Free to laugh

There are few sounds more enjoyable than the sound of a child laughing. I heard that special sound recently when I was on a plane, seated next to a young couple and their little girl who was maybe a little over a year old. We hadn’t been seated long when the sound of laughter came. It was one of those from-the-belly, body-shaking, take-control-of-you kind of laughs. It was so fun to hear and to see the expression on her face.

Blonde Haired child

Little kids laugh with a sense of freedom. They don’t worry about whether somebody might think they’re silly. If something strikes them as funny they laugh.

Adults can get overly serious about non-serious matters. I was criticized once for quoting from a comic strip in a magazine editorial I wrote. The issue wasn’t with what was quoted but that it came from a comic strip. It would have been good for the critic to read the comics himself. It might have helped him to laugh more and not be so serious all the time. Too often adults lose that simple, beautiful childlike joy.

Jesus said we are to “change and become like little children” (Matthew 18:3). We are first of all to become like little children in humble dependency on God. It’s good to become like little children also in feeling a freedom to laugh and cry.

“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. … The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:1-3). We’re not going to laugh much if we spend all our time thinking about what we have failed to do and what we ought to do. We’re invited, however, to fill our thoughts with the great things the Lord has done. That fills our mouths with laughter and joy.

The song “Blown Away” encourages joy by asking: “When did we get so serious? … I want to be blown away by your extraordinary grace every ordinary day.”

The little girl seated next to me on the flight didn’t laugh the whole time. At one point great sadness came upon her and she let that be known.

In Psalm 126 it speaks of mouths filled with laughter but it also talks about sowing in tears and going out weeping. Our journey through life has its times of sorrow. We can be hesitant, however, to express our sadness because we don’t want to appear weak and vulnerable. Christians worry sometimes that people will question the strength of our faith if we’re honest when we’re feeling down and discouraged.

At times we behave as if we are actors on a stage, afraid to reveal our true selves, looking to other people to give us cues as to what we are to do and whether it is time to laugh or to cry. Jesus sets us free to be real. He knows what we’re really like and still He loves us and died for us. We can be honest about our weakness, admitting it is Christ who gives us strength. We are set free to laugh and rejoice because we are loved by Jesus and our place in His family is secure by His grace. We sing the songs of joy, knowing they will never end.

So what?

What do you do with people who are not afraid to die? That was the dilemma facing the ones who tried to persecute the early Christians, and those who still attempt in vain to intimidate Christians today. Those early Christians had spent time with the resurrected Lord. They knew He had died but was raised to life again. A threat to kill them didn’t scare them. They were confident Jesus would either protect them from death or give them life after death. Either option was fine. The authorities were bewildered and asked, “‘What are we going to do with these men?’ … They could not decide how to punish them” (Acts 4:16, 21).

The resurrection of Jesus really happened. The early Christians were convinced of it, and it caused them to have what could be described as a “so what” attitude. The trials of life didn’t concern them as much as they had before. When they got arrested, so what. They knew from experience if the Lord wanted them out of jail He’d send an angel to escort them out. It didn’t matter much to them if they lost wealth or property. They knew the real value in life was the good news of Jesus. “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Because of the resurrection of Jesus we can have that same kind of attitude. We may not get noticed by others or be their first choice. So what. We are chosen by God to belong to Him. So what if we’re not liked by the world. We’re so loved by Christ that He gave His life on the cross for our sins. Maybe you don’t own much of anything and money always seems tight. So what. Think of what we have when our faith is in Christ. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7-8).

Jesus said God’s kingdom “is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field” (Matthew 13:44). The man was glad to give up everything he had in order to get the treasure. Jesus died on the cross and rose again so that we can have the treasure of the kingdom. So what if it costs everything to get it.  It is most definitely worth it.

The other day I was thinking about what to do regarding some difficulty and then my thoughts moved on to thinking about Easter coming up ahead. Thinking about Easter reminded me: Jesus rose from the dead. The challenge didn’t seem to be such a big deal any more. Thinking about it in light of the resurrection caused me to say, “So what?” What is truly a big deal is Jesus died on the cross and is now alive forever. If the Lord can defeat death He can certainly overcome the challenges we face. The problems that come our way seem small compared to the great and wonderful truth that Jesus lives.