A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit drouth the bones. Proverbs 17:22
I graduated from Concordia Seminary in 1973, and that’s the same year when American newspapers first published the image of the “Laughing Jesus.” The drawing shows a bearded, long-haired man with his head tilted back with his mouth open wide, laughing an open throated laugh. That was 46 years ago, and when it was first published, some people found it outrageous, novel, whimsical, shocking, and even “corrective” in that it added a new dimension to thinking about Jesus’ humanity.
Today, the image of the Laughing Jesus can be found on T-shirts, coffee mugs, and other places. It was created by an artist in the United Methodist church, and the rights to it were later bought by the Paulist priests in San Francisco. Since that time it’s been reproduced many times and there are at least 16 versions of it on the internet.
One of the criticisms of Christians is that we are too serious and lack humor. The Laughing Jesus altered that perception for some people, and today many churches sing joyful, upbeat songs accompanied by guitars, drums, and electronic keyboards. People laugh and sing and dance and sway and clap their hands with great enthusiasm in many churches.
My father had a subscription to Reader’s Digest while I was growing up, and his favorite section of that magazine was entitled “Laughter is the Best Medicine”. It included cartoons, jokes, fun stories, and humor. He would laugh out loud when he found something funny.
Physicians have known for a long time that laughter is often the best medicine for pain relief recovery. Norman Cousin’s in his ground-breaking book entitled “Anatomy of an Illness” tells the story of how he was cured by using self-induced bouts of laughter brought on by comic films and comedy TV shows. He discovered his terrible physical pain went away for hours after laughing.
Medicine has determined there are many health benefits of laughter:
1. Lowers Blood Pressure.
2. Reduces stress hormone levels.
3. Improves cardiac health.
4. Boosts T-cells and immune system.
5. Triggers the release of endorphins.
6. Can reduce anxiety and acts as a natural anti-depressant,
7. Produces a general sense of well-being
The Mayo Clinic has promoted laughter as a leading strategy for reducing stress see link: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456 Other researchers agree. Laughter is good for you.
Laughter can help you “lighten the load” when life gets you down or crushes you. Jesus placed His loving hands on many hurting and despondent people. He joined with down-cast and outcast people who were crippled by life and in physical ways. He gave them hope, in this life and the life to come. His words and deeds gave joy in dark times. He cast out demons and confronted evil. When I look at the Laughing Jesus, I can imagine Him breaking bread with strangers and friends with an occasional chuckle as they ate and drank together. His love for them came through loud and clear. He announced His Father’s love for them all.
After I had surgery, a friend suggested that I watch Abbott and Costello films to cope with the pain of recovery. So I took the suggestion and watched their films. I forgot about the pain from my surgery. I had less pain and discomfort from those wonderful comedy films. When I feel down emotionally I listen to uplifting classical music or watch a TV comedy or film. Laughter can be the best medicine.
Bathing ourselves in God’s promises and word Is the ultimate pain relief we need. He is our comforter, healer, and physician. He takes us in His arms and cradles us in His bosom. Praise Be To God. Alleluia.
(This One Minute is written by Pastor Ron Rehrer, Counselor for Church Workers in the PSD. For help, contact Ron at 949-433-5182 or email firstname.lastname@example.org)