You stumble into church early on Sunday morning, a little bleary-eyed after racing through your morning routine to get ready. Your nice clothes aren’t very comfortable, and you haven’t had nearly enough coffee, but you take your place in the pew and open your Bible to follow along. After a sermon that was good (but longer than your bladder would have liked), and quietly singing along with some contemporary worship songs (that you’d secretly dance to in the car), you’re more than ready for the sugar rush of a good donut.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately for many Christians, this could have been a script of their last dozen Sunday mornings. Attend services in any church across the world and you’ll likely find that Sunday morning is a pretty serious affair. In fact, can you remember the last time that you had a good laugh in church? Do you and God have any inside jokes that crack you up on a regular basis?
The Bible is Full of Laughter
As it happens, our God is a pretty humorous God. It makes sense, considering He invented comedy. A quick jaunt through the Bible reveals gems like:
Job 8:21: “He will yet fill your mouth with laughter...”
Psalm 126:2: “Then our mouth was filled with laughter...”
Luke 6:21: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.”
Proverbs 31:25: “...she laughs without fear...”
Proverbs 17:22: “A cheerful heart is good medicine...”
In fact, the book of Genesis shows off God’s humor perfectly. Abraham was married to a woman named Sarah, who was long past the years of bearing children. We can imagine her as someone smart and maybe even a bit sassy – a wife to keep Abraham on his toes! When the Lord sent angels to visit their home, and inform them both that they would yet have children, Sarah laughed to herself, amazed that an old woman could still even conceive a child.
And instead of punishing her for her laughter, God simply said, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18) Just a few short chapters later, after giving birth to the son God promised her, Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21) Sure, God could have simply given Abraham a younger wife, or chosen someone else altogether to be the father of the Israelites – but where would be the fun in that?
There are many other great stories of hysterical believers in the Bible. For example, in 1 Kings, Elijah challenges the prophets of the false god Baal to what was basically a show down. Elijah showed up with God on his side and told the prophets of Baal to put their money where their mouths were. And when these prophets failed to produce any sort of reaction from their deity, Elijah suggested that Baal was too busy on the toilet to answer their summons!
And what about Jesus? Do you think He didn’t have a little fun turning water into wine so that the party could keep going all night long?
Laughter Makes for Healthier Faith
Ask anyone what they want in a significant other, and you’ll almost always hear “a good sense of humor” near the top of the list. This is because we instinctively know that laughter makes for healthier relationships. Shared jokes are one of the easiest ways to create strong bonds between humans, which is explained by science:
Whenever a person laughs, their brain releases a cocktail of feel-good chemicals like dopamine. The body loves these chemicals, because they tell us that we are safe and happy at the moment. The body wants to feel safe and happy, so it is hardwired to crave these chemicals.
But just because that’s what happens behind the scenes doesn’t mean our conscious brain recognizes that. It doesn’t say to itself, “I just performed the action of laughing, and now I feel good!” No, the brain looks for a reason for the good feeling, and finds it in whatever it was that caused you to laugh. If that cause includes another person, then your brain associates that person with feeling good.
It doesn’t take long – just a few cases of sharing a laugh with someone – for your brain to establish that person as a reason for feeling good, and craves being with that person more often. This is why laughter is so important for relationships, and the same idea can be applied to your faith.
Does your brain know to associate church with feeling good? What about prayer? Does praying make you joyful so that you’ll want to come back to it again and again? Is your faith rooted in joy, making your relationship with God a little stronger each day?
The true secret behind laughter is that it’s not just about getting a chuckle from silly circumstances. Sure, Elijah’s epic burn of the prophets of Baal is pretty hilarious. But Sarah’s laughter was rooted in more than just the absurdity of her situation. There was a deep river of joy running through her mirth, a gratitude for the miracle of her son, even at her age. By expressing her joy through abundant laughter, and sharing that laughter with the Lord, Sarah exemplifies the type of overflowing joy that Jesus promised all Christians in John 15:11: “I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”
Let Yourself Be Filled with Joy
Don’t let your faith or your experience in church become something dry and stodgy. Jesus didn’t promise that we’d be filled with solemn devotion, after all! Give yourself up to the joy that God offers, and enjoy a good belly-busting laugh next time you pray. It’s okay to get excited by the fact that you’ve been liberated from an eternity in Hell, after all! Laughter is infectious, so the more you enjoy yourself, the more you’ll spread this blessing with those around you.