I convince myself I’m pretty mature. And then I see somebody run into a door while texting and it all suddenly becomes very clear. Because, let me tell you, I can laugh for a good twenty minutes. Mercilessly. Not just a little, under-the-breath chortle either. No, I’m talking about laughing so hard that no real sound comes out—just those weird, wheezy throat-squeaks. Then tears. Then snorting. That kind of laughter.
Videos of people stumbling? Don’t even get me started because I can laugh until I nearly pull something. Like a muscle or a spleen or whatever. Which, ironically, might mean that I fare worse than the people I’m watching stumble.
So now that I’ve owned up to my immature laughter, I might as well go ahead and confess that I also laugh at my own jokes. Uproariously. If I say something I think is funny and you don’t laugh, just be ready for me to repeat it with a rising level of volume and obnoxiousness. I have a lot of stamina. You will laugh.
We’re told that “a joyful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22, HCSB) and, not that we needed it to, but science backs it up. I’ve heard that joyful-hearted laughter can boost immunities, decrease pain, reduce heart disease and help with weight and sleeping issues. Wow, why aren’t we taking more of this medicine?
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He kicked off His teaching with the Beatitudes, His beautiful list of “blesseds.” The word translated “blessed” here is from the Greek, “makarios,” and it means contented, blissful…“happy.” But then we look at those Beatitudes and see that “poor in spirit” and “mournful” top the list. It’s a list that takes us all the way to “persecuted.” I know it’s already clear that I’m not the best at deciding what should make us smile, but at first glance, this list doesn’t seem any too joy-inducing to me.
In His day, these words of Jesus were groundbreaking. He changed the way people thought about joy. And though it’s been studied from every direction since, the concept is still revolutionary. Outside of Christ, people generally understand happiness to be all wrapped up in their ability to do whatever they want, whenever they want. They think it’s mostly about having things and money and power. But Jesus taught from that mount—and by His life—that we’re called to think differently.
“Makarios” refers to a happiness that doesn’t depend on circumstances. The first two Beatitudes, “blessed are the poor in spirit” and “blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:3-4, ESV), usher us into this new way of thinking. It’s the gospel way of thinking. Real happiness doesn’t happen until we come to grips with the fact that our soul is utterly impoverished apart from Christ and until we deeply mourn over our sin. Embracing the gospel causes us to look at every single one of those Beatitudes in an entirely new light.
Paul said in Philippians 2:5, “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus” (HCSB). I’m praying that I really will mature there—no stumbling. That I will think more like Jesus and look more like Jesus and be more like Jesus. I’m praying it will spill over into how I share His gospel and love on His people. And that He will be my joy. And that it will morph into all kinds of laughter. Even the wheezy-snorty kind.