“A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 CSB
Happy go lucky will describe my personality as a child. Life of the party, friend of all and extremely playful. Our only son started out like me, always finding happiness wherever he could, poking fun at his twin sister who often took me back to my childhood with my own older brother who was introverted and serious-minded. ‘Can’t you ever be serious one day of your life?’, she would often ask her brother who thought life was all about fun as a child. Our daughter often echoed my brother’s constant puzzle at my always unserious disposition to life when growing up as boys. His reflective, introverted personality made him exceptionally brilliant (and he still is), but a boring friend of course. Poor academic results in the first two years of elementary school would however become my wake up call to the fact that life is not all about fun. At the end of the day, it seemed better to perform well at school than to have a lot of friends.
Learning to put fun aside and take life seriously would however mean embracing sadness at times as an ally and not understanding how to put things in proper perspective. It was a matter of trying to be someone different and not just a matter of regulating the excesses of my sanguine nature. Mood swings were now welcomed for balance as my mum now began to probe what was wrong and got outbursts of anger for a reaction. She occasionally wondered what happened to her son and wanted the happy one back. I’d forever be grateful for my encounter with Christ early in life. Thank God, that has helped so I was able to guide our son to a proper balance. I came under the influence of a brand of Christianity that promoted walking by faith, walking love and maintaining a positive attitude. That has helped me to put life in proper perspective, understanding that we must take life seriously, but not too seriously. We must maintain a cheerful spirit while focused on our goals, dealing with opposition, setbacks, spiritual warfare and even a worldwide pandemic. We must learn to face adversity but with a determination to overcome it and yet maintain our joy in the midst of it. In fact, the command of PAUL is to rejoice always and to rejoice evermore (Philippians 4.4, I Thessalonians 5.16).
With the global COVID 19 pandemic and the resultant economic recession, depression is ravaging the world. Controlling the spread of the corona virus has led to lockdowns of cities and nations, mandatory social isolation, job losses, suspension of social gatherings, declining fortunes, suspended projects…and the list is endless. All of that has resulted in more depressions and suicides, deteriorating mental and physical health and hence the need for us to fight for our mental wellbeing. Laughter characterized my childhood and I want to recommend it to you. Our world needs it today, more than ever and the Bible supports my position. Look at another translation of our opening text:
“A joyful, cheerful heart brings healing to both body and soul. But the one whose heart is crushed struggles with sickness and depression.” Proverbs 17:22 TPT
According to the highly respected Mayo Clinic of USA, laughter on the short term will do the following:
- Stimulate many organs: Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
- Activate and relieve your stress response: A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
- Soothe tension: Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
And on the long term, it will:
- Improve your immune system: Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
- Relieve pain: Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
- Increase personal satisfaction: Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
- Improve your mood: Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier.
While modern science has come to the above discoveries, the Bible had revealed this fact several thousands of years ago. Laughter today has become a part of 21st-century wellness modality. People are encouraged to fake it because the brain and the body often does not know the difference, although heartfelt laughter has a more powerful effect. But the Bible has even better admonition in Ephesians 5.18:
“And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless living, but be filled by the Spirit:” Ephesians 5:18 CSB
Being filled with the Spirit is likened to being drunk with wine. The believer should learn to spend sufficient time to get ‘drunk’ in the Spirit daily. Like those who get drunk with alcohol, it’s a matter of the quantity of the drink which requires quality time and the right mixtures. Praying in the Spirit for at least one hour(and that is possible under our breath in our fast-paced world); mixing prayer with worship, meditation in the word, some fasting, watching impartation and joy services online, enjoying biblical humor and just laughing by faith at times will get us drunk afresh. Over the years, I have seen amazing miracles happen at services where the Holy Spirit has released unusual measures of joy. Long term asthmas, depression, bronchitis, growths and even deep-seated anger and resentments have been cured. If through laughter, incredible miracles could happen instantly and in a matter of minutes, a cheerful heart will definitely have a medicinal effect on the body.
Today, I am learning to rediscover the boy in me that was full of joy, humor, good cheer and enthusiasm. It’s helping me to cope with the times and to stay in faith to keep receiving the miracles of God that I need to triumph over this difficult season.