Not long ago someone asked me, “How can you find so much humor in life?” Actually, I had never really thought about it. Humor, laughter and joy have always been a part of my life and my family’s approach to tough situations. But I suppose the point of the question was this: since life is filled with so much misery, heartache, difficulty, horrors and bloodshed, how can one find a reason to laugh?
I can only answer for myself. But it seems to me that there is a strong correlation between the Gospel and joy. Gospel, after all, means “good news” – and whenever Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, he most commonly used stories with a party atmosphere, laughter, celebration and incredibly gracious hospitality.
As for my pastoral experience, I have found that people come to worship to hear good news. They hear enough sad, depressing, horrendous and hate-filled stories as it is, and when they come before God, they want a good word. That doesn’t mean that the pastor doesn’t speak hard truths, or speak to the realities in which we live, but somewhere in the message and the music people need to hear and experience the Gospel – which is uplifting, helpful, directing and challenging.
As a writer, I also can attest to the need for humor. We now live in a culture where, when people disagree, they not only share their disagreements verbally, but many times set out to humiliate, berate and even destroy the other. We seem to have lost our ability to listen to another person, to speak when it is our turn and to disagree respectfully or – as my parents taught me – to use good manners. Sadly, our humorless approach seems to be more common in our society and in the church.
I laugh and try to help others laugh, because I believe humor is a gift of God. Before I laugh at someone else, I try to laugh at myself first. After all, I have many faults, weaknesses, insecurities and yes, my sins. But in spite of these, it is a joy to know that the Creator is watching over us and can help us through life’s sorrows, sufferings and failures. This too is Gospel, and these thoughts make me smile.
This past summer our family experienced an enormous number of life changes, both my daughter and son graduated – from college and high school respectively. My daughter was married, found a teaching job and now lives in Bloomington. We moved my son into a dorm at Vincennes University; and my wife’s job required an enormous output of time and energy – making all of these changes even more intense in our new “empty nest.”
While driving home after moving my son into his dorm room, my wife and I found ourselves in tears as we drove past our old high school, but then we started to laugh and I know why. It was because we realized we were blessed; God would see us through. And there was Good News to live for.
That’s what I’m talking about.
Todd Outcalt (along with Michelle Knight) serve as pastors at Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg and have written He Said, She Said: Biblical Stories from a Male and Female Perspective.