“There are times when the most effective way to teach a certain truth is by laughing very hard.”
G.K. Chesterton, as described in The Bookman (1912)
There are times when laughing very hard is brave defiance; a dare to the darkness impinging.
Satan, the lying burglar, loves to steal joy.
But Jesus, the rough-hewn Carpenter, loves to give it back.
There’s a difference between joy and happiness, between joy and laughter, I get that. But sometimes, we try to be so spiritual that we end up being too grown up for God.
Joy is richer and fuller than happiness. But joy does not exclude happiness. That’s like saying, “I love her, I just can’t stand her!” Really?
“I’m joyful, I just look bitter and angry and like I want to kill a bunny!” Really? Is that all we’ve got to offer a world that’s drowning in its own pessimism and rage?
Is some sort of hunkered down holiness God’s idea for the Church? Yeah, I don’t think so.
In such a world (which, it should be noted, is not too dissimilar from times past), laughter is a bright act of rebellion.
Seriousness is not holier than joviality. For many, though, it’s much easier.
Laughter as Prophetic Rebellion
I’m no stranger to sad things. Or places.
I worked in an urban hospital, in the emergency department. I watched people yell and scream until their bodies ran out of blood, their brains starved, and They.Just.Stopped.
Every week I sit in a counseling room and watch brave peoples’ tears smack the floor.
My parents and my sister are still dead. And I still miss them.
So no, I’m not talking about a laughter that requires denial. I’m not talking about a laughter that’s fueled by alcohol or idiocy.
I’m talking about a laughter that is fueled by Christ.
To remember the sun’s existence on a rainy day is to remember Reality. Dancing in the downpour is a prophetic thing: It will not always storm.
“Optimism breaks through agnosticism like fiery gold round the edges of a black cloud.”
“Joy, which was the small publicity of the Pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”
“ I have come into my second childhood.”
We need a second childhood; to be born again into childlikeness.
A joyful heart really is wonderful medicine, healing the imbiber and others besides.
We must boldly remember that after mourning comes dancing, and gazelles still dance on mountains of spices.
Humanism: enemy of happiness
Happiness without Christ relies on humanism. And humanism, as a source of joy, is simply not strong enough or deep enough for the long haul. It can produce flashes of joy and pleasure, for sure, but it is not durable. It is a plastic bag.
The alternative, according to Chesterton, enables joy. Speaking of Robert Louis Stevenson, Chesterton said,
“Stevenson’s enormous capacity for joy flowed directly out of his profoundly religious temperament. He conceived himself as an unimportant guest at one eternal and uproarious banquet.”
The Christianized humanist stands on the edge of the sea and says, “How great I am that the God of all this would love me!” The Christian stands at the same sea and exclaims, “How great God is that he would create all of this and love me!” Though those two statements sound similar, they diverge sharply, and having diverged, end poles apart.
So Rebel Already
Look for the wonder. Look for the humor. Laugh at the darkness as a child of the Light.
Don’t be afraid of the Godly Guffaw.
Now, I’m not interested in ignorant bliss. I’m not promoting a happiness that exists only in the absence of pain. I’m advocating a worldview that views the world, as it is. And then keeps looking. To see the world as it is, isolated and suspended in nothing, results in terror and too great a cognitive dissonance.
No, we must see the world as it is, without blinders, and then we must keep looking and see the great Actor who exists outside of (and inside of) the world.
His presence changes things. It must change things.
So look up.
Lift up your head and see the King.
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty;
the LORD, invincible in battle.
Open up, ancient gates!
Open up, ancient doors,
and let the King of glory enter.
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD of Heaven’s Armies—
he is the King of glory.
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.
1 Peter 1:8
Clap your hands!
Shout to God with joyful praise!
For the LORD Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.