Friday, September 2, 2011

Spiritual Benefits of Laughter

A joyful heart is good medicine
[Proverbs 17:22a NAS]

Medical science has shown that laughter is good for you - laughter is reported to lower stress, blood pressure and bad cholesterol, and boost our immune systems in a variety of ways. What about the spiritual benefits of laughter?

Laughter is child-like.
Studies also show that children laugh an average of 400 times per day, while adults laugh an average of only 15 times daily. Considering Jesus’ statement below, we adults might consider deliberately increasing our daily dose of laughter:

"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
[Matthew 18:3 NIV]

Joy is strong.
Laughter flows from a position of spiritual strength and victory. Remember: “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”  [Nehemiah 8:10b]. The Bible says that God laughs when nations, peoples, even kings and rulers, try to oppose Him:

The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
[Psalm 2:4 NIV]

In Christ, we, too, are positioned to laugh at ungodly opposition:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
[Ephesians 2:6 NIV]

Filled with godly strength, the woman in Proverbs 31 “laughs with no fear of the future" [NLT]:

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
[Proverbs 31:25 NIV]

Pastor Steve Backlund (author of Possessing Joy) suggests that laughter is the appropriate Christian response to lies and intimidation by the devil – in fact, he says he regularly takes time to laugh at specific negative, threatening or unscriptural thoughts being presented to him, such as, “God won’t meet your needs this time,” or, “nothing happens when you pray.”  HA HA HA !!!  :)
Promises Fulfilled
Sarah named her miraculous son of promise “Isaac,” which means “laughter” or “he shall laugh.” I thought Sarah named Isaac because she and Abraham both laughed when God told them they would have a child in old age (Genesis 17:17 & 18:12), but God gave the name “Isaac” (Gen. 17:19).  Laughter is an expression of Sarah’s joy at the fulfillment of God’s promise to her, and also points to the future joy of God’s covenant promise of salvation through this son’s descendant, Jesus.

Sarah said, God has blessed me with laughter and all who get the news will laugh with me!
[Genesis 21:6 MSG]

Laughter and joy are related to answered prayer and fulfillment of God’s promises - Jesus said:
“…Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full."
[John 16:24b NAS]

Why wait? Jesus found strength by looking beyond temporary pain to what God had promised:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
[Hebrews 12:2 NIV]

Why postpone our joy until we see fulfillment? Can we trust Him enough to laugh by faith?  :)

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.
[2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV]

It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going.
[2 Corinthians 5:7 MSG]

Winnie’s “Crazy” Laughter
Some people call Winnie Banov “crazy.” When I first met her at renewal meetings in 1997-98, I rarely heard her speak – she does speak and teach beautifully from the Word of God, but back then it seemed like all I ever heard her do was laugh.  :)  I’d been through a painful divorce after many years of abandonment and abuse, then further rejection and misjudgment by religious people. Winnie’s “crazy” laughter sounded heavenly to me. One evening after a church service, I said to her, “I want what you have!” – to which she replied, “You can! you can have it all!” - then she laughed some more.  :)  Winnie is a living demonstration that God has plenty of joy for all of us!

This past summer, I was in eastern Europe on a mission trip with Global Celebration, and Zhoro Penchev – a Bulgarian pastor and long-time friend of the Banovs – told us a story about what he thought of Winnie when she first began to manifest this kind of laughter. He told us he said to Georgian, “Your wife has gone crazy. You should just take her to the crazy doctor!”  :)  Until…

One day Georgian, Winnie, Zhoro and his wife Merry and some other Bulgarian missionaries were doing an outreach in a gypsy neighborhood. Zhoro was watching the van, because they were in a dangerous area, with lots of drug-related crime. A female addict, half out of her mind on drugs, hit him in the face and tried to steal his cell phone out of his pocket.  Zhoro is a big, beefy guy with a wrestler’s physique, and he said it took him quite by surprise that this woman would attack him! So the next day, when he saw her coming in the neighborhood, he warned Winnie to watch out. Winnie said confidently, “Get behind me!” Zhoro was puzzled – Winnie is a slender woman, too.

The drug addict approached with the same look in her eyes as when she hit Zhoro the previous day. And Winnie began to laugh… glorious, Spirit-filled laughter. Zhoro told us that little gypsy woman froze right in front of Winnie, who took her hand and began to dance with her, and the two of them danced and laughed together for the rest of the afternoon. Now, that’s crazy anointed laughter!  :)

So… feel free to laugh!   Laugh, because it’s good for you – spirit, soul, & body. It’s healthy for God’s children to laugh, liberally and often.  Laugh, because your heavenly position in Christ is one of spiritual strength and victory. Laugh, because the promises of God belong to you already.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
[I Corinthians 1:25 NIV]

“God is in a good mood.” – Bill Johnson

Bonus: link to Winnie Banov's "Bliss Report"
(in case you didn't know that "bliss" is a Bible word :))

"Laughing Jesus" by Sue Morrissey
To donate or purchase prophetic art (including this image)

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