ten years away.” To which the buyer responded, “Well, the plumber is coming in the morning.” Good day.