I love to laugh. I'm not sure that makes me unique in any way, but it's true. Laughter has always been a big part of my life. I grew up listening to my parent's collection of Bill Cosby records (you remember records? I hear they're making a comeback), along with a half dozen other comedians. Laughing has a power to lift the spirit and brighten the day of people in most cases. But it's not something that Christians are accused of doing very much.
Unfortunately, Christianity has gotten the reputation of being the "No Fun Zone" in life. Going to church doesn't make people think about side-splitting laughter. When someone invites a friend to church and says, "And it's really fun!" their friend most likely will not believe them. I've actually had people say that church is supposed to be boring. Not in so many words, but when you take out any and all elements of fun, joy and laughter, what do you have left? Yes, the B-word...boring!
I grew up in a boring church. I know exactly how many ceiling tiles there were in the old building, because I counted them every Sunday. We sang the fast songs slow, and the slow songs at a crawl. The pastor was allowed one joke at the beginning of his sermon, then a stern face and a serious tone took over and ruled the morning. As a teen, I vowed I would never, ever be a pastor when I grew up, because I could never live a life of utter seriousness and solemn boringness.
However, God being the cosmic comedian He is, had other plans. I'm a pastor today in part because I wanted to have fun in church. I wanted to experience God in joy, hear the music of laughter and see smiles on the faces of God's people. And it turns out the Bible talks about this more than folks might think. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says: "Always be joyful." There can be joy in our lives, even in difficult times. Happiness might come and go, but we can always experience joy. And we should strive for joy because Nehemiah 8:10 says: "...for the joy of the Lord is your strength!"
I believe these verses are not only God's truth to us to help us set our attitudes in the right direction in life and lean on Him for the strength to do it, but I believe they are true because I've seen them work in my life. In 2004, I was diagnosed with cancer and spent eight months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, along with other complications. All through that season of my life, I focused on joy, on laughter, on fun, rather than on sickness, pain and weakness. God's word proved true, and eight years later, I'm still here, and still laughing. So whatever you're going through today, just know this: Proverbs 17:22, "A cheerful heart is good medicine."