After Zeuxis, a Greek painter, completed his painting of an old woman, he thought it was pretty funny. The painter laughed so hard at his creation he couldn’t catch is breath. He ended up choking to death! (Mentalfloss.com relates this and nine other stories about people in history who laughed themselves to death.)
It’s one thing to laugh until you cry. But laugh until you die? I’ve heard the phrase, “I laughed my head off.” Really? Maybe it just felt like it. It’s been my experience that extreme laughter can give me a headache.
Have you ever laughed so hard, maybe even while crying and holding your sides, that you declared, “Oh. Oh! I can’t breathe!”
I’ve had those moments. Once, while on vacation with my husband, his sister and her husband, we got so tickled we were all laughing, crying and pounding the table, yelling, “Stop! Stop! Oh . . . it hurts!” Just when we got settled down, one of us made a comment and we’d sputter into a laughing jag all over again.
Health mag* shared some facts about laughter.
- 25 – number of calories burned in a five minute laugh session
- 17 – average number of times an adult laughs every day
- 15 – number of facial muscles that contract when you laugh
- 5 years – age at which we laugh the most exuberantly
- 30 times- greater likelihood of laughing when with others rather than alone
- 3 months – age at which humans start to laugh
- 4/10 second – amount of time between the occurrence of something funny and your brain’s reaction to it
Clearly, laughter is good for us – when it doesn’t kill us!
And it is, the Good Book says, “good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).
But what do we do when laughter escapes us — when circumstances hurt and we think we’ll never smile again, let alone laugh?
Then we rely on joy.
Depending on the translation, the words “happy” and “happiness” show up in the Scriptures around 30 times, but “joy” and it’s cousin “rejoice” appear more than 300 times!
James says joy can occur even in the midst of trials (James 1:2) . . . “Knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4). This kind of joy comes through the Lord as He strengthens and matures us, in spite of our struggles, but also in our struggles as we place our trust in Christ.
For Christians, when happiness flees, joy remains. It’s not dependent on circumstances. Paul could speak repeatedly of joy while in Rome’s prison because God transformed his perspective about suffering. Paul rejoiced because He relied on God’s purposes, and He understood one of those great purposes was for him to share the Gospel with the prison guards (Acts 28:30; Philippians 1:12-24).
Cling to joy. It’s a gift of the Spirit. And when you can, enjoy a good, healing dose of laughter.
When do you find it most difficult to laugh? Can you cling to joy instead?
* “Laugh It Up,” Health mag, June 1013, p. 90.
Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net