Famous columnist Erma Bombeck once wrote, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” It would be contrary to our nature to deny that sentiment. Many people fight to replace anxiety with antics, solitude with satire, and woes with witty remarks. Personally, I have always struggled with using sarcasm as a vehicle to deliver hard truth. In my foolishness, the godly virtue of honesty has been weakened by man’s virtue of using ill-timed jest to lessen a blow. Our tendency to use humor is not a coincidence, nor did we create it, but rather it is a glimpse of God’s nature unveiled through us. If we are image-bearers of our Creator with a desire to feel joy and display laughter, how exactly should humor operate in our lives? We must look to God’s character and His Word.

His Enemies are the Punchline

Who’s an enemy of God? One who rejects Him. One who despises His rule over their life. One who actively renounces His truth and seeks to oppress those who believe it. God finds this stance laughable. He finds humor not because their hard hearts deny His love, but rather because in their pride they consider themselves better off apart from Him (Psalm 52:6-7). “Because I have called and you refused to listen, stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity.” (Proverbs 1:24-26)

God sits on His throne and laughs at those whose pride is a furnace, forever hardening their hearts that He might not mold them. David, in fear of those sent by Saul to kill him, cries out to His Lord for deliverance (Psalm 59:1-2). How does God respond in his desperate plea for rescue? He laughs at those in vain pursuit of His child’s life (Psalm 59:8). As with David, if our laughter at an enemy is a faithful response to God’s sovereign control, let it flow! It is God’s desire that we might delight in trusting Him, and sometimes trusting God means partnering with Him in laughter as the enemy crumbles.

Our Unbelief

It’s hard to read the story of Abraham and Sarah’s pregnancy without seeing God’s sense of humor in full. An elderly married couple, 100 and 90 years old, laughing at the promise they receive from God. First, God comes to Abraham and says, “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her” (Genesis 17:16). Put yourself into the story. You’re white-haired and using a cane to help with balance, yet you’re supposed to believe that you’ll soon be made a parent to another son.

How would you react? Abraham “fell on his face and laughed” (Genesis 17:17) in response to God’s promise. Sarah, overhearing the Lord speak this promise to her husband, mocked the Lord and said, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Genesis 18:12) God took offense at their lack of faith and sarcastic tone. He replied, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14) A year later and just as promised, Sarah gave birth to a son named Isaac, which literally translates to, “he laughs” (Genesis 21:2-3).

Main takeaway – don’t laugh at God because He always has the last laugh. This element of our Lord’s humor is not designated for use by His children. He delights to remain faithful even when our faith is absent. Good gifts continue to flow our way because of His loving nature, not because our belief was sufficient. And next time you doubt God, get ready to have a good laugh at your own expense.

A Position of Eternal Security

Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, didn’t deny that life would be full of mourning and weeping. But in between each valley of darkness, he knew that God would bring us to the mountaintops of laughter and dancing (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

Our blurry vision in the lowlands often prevents our eyes from seeing the towering hills in the distance, the same hills that declare the Keeper of our security. Even though we traverse death in the middle of the battlefield, the Christian’s battle cry will soon be replaced forever with joyous laughter (Luke 6:21). For the soldier of faith has already been covered by the promise of victory, confident the General will lead him home safely (Jude 24).

Because of this great assurance in future triumph, the believer laughs when others mourn, and often mourns when others laugh. With Job, we can be stripped of all and still rejoice at the reproof of God (Job 5:22). When our hearts are aligned with His, a laughter of confidence breaks through in moments of tribulation knowing that we are forever covered. In Christ, we laugh not at the present, but at the future revealing of a promise. We laugh not at sin and death, but at sin’s weakness through our Savior’s death. We laugh not because all under heaven is vanity, but because an alliance with heaven’s throne is victory.

We laugh not because all under heaven is vanity, but because an alliance with heaven’s throne is victory. Click To Tweet

What’s Your Motive?

If we are to please God through humor, we must inspect the disposition of our heart. Jesus said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11). Here’s a quick inventory to discern if your jokes are missing the mark:

  • Am I building others up or tearing them down? (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Am I being crude, obscene, or making light of sin? (Ephesians 4:29, 5:4)
  • Am I gossiping, slandering, or sowing discord? (2 Corinthians 12:20)
  • Am I being gentle and gracious, not rude or insensitive? (Colossians 4:5-6)
  • Am I trying to flatter others out of pride? (Proverbs 26:28)

Brothers and sisters, test yourself against these standards that you might glorify God in your humor and laughter. And most of all, that you might increasingly be molded and shaped into His character.

Calvin Nichols

Truth-seeker, blogger, mountaineer and accountant from Vancouver, Washington. A skeptic by nature, my desire is to write on struggles with faith from a perspective of someone who can’t escape his own head sometimes. The forest is often my prayer closet due to the amount of time I spend wandering through the giant evergreens of the Pacific Northwest. God regularly uses my five sisters to humble me and remove any selfish weeds from choking my heart.

February 12, 2018