“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain.” Ecclesiastes 3:4-5
Several years ago I traveled to Russia on a speaking tour of evangelical churches. Although I don’t speak much Russian, it was easy to communicate because the Russian people are by nature warm and friendly. I found two things true of every Russian Christian I met: They love to sing and they love to laugh. Everywhere I went, from St. Petersburg to the Volga River, we sang together, traded stories, and told jokes. They laughed at my fractured Russian (delivered with a Southern accent), and I laughed at their stories, even when I didn’t understand (which was most of the time).
My travels through Russia taught me that laughter is the universal language. If you have a sense of humor about life, you can go anywhere on earth and have a good time. Someone has said that laughter is the shortest point between two people. It is the best way to break the ice, to cut the tension, to settle a quarrel, or to liven up a boring meeting. Laughter is a universal language that needs no translator.
It may surprise you to know that some of God’s greatest saints loved to laugh. Martin Luther said, “If you aren’t allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.” He also said, “If the earth is fit for laughter then surely heaven is filled with it. Heaven is the birthplace of laughter.” The great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon laughed so much that when a parishioner reproached him for using too much humor in his sermons, he replied, “If only you knew how much I held back!” C. S. Lewis used to say that his favorite sound in all the earth was hearty male laughter.
By the way, can you name the first two people recorded in the Bible who laughed? It was Abraham and Sarah who laughed (at God!) when they heard they were going to have a baby in their old age. They thought God was playing a joke on them. I take it that laughter is one of God’s gifts to the human race. It keeps us from taking life too seriously, as if it all depends on us. Ed Howe said it this way: “If you don’t learn to laugh at trouble, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you grow old.” Yes, there is a time to laugh, and laughter is a blessing from God as we endure the travails of this temporary world.
Father, thank You for the healing gift of laughter. I pray for a sanctified sense of humor today. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.