When was the last time you doubled over with a side-splitting bout of laughter and cried tears of joy? Chances are it wasn’t recently and if you’re looking at the state of the economy, geopolitics or world affairs you won’t be any time soon either. But if you’ve been demonstrably joyful recently, then I’m certainly jealous. When my younger brother and I would have tickling fights ‘way back in the day’, my joyful expression and rib wrenching laughter would cause my rib cage to ache for days following (he wasn’t very merciful I can tell you).
The truth is we need to laugh more often and not just for ‘giggles’ sake’ because there’s a physical and even spiritual benefit for doing so. There’s a joy within us that often lies dormant. Some of us have forgotten how to access it and unfortunately our face bear’s witness. Let’s review what God’s word says about joy and experience it once more for ourselves.
Some theologians have tried to split joy into three categories: natural joy (gladness, contentment, satisfaction or cheerfulness); moral joy (peace, serenity) and spiritual joy (joy of faith, rejoicing of hope).
There are clearly different expressions of joy, but the bottom line is we need to experience it more often and reap the many benefits. Whilst most of us are familiar with the scripture, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: But a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Prov 17:22-KJV), other translations perhaps offer a better understanding in the modern vernacular. For example, “A rejoicing heart doeth good to the body“ (YLT), “A joyful heart worketh an excellent cure” (RHM) and “A cheerful heart makes a quick recovery“ (Knox).
Undoubtedly, joy has an impact on our physical condition but how far does its influence extend? Can it really help us make a ‘quick recovery’? Could the medicinal benefits of a joyful heart be literal and corroborated by both the scientific and medical community? What’s interesting is that medical science is now validating what the Bible says about joy with laughter being its primary expression. Not that the Bible needs any validation whatsoever, but the findings are interesting nonetheless and I’d like to share some of them with you. After all God sits in the heavens and laughs so why shouldn’t you (Ps 2:4, Ps 37:13, Ps 59:8)?
Jeanne Segal (Ph.D.) an emotional intelligence expert, author and mental health guru who’s studied the power of laughter down the years has found physical, mental and social benefits of joy. Lets explore them now:
Threefold Benefits of Joy
1. Boosts Immunity
2. Lowers stress hormone
3. Decreases pain
4. Relaxes your muscles and burns calories
5. Prevents heart disease
Mental Health Benefits
1. Adds joy and zest to life
2. Eases anxiety and tension
3. Relieves stress
4. Improves mood and mental functioning
5. Enhances resilience, improves self-esteem
1. Strengthens relationships
2. Attracts others to us, reduces loneliness
3. Enhances teamwork
4. Helps defuse conflict
5. Promotes group bonding
Other keen researchers at the University of Maryland have discovered even more amazing benefits of ‘the giggles’ (listed below):
Blood Flow: Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally, expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
Immune Response: ‘Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response,’ says Robert Provine, professor of psychology and neuroscience. Some studies have shown that humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, also.
Relaxation and sleep: The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin’s memoir, ‘Anatomy of an Illness.’ Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
Evidently joy has a profoundly beneficial impact on our physical bodies as the Bible attests. Some have called laughter the ‘voice of joy’. If that’s true we need to give more voice to it in our own lives by manifesting ‘the chuckles’ more often. This extensive scientific research reveals perhaps metaphorically that joy is seemingly the invisible or intangible ‘glue’ which keeps our physical body in a healthy state. Without experiencing joy regularly, we suffer needlessly and fail to take advantage of the numerous health benefits of laughter especially.
Joy should be transmitted to our face
It’s one thing to study ice cream but it’s another to taste it. Likewise, it’s one thing to study joy and another to experience it. We need to experience joy on a continual basis and our lack thereof could be turning unbelievers away from us.
The ungodly philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche candidly observed the general melancholic demeanor of the average Christian when he said, “The Christians would have to look ‘more saved’ if they hope to persuade me.” That’s a wake-up call for sure.
Remember the joyful euphoria you felt when you first got saved and knew you weren’t going to Hell? Remember the six-month honeymoon when everything seemed to fall into your lap? This was no honeymoon; it was meant to last a lifetime.
