Behind the smile.
King Solomon wrote plenty of common sense. Let's not underplay the Divine inspiration of his many words---Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Our Christian worldview affirms the sanctity, veracity, and authority of his writing. He was certainly guided in authoring these three power-packed volumes of our Old Testament. Still, his grasp of the human spirit, our highs and lows, his moments of personal reflection and lament, often inspire me like no other. Every single day a Proverb registers something important in my own personal life. Thinking about the value of humor this week, which he wrote about in many verses, brought a note of conviction and sorrow. He wrote---
Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief.
Proverbs 14: 13, ESV
Solomon certainly understood the therapeutic value of humor. Many of his Proverbs celebrate the spiritual blessings of a glad heart, cheerful spirit, joyous outlook, up-lifting words, singing and rejoicing, and general life happiness. He also knew, even in those more simplistic times, the harsh realities of problems and trouble. Long before cognitive science and advanced study of the human brain Solomon understood the profound impact of life difficulties. It was true then and is true now: hard times are etched more deeply in the human memory system than laughable ones. It's why we dwell on them so much. That's one of the significant outcomes of laughter and humor. Even a chuckle can provide a reprieve from enduring worry, anxiety, discouragement, or emotional stress.
Studies indicate the momentary nature of humor given in demanding circumstances. Many corporate entities are installing play areas in their work spaces to to give their employees times of fun and laughter in their high impact and taxing careers. The job descriptions and work objectives aren't lowered or altered for users. But, they do get a brief escape from the treadmill, what the experts in the psychology department call a
short vacation, or even a numbing of the memory. Humor provides that same benefit during times of endurance, waiting, questioning, imagining---and all the other human mind exercises. Laugh, snicker, grin, nod, agree. But, as our dad always told us, life goes on. The agony of a dark time remains behind the smile.
Yes, encouragement is the deal these days. These uncertain times challenge us in more ways than can be enumerated in this tight space. Believers are commanded to encourage one another (see 1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11). We are to be kind and seek the good of everyone, beyond the church doors (see 1 Thessalonians 5: 15, e.g.). That's a reason, among many, that we should have more than humor in our encouragement arsenal. We should be prepared to move beyond the moment in our care for others. Often listening is a next affirming step, or a gesture.
Jesus saw the wear and tear on his disciples. They were following him in very hard, demanding, and pressure packed times. He had been speaking to them in figures of speech, parables, what seemed puzzling to them. Then he said, clearly---
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
John 16: 33, ESV
He comforted and encouraged them so they would have peace. And, in my book, that should be our aim with others...moments of peace, to help them deal with the realities behind the smile. There's usually some trouble lurking there.
Humor Pill for the Day
Stepped on my scale this morning and it said:
Please use social distancing. One person at a time.
- from FB Page of Citadel 1971 classmate Vinny DiMizio