by Karen O’Connor
“If they don’t allow laughter in Heaven, then I don’t want to go there.” Martin Luther made no bones about it. He enjoyed a good laugh.
American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr went so far as to say, “Humor is a prelude to faith and laughter is the beginning of prayer.”
When the elders of Charles Spurgeon’s church asked him to tone down his humor in the pulpit, the famous minister was quick to respond, “Gentlemen, if you only knew how much I held back!”
Without a smile, a chuckle, and some good belly laughs, life would be pretty difficult. The great preachers and writers of the past knew this. We all need to look up and out more often or we will drown in sorrow with all the sadness and evil around us in the world today. Liz Curtis Higgs, Patsy Clairemont, and Dennis Swanburg are just a few of the well-known Christian public speakers today who can turn a phrase, tell a story on themselves, or twist a detail resulting in a roomful of people laughing till their eyes tear up.
People come to hear them speak because they know how to lace hope and help with a large dose of humor. I return from such engagements feeling uplifted, inspired, and encouraged. Life seems just a little easier after I’ve laughed my socks off! Maybe this has been your experience too.
When I turned 60, senior moments started chasing me. You know the kind. Lost glasses that turned out to be on my nose. Keys in the fridge and the telephone in a dresser drawer. I had two choices, as I saw it––laugh and ask the world to laugh with me, or hide in a closet and suck my thumb. I decided to do the former. So I wrote a book for people like me—the over-50 crowd who I perceived could use a good laugh instead of a good cry (although that can be useful too!).
A year following the publication of Help, Lord! I’m Having a Senior Moment: Notes to God on Growing Older (Regal Books), I received some wonderful news from the publisher. The book had circled the globe and was drawing letters, e-mails, and comments like this one from a woman in a nursing home: “I’m laughing so hard I fear the nurses are going to think I’ve lost it.” Then she added, “But I don’t care. These letters to God about our senior moments are true-to-life. I can relate to almost every one.”
A few years later I received a thank you note from a woman who had adopted my book Gettin’ Old Ain’t For Wimps as the basis for a Bible study. She caught my attention with that announcement. “But my book is a group of funny stories with a Scripture verse at the end of each. How did you turn it into a Bible study?” I asked.
“The ladies and I read one story a week and have a good laugh over our morning coffee and pastry. Then we turn to the Bible verse you included and talk about how it applies to our lives today. Everyone goes home happy, inspired, and less worried about their everyday problems. It is the best kind of Bible study we’ve ever done.”
It was a humbling experience to hear that what I considered a light-hearted book with bits of humor could be the source of spiritual nourishment to a group of older ladies just like me.
At that point I realized the importance of contributing laughter, joy, and humor to people’s everyday lives—including mine. I could choose to dwell on the hurts and disappointments or turn them on their heads and see the sweet side, lessons learned, experiences shared, and problems resolved. And I realized that God is in the details with us. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
One day my husband stood in the doorway of my home-office appearing chagrined. “I washed my pants with my wallet still in the back pocket,” he stated, his face as red as the shirt he was wearing. With that he held out the soggy billfold and its contents, water droplets hitting the floor. My first thought was to wonder how could he be so negligent—or did I mean stupid? But a moment later I burst out laughing and began writing as fast I could a story for my book on senior moments, ending with “Yep! The man is up to no good––I caught him laundering our money!”
Now we have an ongoing agreement in our household. My husband supplies the senior moments, I do the writing, and we both enjoy the revenue they bring.
Light and Laughter
It’s a rare person who can’t benefit from more light and laughter in life. Here are eight ways to live on the sunny side of the street.
1. Share a funny or embarrassing moment with someone you know and enjoy laughing together. My friend Melissa called to tell me she sprayed her hair with furniture polish. “It fell flat but had a nice shine!” she said.
2. Laugh at yourself even when you feel like crying or hiding under the covers. I thought I’d misplaced my cell phone only to discover I was using it right then to speak with my neighbor. Oh my!
3. Pick out a funny film and watch it with a friend or family member. What About Bob? starring Bill Murray is one of my all-time silly favorites and every year during the holidays I have to see Elf starring Will Ferrell at least once.
4. Cheer up sick friends with a book of humorous stories or jokes. Help them discover that as Will Rogers said, “Laughter is the best medicine.”
5. Find humor even in serious situations. A woman whose hair was growing in after chemo treatments said her husband Dan helped her laugh everyday. “We had a short-haired dog at the time because Dan detested dog hair all over the furniture. When my hair started coming in, he clapped me on the back and said, ‘Great. Now I have a short-haired wife too!’ It did help me keep things in perspective. In fact, I liked my new look so well, I never let my hair grow long again.”
6. Make a list of Bible verses that encourage laughter and attach them to your mirror or bulletin board to review each day. Here are a few from the New International Version.
“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy” (Psalms 126:2).
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful” (Proverbs 15:13).
“A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21).
7. Guard your physical health with humor. “Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health,” says Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D., a pioneer in humor research. Physicians in large numbers seem to agree. Laughter is good for your health.
• Laughter relaxes your body. A hearty laugh relieves stress, leaving your muscles relaxed afterward for nearly an hour. Comedienne Phyllis Diller, now 93 years of age, says, “Laughter fluffs up every cell in your body.” I think she’s got that right.
• Laughter energizes the immune system. It decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies that resist disease. People who laugh and enjoy life seem to get sick less often than those who live under a cloud of worry.
• Laughter triggers the release of endorphins. These natural feel-good chemicals promote an overall sense of well-being and can even relieve pain temporarily.
• Laughter protects the heart. Blood flow increases and blood vessels function better when you laugh, resulting in protection against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
8. Promote emotional and spiritual health with laughter. Humor helps you hold on to a positive, optimistic outlook during times of trouble. Even a small smile can turn things around at least momentarily and give you a new perspective—maybe even a solution.
Barbara Gordon, editor at Harvest House Publishers, edits many humorous books, mine among them. Here’s what she has to say about humor and the Christian life. “Jesus was a man of joy! I picture him laughing and smiling, especially with kids. Humorous books that highlight our wonder—and weaknesses—in living for him remind me that laughter is a gift, and often the best way to connect with people.”
Karen O’Connor is a freelance writer in Watsonville, California.
Karen O’Connor’s Books for Seniors:
Help, Lord! I’m Having a Senior Moment: Notes to God on Growing Older
(Regal Books, 2003)
Help, Lord! I’m Having a Senior Moment–Again!: Laughing Through the Realities of Growing Older
(Regal Books, 2005)
Gettin’ Old Ain’t for Wimps: Inspirations and Stories to Warm Your Heart and Tickle Your Funny Bone
(Harvest House Publishers, 2004)
The Golden Years Ain’t For Wimps:
Humorous Stories for Your Senior Moments
(Harvest House Publishers, 2008)
It’s Taken Years to Get This Old: A Lighthearted Look at the Senior Moments
(Harvest House Publishers, 2010)
And other ways to fight worry with humor—for any age:
Scared Silly: Taking on Your Fears, Worries, and What-ifs
by Marcy Bryan
(Standard Publishing, 2007)
If you struggle with anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, or constant craving for a chocolate IV, Marcy can help. In Scared Silly she goes after these with useful tips and tricks—and most importantly Spirit-given insight and godly wisdom—all punctuated with humor.
For more information: www.standardpub.com