This heartfelt joy was never meant to wane. The pursuit of our ‘first love’ (Rev 2:4), is not a brief or fleeting romance, all too easily forgotten but a lifetime’s endeavor. There is of course a joy to our accomplishments and joy that comes from being with our friends or family etc. but this is not the joy found in scripture. The context of biblical joy is rooted in ongoing fellowship with our Heavenly Father. If we lose sight of Him, our joy will dissipate.
What we magnify will become our reality
Do you know that what we magnify will become our reality? We need to magnify God, not our problems. This elusive ‘feeling’ of joy can be restored quickly when we change our focus. What you focus upon will eventually overwhelm you in a positive or negative way. We need to be overwhelmed with God’s joy! If you put your mind on God (Isa 26:3) and thank Him for His many blessings, the ‘joy of the Lord’ will return swiftly!
Yes, we have struggles, trials, temptations, or persecution, yet our joy should remain regardless because it’s supernatural in origin. Our joy abides within us and is independent of our circumstances. We praise God in spite of our circumstances, not for them (Jn 14:27). Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), not a ‘conditional’ feeling at the mercy of life’s circumstances which are subject to perpetual flux. Our joy should be constant and if it isn’t, we need to focus on the Word, once more.
What many people fail to realize is that joy was granted to us as a form of empowerment to overcome afflictions, as the scripture states, “And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thess 1:6). The plain hermeneutic of scripture reveals that we may experience joy regardless of our difficulties and this is a wonderful blessing if we get a hold of it! Joy also brings spiritual strength to endure what may lie ahead (Neh 8:10).
There’s no greater offense than to laugh in the face of our enemy and as far as we’re concerned, the devil is a whipped foe (Col 2:15). We need to laugh in his face more often as we’re the ‘Triumphant Church,’ not a cowering one. Our victory is assured as we implement our authority in the earth. The victory we enjoy as part of the Body of Christ, needs to be transmitted to our face!
Hold tightly to your joy and don’t let it go!
I cannot stress enough how much I want you to receive the fullness of this message. The Lord’s been sharing with me recently the importance of holding onto my own joy as I was giving it away far too easily. Consequently, I was harboring a wrong attitude, thinking if all my circumstances lined up just as I wanted, then and only then, would I feel ‘joyful.’ This, my friend is ‘stinking thinking’ and not biblical.
The joy of the Lord is accessible 24/7 whenever we focus on Christ and we can access this joy by His word, praise, worship or giving thanks unto Him. It’s a matter of perspective and we choose our perspective each and every day. God cannot choose our perspective for us. We choose daily whether we magnify God (Acts 10:46) or magnify the problems around us.
A cursory scriptural exegesis of the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel of John reveals six core characteristics of the Christian life, with joy mentioned firstly along with holiness, truth, mission, unity and love (Jn 17:13-26). Joy is a trait highly esteemed by the Lord and we should guard it well for our own benediction because it’s one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit that can sustain us, especially during difficult times.
If your heart is troubled…it’s your fault
Jesus said we’re not to ‘let’ our heart be troubled nor ‘let’ it be afraid (Jn 14:27). If our heart is fearful, then it’s our own fault. This is blunt but true. We must steward it correctly, as all the issues of life originate from our heart (Prov 4:23). There’s a resident joy and peace that accompanies our relationship with God the Father, His son Jesus Christ and the precious Holy Spirit.
When we shift our focus away from the Godhead, we become susceptible to losing our joy. We’ve all done it from time to time, no one’s pointing any fingers. I challenge you right now to search your own heart and let the ‘joy of the Lord’ come forth because it’s one of the many blessings of being a believer. Unfortunately, many of us have unknowingly or carelessly let it go.
Seek the Lord today about possible ‘joy stealers’ in your life like unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, anger, selfishness, anxiety etc. Ask Him to reveal to you, where you’ve missed it.
We need to clear the log jam from our soul, that’s preventing the ‘joy of the Lord’ from bubbling up within our hearts! Ask Him to reveal areas where your joy has been compromised and enter therein to the deepest and most joyful of giggles! It’s time to release those feel-good endorphins and enter into the ‘joy of the Lord’ once more!
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Author – Carl G.M. Joseph
(1) Harrison, Bromiley & Henry, Wycliffe Dictionary of Theology (Hendrickson’s Publishers, Inc. Peabody, MA, 1999), 299.