The Therapy of Humor

Proverbs 17:22

To their pious claim of superior knowledge of God’s ways with man, Job retorted: “Doubtless you are the people and wisdom will die with you” (Job 12:2). Andrew Blackwood calls this “the most humorous verse in the entire Bible.”

This was a new Job taking the offensive. For the first time he reacted with sarcasm to the harsh judgments of his would-be comforters. In his three-chapter rebuttal, he called his contestants “quacks”: “You are worthless physicians, all of you!” (13:4) And like the speaker of whom it was said that he could not have said less unless he had said more, Job satirized: “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom” (13:5).

Job may have lost his possessions, but he had not lost his sense of humor. To be able to see the humorous side of a situation redeems many an otherwise hopeless predicament. Norman Cousins has written in The Anatomy of an Illness:

“I was greatly elated by the discovery that there is a physiological basis for the ancient theory that laughter is good medicine.”

The writer of Proverbs expressed this truth centuries earlier: “A cheerful heart is a good medicine” (17:22). The preacher in Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is “a time to laugh” (Eccles. 3:4). Learning to see the humorous side of things is one of the most serious subjects in the world to master. When life loses its humor, it is hard to be spiritual. Thomas Merton wrote: “The mark of a saint is the ability to laugh.”

When Victor Frankl was in a German concentration camp, he made a pact with another prisoner. Every day they would find a joke in their experience in that hell that was Auschwitz. Incredible as it may seem, they were able to do just that, and it helped keep them sane and able to survive.

Are you going through a difficult experience? How instructive it is to note that the Book of Job, the saddest story of the Bible, contains some of the most humorous verses of the Bible. Stand back for a moment and capture a perspective that will enable you to laugh through your tears and trials. Humor and laughter are great gifts of God and can be a therapy in time of trouble.

Henry Gariepy, Portraits of Perseverance

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