When was the last time you doubled over with a side splitting bout of laughter and cried tears of joy? Chances are, it wasn’t recently, and if you’re thinking about the state of the economy, geopolitics or world affairs, you won’t be any time soon either. But if you’ve been demonstrably joyful recently, then I’m certainly jealous. When my younger brother and I would have tickling fights ‘way back in the day,’ my joyful expression and rib wrenching laughter could result in such pain that I wanted it to stop because my rib cage would ache so badly. (He wasn’t merciful at the time.)
Friend, the truth is we need to laugh more often and not just for giggles’ sake because there’s both a spiritual and physical reason for doing so. There’s indeed a joy within us believers that can lie dormant if we’re not careful. Some of us have forgotten how to access it and unfortunately our face bears witness to this. It’s time to reconnect with what God’s word says about joy and experience it once more for ourselves. Some theologians have tried to split joy into three categories: natural joy (gladness, contentment, satisfaction or cheerfulness), moral joy (peace, serenity) and spiritual joy (joy of faith, rejoicing of hope). There are clearly different reasons for expressing joy but the bottom line is, we need to experience it more!
Whilst most of us are familiar with the scripture, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: But a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Prov 17:22-KJV), other translations perhaps offer a better understanding in the modern vernacular. For example, “A rejoicing heart doeth good to the body” (YLT), “A joyful heart worketh an excellent cure” (RHM) and “A cheerful heart makes a quick recovery” (Knox). Undoubtedly, joy has an impact on our physical condition, but how far exactly does its influence extend? Can it really help us make a ‘quick recovery’? Could the medicinal benefits of a joyful heart be literal and corroborated by both the scientific and medical community? What’s interesting is that medical science is now validating what the Bible says about joy with laughter as its primary expression. Not that the Bible needs any validation whatsoever, but the findings are interesting nonetheless and I’d like to share some of them with you. After all God sits in the heavens and laughs, so why shouldn’t you (Ps 2:4, Ps 37:13, Ps 59:8)?
Jeanne Segal (Ph.D.) an emotional intelligence expert, author and mental health guru who’s studied the power of laughter down the years has found many benefits as follows:
- Boosts Immunity
- Lowers stress hormones
- Decreases pain
- Relaxes your muscles, burns calories
- Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits
- Adds joy and zest to life
- Eases anxiety and tension
- Relieves stress
- Improves mood and mental functioning
- Enhances resilience, improves self-esteem
- Strengthens relationships
- Attracts others to us, reduces loneliness
- Enhances teamwork
- Helps defuse conflict
- Promotes group bonding
Other keen researchers at the University of Maryland have discovered even more amazing benefits of ‘the giggles’ (listed below):
- Blood flow: Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally — expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
- Immune response: “Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response,” says Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well.
- Relaxation and sleep: The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin’s memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
Evidently joy has a profoundly beneficial impact on our physical bodies as the Bible attests and this hidden aspect of our soul condition goes largely undiagnosed in modern medicine. Some have called laughter the ‘voice of joy.’ If that’s true, we need to give more voice to it in our own lives by manifesting ‘the chuckles’ more frequently. This extensive scientific research reveals perhaps metaphorically that joy is seemingly the invisible or intangible ‘glue’ that keeps our physical body in a healthy state. Without experiencing joy regularly, we suffer needlessly and fail to take advantage of the numerous health benefits of laughter especially. It’s one thing to study ice cream but it’s another thing to taste it. Likewise it’s one thing to study joy and another to experience it. We need to experience joy on a continual basis and our lack thereof could be turning unbelievers away from us. The ungodly philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche candidly observed the general melancholic demeanor of the average Christian when he said, “The Christians would have to look ‘more saved’ if they hope to persuade me.” That’s something to chew on.
