There once was a poor young man who wanted to impress upon a rich lady how hungry he was, hoping to get a handout in the way of a good meal. So he got down on his hands and knees on her front lawn and pretended to eat the grass. When the lady saw him from a window, she rushed to the front door. “Oh, my dear poor boy!” she exclaimed. “Why don’t you go around to the backyard? The grass is much longer there!” The generosity of some people!
We all need a good sense of humor. The Bible says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). God created us with a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at things that are funny, so I’m sure He Himself has a sense of humor—especially when I look at some of the things and people He has created and the funny situations He lets them get into. Someone once said that a sense of humor is the ability to see the funny side of a serious situation, and to laugh at things when they’re not the way they ought to be.
It reminds me of a very old-fashioned formal preacher I knew a long time ago. When leading the church service each Sunday, he would always wear a formal frock coat and trousers, similar to a modern-day tuxedo. He was so particular about the crease in his trousers that while waiting in his office for his part of the service to begin, he would take them off and hang them up, rather than sit down and risk wrinkling them.
One Sunday morning, he was sitting in his office when he suddenly remembered that he was supposed to make an important announcement to all the children, who had just finished Sunday school. He quickly jumped up and dashed out of his office and onto the platform shouting, “Children! Children! Just a moment! I have something very important to show you!”
The kids turned around and looked back at him. For a moment there was a stunned silence. A roar of laughter followed, as they beheld the preacher standing there, holding the announcement high in the air, his boxer shorts and bare knees clearly visible above the altar rail! His young congregation obviously had a good sense of humor!
However, he did not, for when he looked down to see what they were laughing at, he nearly fainted! He barely managed to stumble back into his office, where he collapsed, instead of being able to laugh at himself and his own ridiculous failure to put his pants on before he went onto the platform.
There is such a thing as being too sober and taking some things too seriously, especially ourselves. The ability to laugh at ourselves and our own silly mistakes is a great asset and helps keep us humble. But he who can’t laugh at his own mistakes or take the mistakes of others with a sense of humor either has too much pride or too severe a sense of life. God intended for us to enjoy living, and He has given us the ability, the senses, and the environment to do so. Our main purpose in life, as Martin Luther once said, is “to love God and enjoy Him forever!”—And I might add, to help others do the same by telling them of God’s love and the happy life He offers us all.
Even the martyrs of the early church didn’t die sadly or sorrowfully, but singing and shouting and praising God. If there’s anything we, as Christians, are supposed to be, it’s a happy people, because we’ve got more to be happy about than anybody else in the world (Psalm 144:15). We have the happy love of Jesus, who takes all our burdens, carries all our cares, and lightens all of our sorrows. Jesus says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30), and that it is the way of the transgressor that’s hard (Proverbs 13:15).
If you’re finding His yoke too hard or too heavy to bear, then maybe you’re transgressing by not obeying Him and “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you” (Psalm 55:22). Maybe you’re trying to carry too much and pull too hard. Let go and let God! Let Jesus do it! Don’t work so hard. Just let the Lord do it through you. Maybe you’re trying too hard, instead of letting God do it by His power, His love, His grace and His strength. We’re not the Christian Endeavor Society! In other words, we’re not the Christian Triers, but the Lord Let–ers, for without Him we are nothing and can of our own selves do nothing (John 15:5).
So stop working so hard in your own strength. Quit taking yourself so seriously! Stop and praise the Lord and have a good laugh at your own weaknesses and ridiculous inability to do anything or accomplish anything for the Lord, knowing that if anything’s going to get done, it’s the Lord who’s got to do it through you!
If God can use us, He can use anybody—because we’re nobody! You ought to absolutely crack up laughing at yourself and how ridiculous you are, instead of trying to be so sober and taking yourself so seriously. If He could even use Balaam’s ass to talk to someone (Numbers 22:23-31), He can use us too! What a sense of humor God has! That ought to cheer anybody up. So why not have a good laugh at yourself and admit that whenever you do something right, it’s God that’s doing it through you?
When I was a young man, I knew a dear old missionary who had evangelized the forbidden country of Tibet for 25 years, four years of it behind Communist lines. As he helped wash the dinner dishes one evening, I marveled at his humility, his grace, and his happy, cheerful spirit. Here was a great man who had done a wonderful work for the Lord and should have been very famous, humbly washing dishes with me.
Since I was planning to become a missionary myself, I asked him a question that I considered he, of all people, ought to know the answer to: “What quality do you think a missionary needs the most?” I expected some solemn and profound answer from his greatly superior wisdom and vast wealth of experience, so you can imagine how shocked I was when he paused with his hands in the sink and looked at me with a smile and said, “A sense of humor—to be able to laugh when you feel like crying!” He went on to explain that often, under the almost unbearable tension of the most frightening circumstances, a good laugh nearly saved their lives and their nerves. As he put it, “If you know the Lord’s going to take care of things somehow, you can afford to smile and laugh at how impossible a situation may seem, and how ridiculous the circumstances are. You know God has got to do a miracle!”
When I was a child, my parents frequently traveled in their service for the Lord, and they often took us children with them. I remember what a thrill it was when we got down to our last cent. It was time for God to do a miracle, and we got so excited that we could hardly wait! We would look expectantly in this direction and that, wondering where His supply was going to come from and what unusual or different thing He was going to do this time to provide for us. Maybe we’d find some money in the bottom of one of our bags, or meet an old friend who would invite us home to dinner and give us a place to lay our heads for the night.
Sometimes it was really comical! Once, we didn’t have a penny to our name, but we needed to buy milk for breakfast. My mother said, “Don’t worry, children, the Lord will supply! Let’s go for a walk before breakfast.” And as we stood on the street corner, a brand-new dime (which happened to be just enough to buy a bottle of milk in those days) fell out of the sky and rolled across the sidewalk! We never could figure out how it got there or where it fell from or who dropped it, unless it was God Himself. How funny can you get, dropping coins from the sky! Who else would run his business that way? But God likes to do things differently and in many ways that look downright ridiculous, outlandishly funny, and seemingly impossible to us! It shows His power and that He’s not bound by convention, tradition, custom or “impossibilities.”
So keep a good sense of humor! Be able to laugh at yourself. You’re just about the funniest thing God ever made, and being reminded of that fact ought to help keep you humble. Humor certainly does help to humble you. There’s nothing like the humiliation of a good-natured joke on ourselves to help keep us from getting self_righteous and too sober and severe. Keep humble with good humor! Laugh at yourself!
Just don’t overdo it, as there’s a time for everything. There’s a time to laugh, and a time to weep—a time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4). But let’s always be able to smile through our tears. A ray of sunshine is even more beautiful in the midst of rain. Let’s have a little more sunshine and laughter, and not so much gloom and doom! The world knows enough Hell; let’s show them a little more Heaven! “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven” (Matthew 5:12). As the American poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) wrote, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone” (“Solitude”).
So let’s be happy! Don’t be gloomy and sullen, lest you be like old Jenny the mule. After a Sunday of constantly hearing “no” and “don’t” at the farm of his long_faced, religiously strict grandfather who wouldn’t allow him to play on Sunday, poor little Johnny wandered wistfully out to the barnyard and stroked Jenny’s long nose. “Dear Jenny, you must be awfully religious,” he said, “because you have such a long face, just like Grandfather’s!” That’s some people’s idea of religion. Please don’t let it be yours!