There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:….A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance
(Ecclesiastes 3 v 1 & 4)
Some months ago, I was in a situation which was proving very painful to bear. I could not leave it, but had to remain committed to the job I was doing, caring for and supporting my team, and trusting God for strength and patience to deal with my inner turmoil.
One evening, I had the chance to go for a walk in the countryside and I was baring my soul to my faithful and long-suffering Father God, crying and letting him see the pain, knowing that He understood and accepted me. This kind of prayer-walking is very therapeutic for me – and it helped also being out in a beautiful place. Then I rounded a bend in the road to find about 20 young pheasants coming towards me. They were big enough to be out on their own, but what a ridiculous sight they presented! Their necks were stretched in anxiety as they searched for a way off the road, darting hither and thither, looking for gaps in the fence, and clearly clueless about where to go.
I burst out laughing, with the tears still wet on my face, and admitted to God that he had found the perfect way to help me break the melancholy and self-pitying mood I had fallen into! I sat under a convenient tree and continued to watch the birds, enjoying the absurdity of their behaviour, and giving thanks for God’s perfect timing.
I am so thankful that God has chosen to give us the gift of laughter, the ability to appreciate the absurd, to make jokes and play with words. We know from experience that humour can be used to diffuse tension, to break down barriers and create a sense of community. And it is my experience that I feel the physical benefits of a good laugh – once my sides have stopped aching! My own sense of humour is perhaps a little unusual – hence the photograph of the savoy cabbage leaves which heads up this post… I happen to find the extraordinary shaping and texture of these leaves very funny, and just looking at the picture always makes me smile.
There can be a danger that I take the presence of darkness, pain and suffering in the world to imply that there is no space for feeling light-hearted, or appreciating the funny as well as beautiful things around me. But the writer in Ecclesiastes carefully balances weeping with laughter, and mourning with dancing. As does the apostle Paul when he writes to the church in Rome, reminding them to share in the gladness of those who rejoice, as well as to share in the sadness of those who mourn (Romans 12 v 15). The bible teaches that the victory over all the darkness is won, and that I can and must live in the light of that truth. My laughter over the young pheasants did not change my situation, nor did it diminish the real pain I had experienced, but it helped me to stop focussing on the troubles and to remember the love which is always with me.
I think that we should be deeply grateful for this gift, and celebrate the goodness of our amazing God in creating us to laugh! I am going to finish today with a list, which you can use to start off your own list of things that you smile just to think about.. And I pray that in your laughing, you will be eased, and enriched as you share the joke with the God who thought of it in the first place.
Penguins; lambs springing in the fields at dusk; baby animals; giraffe necks; elephant ears; the duck-billed platypus; babies sneezing; a large gathering of people all trying to do an action song at full speed; giant pandas; the fact that men’s ears continue to get bigger as they grow older; tubas and trombones; being able to pull faces; the idiotic smiles of dogs; the disdainful smirk of cats; whiskers; the way our ears stick out; hamsters; bagpipes; animals that bounce (rabbits, kangaroos); dimples….. over to you!