Spiritual Laughter

FFF 6:5 (May 1960)

Spiritual Laughter

John Rankin

God has given man His creature the faculty to laugh. Who can doubt this? More muscles are exercised in a good hearty laugh than in a frown or scowl. It is a calamity that through Adam who brought sin into the world, this capacity has been abused. False laughter frequently characterizes the unregenerate, the man who knows not God. The child of God although beset by sorrows incidental to a natural existence, can say with Paul, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,” because his joy is “in the Lord”; he knows what true laughter means. There is a dark side, of course, to this picture as well as a bright one.

Our purpose in this simple outline is to draw attention, without much comment, to what the Word of God has to say, first, about false laughter, and then, about true spiritual laughter. We shall notice three features of each.

False Laughter

Is hollow: This is apparent in the following Scriptures. It may be good for the reader to seek out these passages in the Bible: “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful,” “Sorrow is better than laughter,” “I said of laughter, It is mad,” “For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool.”

Is hateful: We can discern this in the quotations of various godly men. David said, “Our enemies laugh among themselves.” Nehemiah, perplexed about his foes complained, “They laughed us to scorn, and despised us.” Hezekiah, thinking about the attitude of some towards God’s servants, declared, “They laughed them to scorn, and mocked them.”

When our Lord said about the twelve-year-old maid, “The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth,” the people laughed Him to scorn. As the Master of death He stood in their midst, but before He spoke the life-giving word, He put the laughing ones in their right place, outside. Only those in sympathy with His loving heart and purpose were left to witness the miracle of His compassion and power.

Who can describe how keenly our Lord felt when on the cross, dying for our sins, He saw the awful callousness of the jeering crowds and heard their taunts? Looking up into the face of His Father God, He complained, “All they that see Me laugh Me to scorn.” “When He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” What an example for us!

Is hurtful: When the wicked and the worldly are condemned by the testimony of the righteous, they may laugh at these godly ones until they are hurt. Was it not to the wicked that our Lord said, “Woe to you that laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep.” Speaking of this same class, James said, “Let your laughter be turned into mourning.” Those who unite to rebel against God, to make sport of His beloved Son, to make light of the sin offering of Calvary, and to sneer at the things of God in general should remember that it is written, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.” Again, “Because I have called, and ye refused; . . I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.” Here it is solemnly true, He that laughs last, laughs best. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

Gladly we turn to other scriptural portions which remind us of joyous laughter and its source.

True Laughter

Is happy: Joyous laughter in Sarah’s case was not to make her happy but because she was happy. The reason was obvious, she held in her arms the son whom God had promised her. When the Lord first revealed to Abraham that Sarah was to have a child, she laughed within herself. The Lord heard that silent laugh, and asked Abraham, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh, … Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” It was useless for Sarah to deny, saying “I laughed not.” The Lord immediately declared, “Nay; but thou didst laugh.” With this should be read from the New Testament that, “Through faith also Sarah … was delivered of a child … because she judged Him faithful who had promised.”

Sarah learned that the divine promise was good and true. When all was fulfilled, she made the sublime statement, “God has made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.” The name given to this son of promise was Isaac, meaning laughter. All this comes very close to us for we read, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). What a proof of the divine inspiration and accuracy of the Holy Scriptures, and that by the omission of one letter, “s”. Since it is seed, singular, and not seeds, plural, the prophecy can only refer to one for that seed is Christ. It is in Him alone that our redemption rests secure. We, therefore, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; we laugh with Sarah as she said we should.

Is hearty: This is suggested in Psalm 126:1, “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” Wherever there is true freedom, there is true laughter. This, of course, was nothing to some of the Chaldeans, we learn from Psalm 123:3-4. These had caused the captives to cry to God for mercy. “Our soul,” cried they, “Is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease.” In Psalm 126, in contrast, we see that there were some who were deeply impressed by what they had witnessed, and spoke of Jehovah as a reality. “The Lord (Jehovah),” was their exclamation, “hath done great things for them.” To which the recipients of divine grace replied, “The Lord (Jehovah), hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.”

Is holy: This is the impression we gather from the words of Sarah to which we revert: “God,” said she, indicating that her blessing was divine, “hath made,” her blessing was also definite, “me,” her blessing was likewise distinctive, “to laugh,” for her blessing was delightful. This surely is language befitting the lips of every true believer in the Lord Jesus.

As one whom God was correcting, Job must have wondered at the words of Eliphas, “At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh” (Job 5:22). Nevertheless, they were true. God would be his refuge and strength in time of trouble. The remainder of the speech of Eliphas declares, “Thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace, and that thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.” This provision for the believer’s security, sanctity, and satisfaction has been found good in the experiences of those who have learned to put their confidence in a faithful God.