I recently saw somewhere (or maybe I heard it on the radio – I can’t remember) that in Europe the month of May is celebrated as the National Smile Month. When I heard this, I imagined people walking around purposely putting smiles on their faces as a way to celebrate it. I’m not actually sure what else you could do to celebrate something like this, but it did get me thinking about what makes me smile – even more so, it made me think about what makes me laugh.
I love to laugh. I regularly watch Saturday Night Live, and I have a whole stack of movies that are comedies that I return to from time to time to get a good laugh. I listen to some of my favorite comedians, like Jim Gaffigan and Steven Wright, for a good laugh as well. And perhaps the best thing is being around family or friends who share the same sense of humor that I have and just telling stories or laughing together at something we find funny. In fact, the hardest I have ever laughed is when I’m with them.
Much of what we study in scripture is serious stuff. It isn’t often that we think of laughter when we think of our faith. But laughter is certainly something that is spoken of in the Bible. There is deep joy that we often talk about, but when it comes to laughter one of the passages that sticks out to me is when Sarah, who believed she would never be able to have children, gave birth to Isaac in her old age. In fact, Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born. But Sarah says these words after he was born, she says, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6, NIV)
She was happy to have a son that brought her joy, but… she was laughing because who would have ever thought that a man and woman their age would have a baby! That’s what made her laugh. And it generally is something that catches us off guard or that is out of the ordinary that makes us laugh. It isn’t our normal routines or our daily lives that make us laugh – it is something unusual.
However, one fact that I read about laughter is that we are 30 times more likely to laugh when we are with another person than we are to laugh when we are alone. Moreover, it was pointed out that laughter is often more a sign of love and affection than it is humor. We tend to laugh the hardest with those we are close to and trust. Even someone else just laughing can become contagious and cause us to start laughing.
In addition to those relational statistics, laughter is also linked to some very positive health benefits. Laughter tends to reduce the number of stress hormones in our bodies and gives a boost to our immune systems which helps us fight off disease. Moreover, laughter has been shown to have a positive impact in relieving pain (at least temporarily). It also increases blood flow in our bodies and protects against heart disease.
All of that being said, the point I am trying to get to here is that perhaps we need to focus on this God-given part of who we are and focus a little less on the more “serious matters” at times.
In the end it is not only biblical to do so, but it will help us to cope and overcome whatever challenges may come our way. Perhaps we should follow the lead of Europeans and take the month of May and celebrate smiling and laughter as a way to improve our health and our overall sense of God’s presence in our lives.
Here… let’s see if we can get things started…
A woman in labor suddenly shouted, "Shouldn't! Wouldn't! Couldn't! Didn't! Can't!" – “Don’t worry” said the doctor, “those are just contractions!”