Franciscan Spirit Blog

The Importance of Laughter

The over 40 references to laughter in the Bible prove that God has a sense of humor and wants us to laugh too. Comedians opened my eyes to biblical humor many years ago when I first heard his version of God telling Noah to build an ark. Noah’s response to a nosy neighbor (“How long can you tread water?”) became a catchphrase.

We need reminders of the importance of humor. Here are some simple reminders to keep laughter in our lives.

The Bible is filled with funny moments. It’s easy to imagine Jesus chuckling at Cana when he saw the reaction of wedding guests who tasted wine when they thought they were drinking water. Here are a few other examples: “The one enthroned in heaven laughs” (Ps 2:4). “A glad heart lights up the face, but by mental anguish the spirit is broken” (Prv 15:13). “Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh” (Lk 6:21). “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete” (Jn 15:11).

Even inappropriate humor is funny. The Bible tells us there’s “[a] time to weep, and a time to laugh” (Eccl 3:4). Laughter at a real funeral is said to have inspired the “Chuckles the Clown Bites the Dust” episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Ranked as one of the funniest moments in television history by TV Guide, it ends with Mary unable to stifle the urge to laugh during the clown’s funeral service, before she breaks into uncontrollable sobbing.

Hurray for Hollywood. Screwball comedies by the late Frank Capra and other filmmakers gave some respite to people during the Great Depression and World War II. In addition to his humor (It Happened One Night, You Can’t Take It With You, Arsenic and Old Lace), Capra’s Christian vision is obvious in many of his films (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s a Wonderful Life). Watching humorous films and TV shows can give us some relief as we try to cope with the problems we face in our lives.

Laughter is good medicine. The health benefits of humor are nothing new: the Book of Proverbs tells us, “A joyful heart is the health of the body, but a depressed spirit dries up the bones” (17:22). As early as the 13th century, some surgeons used humor to distract patients from the pain of surgery. Not only is humor being taken seriously for its healing effects, but reports show that humor and prayer are both forms of complementary medicine and are used with standard medical treatments in order to “develop the mind’s ability to help the body to heal or keep itself well.”

As we strive to cope with COVID-19, financial problems, loss, and other stresses that hinder us, let’s not overlook the power of exercising our knees when we pray and our funny bones when we laugh. Research says that both prayer and humor are safe, affordable, and readily available. It’s up to us to use them.


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