News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 23, 2012

Laughter is more than just a physical act

Verna Davis
Special to the Tribune-Star


Martin Luther — scholar, reformer, hymn writer — penned the words, “A mighty fortress is our God.” Translator of New Testament. Bold defender of the faith. Martin Luther told an emperor and a pope and a council of church offenders he would not back down from what he believed. He also said, “If we are not allowed to laugh in heaven, I don’t want to go there.”

William Shakespeare — successful playwright, owner of a popular play house, friend of royalty and receiver of high honors and accolades — tackled serious subjects such as madness, murder, mayhem, mystery. Yet he often asked, “If you tickle us, do we not laugh?”

Abraham Lincoln was president during a painful, costly, dreadful war, lost two sons, married to a woman who was fiercely criticized by those who swore their loyalty to him, haunted by deaths of fathers and sons and brothers on opposite sides of the battlefield, and deluged by reports of slaughter and destruction. Yet, days after delivering the Gettysburg address, a reporter asked Lincoln how he was able to cope with the stress of a nation divided and at war with itself. Lincoln replied, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”

Mark Twain — author, humorist, lecturer, biographer of Joan of Arc — yearned to be known as a serious writer. However, insecure in the less serious nature in his popular writings, he said, “I have had a ‘call’ to literature of a low order — humorous. It is nothing to be proud of, but it is my strongest suit.”

Will Rogers — expert elocutionist, popular entertainer — couched the harshest of truths in the funniest of words. He mused, “Everything is funny, as long as it is happening to somebody else.”

We don’t have to be a famous writer to know, “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” Proverbs 17:22. We don’t have to be a famous theologian to know, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: … a time to weep and a time to laugh,” Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4. We don’t have to be a famous comedian to know,  “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them,’” Psalm 126:2,3.

Oh sure, at times, laughter is not appropriate. Tragedy, death, illness and other circumstances may smother our laughter. At times being sensitive to the pain of those around us calls for laughter to be stifled. At times. But only for a time. Because laughter is more than a physical act. It is an attitude of anticipation, hope, peace, security and a longing for the future. Laughter knows that tragedy is temporary and pain will soon be parting. Laughter comes from knowing 1st John 5:13 is true: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

We laugh because our hope is in Him. So, it’s time for us to stop acting like we were baptized in pickle juice, OK?

Verna Davis, speaker and writer, maybe reached at