TITLE: A Symphony of Miracles Book 2 Chapter 21 Laughter is a God-given therapy 10/6/14
By Richard McCaw
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Laughter is a God-given Therapy
While my mother was working at the Jamaica Tourist Bureau on Harbour Street in Kingston, Jamaica, she often saw a woman walking down the road with a violin case, and thought she was a violinist. But one day the violin case suddenly burst open and clothes fell out on the pavement. As she stooped down stuffing back scattered articles, tears may have streamed down her face. Day after day she walked sometimes shouting obscenities and God‚Äôs vengeance upon all men. She had gone crazy over a lost love affair and had lost the joy of living.
Next time you go shopping in the mall, study the faces of people hurrying here and there. See the down-turned corners of mouths expressing anger, misery, resentment and frustration. Observe the wrinkles that betray worry and fear. Listen to parents shouting angrily at children moving too slowly. Hear the angry responses of children hurried along without gentleness and love.
Do not think for one moment that these responses to stress occur only out there in the hustle and bustle of modern rush-about living. Even believers today are suffering from extreme pressure, and many have lost any real sense of humor. Sadly, laughter and fun are strictly frowned upon in many churches. To many, God appears sullen in a far off heaven.
This attitude has filtered down into western civilization from Greek philosophers of past ages. Humor was downplayed by them, and laughter regarded as a mixture of anxiety and pleasure that seemed a dangerous, potential weapon.
It is said that Plato believed that human beings laughed because they felt superior to others. Plato was a famous philosopher and mathematician in Classical Greece and a student of the great philosopher, Socrates. He founded an Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. If you had been in one of his classes, you may have heard a discussion that went something like this:
‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs wrong with laughing?‚ÄĚ one student asks another. Plato does not hear that remark for he is scrutinizing a scroll before the start of a lecture.
‚ÄúLife is too serious!‚ÄĚ declares the other. ‚ÄúThe man who wastes time in idleness is lazy and will not achieve much.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúBut don‚Äôt you see? Without a balance of humor, a man can go mad!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYoung men of Athens, stop for a moment!‚ÄĚ says Plato, looking up from his scroll. ‚ÄúConsider the value of silent meditation. Is that not better than riotous laughter? Consider the worth of study. Is that not far superior to cheap laughter? Any man can laugh at folly, but it takes a man of depth to investigate the hidden truths of the universe and human relationships.
But Plato was not the only philosopher who failed to see the value of God-given humor. If you had been visiting a home in Athens, you may have heard this:
‚ÄúAristotle said tragedy and comedy are therapeutic!‚ÄĚ a tall young man says to his wife.
His wife smiles at him. ‚ÄúSo he did believe in having a good laugh then.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúNot quite, wife,‚ÄĚ replies the young man, ‚Äúfor he felt that tragedy inspired lofty ideals, while humor encouraged ugliness and debasement.‚ÄĚ
She throws back her head and laughs. ‚ÄúHow can he be against laughter, Junius?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúWe laugh at inferior or ugly people, don‚Äôt we?‚ÄĚ the young man argues. ‚ÄúWe feel superior!‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúSo you think Aristotle is right?‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a philosopher, wife!‚ÄĚ
Unfortunately, for a long time church history revealed a dreadful lack of biblical understanding of the inherent need for humor. For instance, it was believed that Christ wept, but never laughed, and that weeping brought people closer to God. St. Augustine, an earlier church father, even believed that humor belonged to the lower nature. Thus, for centuries the church fiercely debated whether God approved of laughter. In the medieval ages some claimed that civilized laughter called utrapelia was acceptable. Others believed that the Bible only defined the seriousness of life; God hated sins so much, laughter could not be good for a believer.
Many today still cling to those earlier misconceptions. God is perceived like Scrooge in Charles Dickens‚Äô ‚ÄėA Christmas Carol,‚Äô or as a stern schoolmaster, who punishes for the slightest failure, and who never smiles.
Years ago, at a Christian conference I listened as a preacher spilled out natural humorous illustrations and anecdotes. During the lunch break, a young woman quietly said to a friend, ‚ÄúI am not going back to hear that man!‚ÄĚ Although every amusing illustration brought a serious word from the Lord, she was adamant. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a place for humor,‚ÄĚ she maintained, ‚Äúbut you have to be serious with the Word of God!‚ÄĚ Her lack of knowledge of the scriptures deprived her of the rich spiritual insight that overflowed from the preacher‚Äôs messages.
Ignorance of God‚Äôs Word can hinder our understanding of the need for humor. However, stress, sprung from economic struggles for survival, broken relationships and tragedy, can also rob us of the deep joy that comes from a truly intimate relationship with God.
Every need can be satisfied in the presence of the Lord. Like the psalmist, we can enjoy God and say, ‚ÄúMy soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in His salvation.‚ÄĚ
When we see how great God is, and His mighty works, we can exult, ‚ÄúI will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.‚ÄĚ
When troubles come, depression disappears when we declare with a fixed heart, ‚ÄúI will go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy.‚ÄĚ
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