Embracing God's Gift of Laughter

My oldest son recently took his driver’s test. Spending a year driving with his learner’s permit, he had worked hard to prepare, and several people were praying for him as the day approached. As you can imagine, with all his investment, we were eager for a report when he returned. As soon as my wife saw him, she asked him how it went, expecting him to give her an assessment of his performance. But the first thing out of his mouth was, “The driving instructor was wearing a lot of perfume.”

I’m not sure about you, but I think that’s funny. That my son thought the potency of his instructor’s perfume was more noteworthy than the demonstration of his year-long development as a driver deserves at least a chuckle. Do you laugh at things like this? Can you laugh at things like this? I realize that there are a lot of factors that play into whether you laugh at something… personality, appropriateness, season of life, etc. But every Christian ought to have a theology of a laughter because it is a subject God is not silent on. And with that theology ought to come a practice of laughter as well… for the glory of God and the good of your own soul.

Why We Don’t Laugh

Before we turn to pertinent Scripture texts on laughter, it will be helpful to consider the reasons why we, at times, don’t laugh. First, life is hard. As we survey our own circumstances, those of our family and friends, and the ever-present headlines, it’s easy to be worried, embittered, or despairing. How can you laugh when witnessing the languishing health of a loved one? How can you laugh after that report about another war-torn region of the world? How can you laugh when a friend is walking away from the church?

Second, our sin is dark. In Christ we are new creatures, we’ve been raised and seated with Him in the heavenly places, but the flesh remains. And, as we grow in Christlikeness, we see with greater clarity those thoughts, words, and actions in our lives that displease our Lord. How can you laugh when, only hours ago, you cut someone with sharp words in your anger? How can you laugh in this ongoing battle against lust? How can you laugh when you just don’t feel like doing the things you know God wants you to do?

Third, we take ourselves too seriously. Aside from the sin in our lives, there are the other things about us that we simply find embarrassing. These are the things that just come with being finite and living in a broken world. How can you laugh after that slip of the tongue that made you look like an idiot? How can you laugh when you look in the mirror and see the signs of aging? How can you laugh when everyone around you seems to know something that you don’t?

Why We Should Laugh

While the reasons above make it harder to laugh, they should not be used as reasons to keep us from laughing. As Christians, we have several solid reasons to enjoy the good gift of laughter. First, God is happy. In 1 Timothy 1:11, Paul writes of “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (emphasis mine). The word “blessed” here can easily be translated “happy.”¹ Knowing God is happy should be paradigm-shifting for us. With all the tragedy and sin in the world, God remains happy because He is not dependent on anything outside of Himself for this happiness.

When you are tempted to wallow in grief over your sin, you can preach to yourself that God is not dependent on your obedience to be happy. This reality can free you up from a burden that is impossible to bear and propel you back to the cross where your happy God happily secured you a place in His family through His beloved Son. In this freedom there is much room for laughter. Charles Spurgeon’s words resonate here: “He is the happy God; ineffable bliss is the atmosphere in which he lives, and he would have his people to be happy.”²

Second, we live in grace and await future grace. Looking to Israel’s past, the psalmist writes, “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’” (Psalm 126:1-2, emphasis mine). Like Israel, we too can look back throughout our past and see glorious examples of God’s kindness to us, which then remind us that He continues to be kind to us each day. How many of these examples might come rushing back to your mind as you scroll through old pictures on your phone? These memories are reasons for a mirthful, delighted laughter that senses the goodness of God’s grace to the undeserving. While there are many reasons to mourn in this life, we must not act as if there are only reasons to mourn. As Christians, we are immersed in grace because we are united to Christ, which means that we are surrounded by reasons to laugh.

But reasons for laughter are not just in our past and present, but our future as well. In Luke’s beatitudes, Jesus says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (6:21, emphasis mine). Because of God’s love in Christ, there will one day be no mourning when “the dwelling place of God is with man” (Revelation 21:3-4). Perhaps you remember the scene at the end of the film, The Return of the King, when Frodo wakes up in Rivendell after he and Sam cast the one ring into the fires of Mount Doom. As he sees his friends alive and well, knowing that the war has been won, they enjoy an unbounded celebration of laughter together. The laughter we will enjoy with God after Christ has returned and all our enemies are finally vanquished will far exceed the delight in that scene. Christian, this laughter awaits you, and that is itself a reason to laugh.

Third, laughter is good for you. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” In God’s design, sometimes the things that are good for us are burdensome and hard to accept. But then there are those things in His design that are good for us that are plain fun. So it is with a joyful heart.

Charles Spurgeon believed this more than most perhaps. Although he often struggled with the darkness of depression, he believed that “cheerfulness readily carries burdens, which despondency dares not touch.”³ In fact, Spurgeon was known for being hilarious at a time and place in history known for being proper, with one of the chapters in his autobiography titled, “Pure Fun.”⁴ I wonder if there is enough joy in our lives to provide a chapter’s worth of material. There will not be if we have an overinflated sense of self-importance. Let us all remember the benefit God has given to laughter, and welcome all the solid material for amusement in our mistakes, quirks, and limitations.

Laughter is one of the characteristics of this joyful heart that provides good medicine. But it is not the kind of laughter that sneers, scoffs, and derides as it looks down on others. Certainly, this kind of laughter does not characterize joy. But a joyful heart laughs at all that is wholesome and good-natured in the world, appreciating that God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Brothers and sisters, there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4), and I hope you are better equipped now to embrace those occasions of laughter. Consider the happiness of God, the grace of God, and His gift of joy as good medicine for our souls. As you do, you’ll be freed up to laugh at your next blunder, the next adorable baby you see, or your next thought that all mourning will one day be a memory.

Note: This article originally appeared on thecbcd.org. We encourage you to visit The Center for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship where you can find helpful, biblical resources by a number of trusted pastors and authors.

¹ For further explanation, see chapter 1 of John Piper’s book, The Pleasures of God.

² Charles Spurgeon, “Joy, A Duty,” sermon, https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/joy-a-duty/#flipbook/.

³ Charles Spurgeon, “Bells for the Horses,” sermon, http://www.romans45.org/spurgeon/s_and_t/bells.htm

⁴ Michael Reeves, Spurgeon on the Christian Life, 29.

Brent Osterberg




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