Union of Joy with our First Love
Remember the joyful euphoria you felt when you first got saved and knew you weren’t going to Hell? Remember the six-month honeymoon with the Lord when everything seemed to fall into your lap? This was no honeymoon, it was meant to last a lifetime. It’s a union of joy for life with our first love (Rev 2:4) and one that remains, not a brief fleeting romance all too easily forgotten. There is of course a joy to our accomplishments and joy that comes from our friends or family etc. but this is not the joy of which the Bible specifically speaks. Its’ context always surrounds our response to God’s Grace which is constant but the trouble is our focus can waver occasionally. This elusive ‘feeling’ of joy comes from our union with Christ because of our salvation; however, it can definitely wane if our focus shifts away from Christ because feelings follow action, not vice versa. If you put your mind on God (Isa 26:3) and thank Him for your many blessings, the ‘joy of the Lord’ will return swiftly! Yes, we have struggles, trials, temptations, persecutions, hardships and strife yet our joy should remain regardless. Our joy should abide within us despite these occurrences because the joy that Christ gave us is not dependent upon our circumstances but in spite of them (Jn 14:27). Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), and not a ‘conditional’ feeling at the mercy of life’s circumstances which are subject to perpetual change.
The Empowerment of Joy
What many people fail to realize is that joy was granted to us as a form of empowerment to overcome afflictions, as the scripture states, “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thess 1:6). The plain hermeneutic of scripture reveals that we may experience joy regardless of our difficulties and this is a wonderful blessing if we get a hold of it! Joy also brings supernatural spiritual strength (Neh 8:10) to endure what may lie ahead. There’s no greater offence than to laugh in the face of our enemies and as far as we’re concerned, the devil is a whipped foe (Col 2:15). We need to laugh in his face more often as we’re the Triumphant Church, not a cowering one that seeks future victory because the victory is already in our possession! We have victory now as we’re seated in heavenly places in Christ (Eph 1:3, 20) but for some of us this needs to be transmitted to our face.
I cannot stress enough how much I want you to receive this message. The Lord’s been sharing with me recently the importance of holding onto my own joy and He corrected my general passivity or apathy toward retaining it, which was certainly not helping my life. I gave it away all too easily. Consequently I was harboring a wrong attitude, thinking if all my circumstances lined up just as I wanted, then and only then, would I feel joyful. This, my friend is ‘stinking thinking‘ and is not biblical. The joy of the Lord is accessible 24/7 whenever we focus on Christ via His word, praise, worship or giving thanks unto Him. It’s a matter of perspective and we choose our perspective each and every day. We choose daily whether we’re going to magnify God (Acts 10:46) or magnify the problems around us. A cursory scriptural exegesis of the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John reveals six core characteristics of the Christian life, with joy mentioned firstly along with holiness, truth, mission, unity and love (Jn 17:13-26). Joy is a trait highly esteemed by the Lord and we should guard it well for our own benediction because it’s one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit that can sustain us, especially during difficult times.
Joy is a gift that’s already been given to us and it’s our choice whether to give it away or not. Jesus said we’re not to ‘let’ our heart be troubled nor ‘let’ it be afraid (Jn 14:27). If our heart condition is fearful, it’s because we’ve not stewarded it correctly, as all the issues of life originate from our heart (Prov 4:23). There’s a resident joy and peace that accompanies our relationship with God the Father, His son Jesus Christ and the precious Holy Spirit. When we shift our focus or fellowship away from the Godhead, we become susceptible to losing our joy. I challenge you right now to search your own heart and let the ‘joy of the Lord’ come forth because it’s one of the many blessings of being in Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, many of us have unknowingly or carelessly let it go. We don’t want to let such an awesome gift go to waste because the Lord meant joy for our well-being and the Bible is replete with the topic. Seek the Lord today about possible ‘joy stealers’ in your life like unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, anger, selfishness, anxiety, and so forth. If you feel convicted about this teaching, ask Him to reveal to you where you’ve missed it.
We need to clear the log jam that’s preventing the ‘joy of the Lord’ from bubbling up within our hearts! Ask Him to reveal areas where your joy has been compromised or stolen and enter therein my friend to the deepest and most joyful of giggles! It’s time to release those feel good endorphins and enter into the ‘joy of the Lord’ once more!
- Harrison, Bromiley & Henry, Wycliffe Dictionary of Theology (Hendrickson’s Publishers, Inc. Peabody, MA, 1999), 299.
|Senior Pastor Carl Joseph desires to see God move in power in the downtown Denver area. He is joined in the ministry by his wife, Amy. In his spare time, he rides his motorcycle and plays golf.|