I had been invited to bid on two Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) buildings. Both buildings needed new roofing systems installed, and our company had been selected by the State of Ohio to place a bid on the projects. So I scheduled a meeting with the Ohio Regional Directors and was looking forward to it. This could be a feather in our cap. The day of the meeting arrived, and I was running a few minutes behind, but hey – their watches could be off that much. Without even enough time to tie my shoes, I skidded the truck to a stop and galloped across the parking lot to the large steel entry door. Only three minutes late!
I opened the door, and two State Directors were standing there waiting. I noticed two things right away—both men were wearing brown leather oxfords that smelled almost new, and both sets of shoes were tied. I wished mine were. Here is what happened.
When I had stepped into the building, I shut the large heavy steel door behind me and it clamped tightly on my trailing shoestrings. As I went to step forward and shake the gentlemen’s hands, I discovered that nothing was moving from the ankles on down. My feet were stuck to the floor with all the power of a giant sequoia taproot. Thus I unceremoniously toppled like a falling pine tree into the room, ending with my face only three inches away from the gentlemen’s shoes. I hate that sort of thing.
Securely trapped, I asked if they would be uhh…kind-enough-to-open-the-door so I could uh….get up. They barely had enough strength to do this, weakened as they were from laughing. I couldn’t believe their insensitivity.
I have since told this story to many people and numerous audiences. They all love it—I think for three reasons. First is the mental image of the “Human Pine tree” and second, they love it because it didn’t happen to them. Finally, they appreciate the story because of our human capacity for humor. That brings me to the point of this article.
The Lord gifted each of us with a sense of humor and a capacity for joy. Coupled with proper timing, the ability to smile at the humor and unexpectedness of life is a real blessing. As Solomon said, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh. . .” (Proverbs 3:4). Of course, there is a difference between a “merry heart which maketh good like a medicine,” and foolish jesting. The Bible speaks of this kind of difference. Two points.
“Maketh good like a medicine. . .” This tells us that there is a healing power in a cheerful heart. People who cultivate a measure of humor in their lives are generally healthier than those who have a grim outlook on life. A sense of humor can really help your marriage too. My wife of 30-years (we’re halfway there) and I have countless little quotes that we can pull out when times get tough, and we re-connect our hearts to the joy of humor. I bet you do too.
Now there is a serious side of life – very serious at times. I am not advocating for irreverence in this article–there’s plenty of that going on already. The call to be sober in these last days (1 Timothy 5:8; Titus 1:8; 2:2–6; 1 Peter 5:8) is a call to be discreet, alert, and filled with the Holy Spirit. The opposite of this guidance is to be profligate (there’s my big word for this month!). A profligate life is filled with excess (hedonism), spiritual illness, and general riotous living (drunkenness etc.). And most significantly, a profligate life is a life with no joy. The Profligate Son (you know who I mean) couldn’t find any in joy in the pigpen when the invoice for riotous living came due. He needed what many of us need—to go home. And be reconnected to joy.
God intends that each of us will experience joy in our lives. He doesn’t expect us to go around looking like we just ate a dill pickle. As a friend of mine once quipped, “If you love the Lord, let your face know it.” Joy comes from The Lord. Here are a few of the ways.
Trust. “But let all who trust in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you” (Psalm 5:11). If I had to sum up the blessing of the Sabbath in a few words, I would say it this way: “The more I trust, the more I rest.” Rest brings energy, and divine rest brings the vitalizing power of divine joy. It is the love of Christ implanted in us. An energy-less life is usually a joyless life.
The joy of labor. True glory and joy are found in the simple things of life, including work. Man and woman, each working in their own sphere, will experience a measure of satisfaction. Labor brings its own reward, and sweet is the rest that is purchased by the fatigue of a well-spent day.
Get with God. “In Thy presence there is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). People who don’t have time for God, or those who are looking for ways to tear down others and the church are demonstrating a joyless bitterness minus peace (Proverbs 14:10). The solution is to get with Him and resolve our bitterness. Joy will return!
Righteousness brings joy. “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” If righteousness brings joy then it follows that unrighteousness brings…what? Misery. And that should bring us to repentance.
Repentance brings joy (Psalm 51:8-12; Luke 15:7). We live in a time of many moral distractions, and a great many people seek constant change. Lacking peace within, they want to be part of something bigger than themselves – thus they can escape the self they hate. By changing everything around themselves, they seek to change their lives in the process. This is the hallmark of restless progressivism. When we go down this road, we are distancing ourselves from repentance, and thus distancing ourselves from joy. But self-focus is a double-edged sword. Self-righteousness can steal our joy away too (Galatians 4:15) so let’s be balanced. Two sides of the proverbial coin…
Joy can depart through idolatry (Joel 1-2; Hosea 9:1), disobedience/iniquity (Psalm 85:6; Ezekiel 24:25; Isaiah 24:8-11; Zeph 2:15; Deut. 28:63), and pride (James 4:8-10). Though joy has many enemies it has one great Friend. Some of the last words of Jesus are: “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).
In summary, it’s not inappropriate to smile. In fact it’s a good thing! I have benefited from the sense of humor that I inherited from my father (or Heavenly Father). I hope you have too. And our lives have been enriched by the joy we find in countless fellow believers.
There is a myth that I would like to tackle right now: That conservative people are always dour and progressives always have more fun. Like other myths this one rests on a false collective concept, and it just ain’t so, brother. I see much joy and peace in the lives of people who take Jesus and His Word seriously. And progressives having more fun? Perhaps. Fun is an empty substitute for joy. To quote Fritz Ridenour: “Lots of Christians like to think that they are good enough to be saved, and bad enough to have fun.”
Here’s the surprise. It is possible to live a sober, discreet, and alert life and have joy at the same time. Our Lord Jesus was alert, sober and under tremendous trial in the closing scenes of His life. And part of what kept Him going was joy! (Hebrews 12:2). It can keep us going towards eternity. The thought of being with Jesus is a lot more exciting than working for the State of Ohio Department of Transportation. I’m hoping we don’t need shoes there.
PS. By the way, I didn’t get the job (can you really blame them?). However, I did get a healthy dose of not-taking myself-too-serious humor out of it, and the Lord blessed us in many other ways that year, not the least of which was “counting it all joy.”