Last night I planned to work on some holy contribution to the already numerous blogs/essays covering the Christian response to COVID-19. But truly, so many great pieces have been written, so many great sermons have been shared online, I was having a hard time coming up with anything I could add. And frankly, I was just a little weary from all the news and life-change barreling at me (and everyone else in the world). Instead of pouring over commentary and weighty theological responses, I scrolled and scrolled through the funniest COVID-19 memes, videos and tweets.
And I laughed.
I laughed until I was crying. I spent a good 30 minutes heartily, knee-slapping, tears rolling, gasping-for-breath laughing.
To be clear, COVID-19 is not funny in the least. The virus’s effect on the ill and on our economy is sobering. Nor am I coming at this from a place of unaffected privilege. While my family remains healthy, our family’s business/industry has taken a staggering blow.
But after reading the headlines, watching all the press conferences, receiving constant news updates, becoming a home-schooling mom overnight, praying for our country and the world, the most holy thing I could do was… laugh.
I wanted (I tried!) to feel guilty for the amount of time I spent laughing. But I just couldn’t. It was exactly what my soul needed. “A cheerful heart is a good medicine,“ (Proverbs 17:22) rang through my soul. I laughed so hard I felt a release, like I’d just gone on a refreshing jog or seen the most breath-taking sunset. And again, it’s not because I’m not taking this seriously (my family has been strictly quarantined for the past nine days). It’s because I AM taking this so seriously, I just needed a laugh. And it was just what the Doctor, Jehovah Rapha, ordered.
Instead of feeling guilty, I received it. I received the laughter as a holy sacrament.
Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for everything – a time to weep and a time to laugh. I’m guessing from the amount of people posting or texting funny content, we all need a laugh right about now. I’m currently on several text threads with friends and the unspoken theme seems to be, “We need to laugh.”
Laughter unites us and creates social bonds; it enhances morale and resilience. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter is a great form of stress relief, improves mood and can even boost immunity.
Having a time of joyful laughter made me thankful for the senses of humor God dispersed throughout the land to help lighten the mental load for such a time as this.
To be sure, I’m not suggesting we take a head-in-the-sand, blissfully-unaware stance. This is calculated soul-care. I don’t want to make agreements with doomsday headlines — I know my Redeemer lives. I have the hope of all hopes! God designed us to laugh (Luke 6:21). Add to that, God is not a stoic, He’s actually often hilarious.
In this strange new era when we have more time than we’re usually afforded, we need to spend it wisely. May we spend this time praying and diving deep into scripture like we’ve perhaps never done before. And make no mistake, you will find humor in the Bible. What? The Bible is funny? Absolutely. Here are some of my favorite humorous passages in the Bible:
- Old enough to be great-grandparents, Abraham and Sarah were told they would have a baby. He was nearly 100 years old and she was around 90 years old. Pause right now and imagine hosting a baby shower for a couple nearing the century mark. Amusing, right? Upon hearing that they would have a child, Sarah laughed. She laughed heartily at the presumed joke from God Himself. And what did God do? Upon the birth of their promised son, God named him Isaac, which means laughter. God gave him a name that reflected His laughable – and kept – promise. (Genesis 18and 21)
- Some of the humorous passages in the Bible are subtle, but chuckle-worthy, nonetheless. A little colorful commentary among the historical facts: “Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” Tell us how you really felt about Jehoram…. (2 Chronicles 21:20, italics mine)
- In 1 Samuel 21:15-16, David pretends to be insane before Achish, King of Gath, to avoid being returned to Saul. Achish, tipping his hand about the kind of people he’s leading, said, “Why did you bring him to me? Am I so short on madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on in front of me?” That’s funny.
- Nehemiah is one of my favorite books (and men) of the Bible. I love Nehemiah’s prayerfulness and willingness to act as he was tasked to rebuild the city wall in Jerusalem. I also enjoy the way he dealt with his critics and those trying to thwart his God-given assignment. In Chapter 6, Nehemiah received a letter from one of his detractors saying rumors were circulating that Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall in order to become king (a total fabrication). Instead of placating liars, Nehemiah gave one of the most forthright – and funniest – responses in scripture. He said, “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” His candor is refreshing… and hilarious. He was the original leader to call out fake news.
- Just the whole book of Jonah. Yes, there are great, deep lessons to learn from Jonah, but there is also a lot at which to giggle – namely his stubbornness and his toddler-worthy tantrums. He was thrown into the sea, made to spend time-out in a fish and thrown up by said fish. When Jonah finally obeyed God and preached to the Ninevites, this was his entire message, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.” That’s it. That has to be the shortest, seemingly least powerful sermon to date. And much to Jonah’s dismay and displeasure (he wanted to see them fry), the people of Nineveh repented. Jonah then pouted because he was successful in doing what God asked him to do. Jonah retreated to sulk under the shade of a vine when “God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.” The comedy is complete, but not before sunstroke, too.
- In the gospel of Mark, Jesus raised a girl from the dead. As her family marveled at this once-dead girl walking around, Jesus said, “Give her something to eat.” I can just see her family, dazed and jaw-dropped at the miracle of having their dead daughter brought back to life, and Jesus bringing them back to basics. We likely read that in a dry tone, but it is kind of funny. She was a growing girl and had been dead, after all, so she was probably hungry. (Mark 5:40-43)
- The disciple John was in a class of his own. As he recounted one of the most important details of the entire Bible – the empty tomb – he included three times that he outran Peter as they raced to the tomb. He recounted the story that all of Christianity hinges upon but wanted to make sure (while he had our attention) we knew Peter couldn’t beat him if he tried. Hysterical. (John 20:4, 6, 8)
- In Acts 2:15, the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, started speaking in tongues. The people heard what sounded like silly gibberish and assumed they were drunk, to which Peter chided, “These men are not drunk…. It is only nine o’clock in the morning!” Perfect timing of the Holy Spirit. Just think, only a few hours later and we might not have a Church.
And there are many more. God’s word is inspired and written through human voices. To be human is to be humorous. The writers of the Bible were not just recounting details to be read dryly. They infused sarcasm, wit and humor to convey weighty messages for which they were tasked to write. As Reverend Mark Woods said, “The biblical writers laughed as they wrote. I think they’d like it if we sometimes laughed as we read.”
I don’t know what will happen in the days to come. But I do know, at some point, this will all be a distant memory. And when I look back, infused in the memories of great sacrifice and loss, may we also find there was great joy and laughter.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Proverbs 31:25
Dear Lord, thank you that as a virus traipses our globe, laughter is good medicine. Thank you that in times of economic uncertainty, laughter is free. You are holy, You are sovereign, You are righteous and You are true. Lord we know You love us, and we trust You. Amen.
Written in memory of my grandmother, Gloria Harris, who loved to laugh.