A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
~ Proverbs 17:22
When I was a little girl, I loved going to stay with my grandmother for a week every summer. I have such wonderful memories of her taking me to a matinee movie and then to Friendly's for grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate milk. (To this day, grilled cheese still tastes to me like my grandmother's love!) My grandmother also had a delightful sense of humor, and she never missed an opportunity to share a corny joke. She usually left at least one Reader's Digest magazine for me on the bedside table in her guest room, opened to her favorite feature, "Laughter, the Best Medicine." As an RN my grandmother took laughter very seriously: She fervently believed in the importance of humor to one's physical, mental, and spiritual health. I've rarely laughed as hard with anyone as I did with her during those precious summer visits, and I will cherish those memories always.
It wasn't until I became an adult that I realized that my grandmother's "laughter prescription" had a biblical basis. Scripture is full of moments of mirth - from Sarah chuckling at the idea of becoming a mother in her old age (Genesis 21:6), to Jesus promising His followers that those who weep will one day laugh (Luke 6:21). Too often, people of faith are depicted in the media and entertainment industry as dour and without humor, but that is such a misrepresentation. Throughout the Bible, genuine joy (which is intimately related to laughter) is held up as the most appropriate response to the goodness and grace of God. St. Paul urges believers to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4, emphasis mine), and the point, I think, is clear: God means for us to find delight in the midst of our daily lives.
In a time marked by anxiety and tragedy, it may feel difficult - perhaps even disrespectful - to laugh when so many are suffering. But to refrain from laughter is to reject God's gift of joy. Joy is not the same as happiness, which is situational and can be all-too fleeting. Joy is the ability to experience light and love and levity, knowing that in God's economy suffering does not get the last word. We deprive ourselves of joy and laughter at our own peril.
I learned at an early age that I would be well-served to listen to my grandmother's wisdom, and I can attest that laughter really is good medicine. I encourage you to look for moments of mirth in the day ahead, even if your heart doesn't feel particularly cheerful right now. How might God be trying to lift your spirits, inviting you to experience joy and delight even in the face of hardship? We humans are such silly creatures, after all; there is no shortage of material for humor.
(If you are hard-pressed to find a chuckle today, I suggest taking a few minutes to watch the video below, a Hamilton-based parody of church in a time of pandemic. Thank you, Sue Carroll, for sharing!)