Are You Known for Joy?
Laughter is an outburst of the goodness of God.
by PHIL CALLAWAY
HAVE YOU EVER COMPLAINED? At breakfast, I said to my wife, “This butter is too hard. Look what it did to my bread.”
She laughed. “Life is tough,” she said.
So I complained about that. Here are other grievances I have aired:
“My seedless watermelon has a seed in it.”
“My cookie won’t fit into my glass of milk.”
“When I eat my potato chips, I can’t hear the TV.”
I am officially in danger of becoming a geezer.
As a kid, I looked at grown-ups and thought, They sure are cranky. And old. Look at that guy. He’s probably 30! What can you still do at 30?
After I spoke at a comedy event, a particularly sour-looking gentleman approached me and said, “I’m really quite joyful inside. But I don’t laugh outwardly. This is just the face God gave me.”
I said, “Work on it, my friend. Tell your face about your joy. The world needs to see it. A stifled laugh will back up on you and spread to your hips.”
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, then a grin. Finally, he let go with a laugh.
Once, our 4-year-old granddaughter, Eowyn, said, “Read to me.”
I decided to add a bit to the text of Aladdin. When the hero was asked what he wishes for, I had him say, “A fur coat.”
“What fur?” he was asked.
“Fur to keep me warm. That’s what fur!” said Aladdin.
Eowyn squinted and then smiled. “You’re funny, Bumpa,” she said. “I’m gonna keep you.”
Our children and grandchildren need to see our joy. Laughter is a forgotten apologetic and one of the great evidences that God is at work in us.
But how can we be known for joy when life is hard?
My wife battles epilepsy. For a time, grand mal seizures threw her to the floor every half hour. Medication has helped, but we’re not out of the woods.
Through the years, my wife watched three siblings die from Huntington’s disease. Those who nursed her older sister, Miriam, liked to sit with her when they were discouraged. Doctors couldn’t understand the source of her vibrancy, her joy.
“You are only experiencing 50 percent of the symptoms,” one told her. “We think your belief in a higher power has helped you.”
Miriam laughed. “That would be God,” she said. “Life is falling apart at the edges, Doc, but not at the core. Right at the core, I know I’m loved by my husband and my kids. I’m loved by God, held in His arms, and promised the eternal joys of heaven.”
Surrounded by such saints, I began to notice what characterized each of them: Irrepressible gratitude. I have met few with more cause to complain. And few who utter fewer complaints.
In Sacramento, California, a ticket agent inadvertently oversold a Women of Faith weekend conference by 1,500 seats. So they exchanged the chairs on the main floor for smaller, plastic ones. Organizers phoned all the ladies beforehand to alert them and then reseated them Friday night, apologizing profusely. But before long, the complaints arrived. Some were angry, others uncomfortable. So organizers asked the next speaker if she would mind apologizing again on behalf of the organizers. She agreed.
Her name is Joni Eareckson Tada. She is a quadriplegic. Paralyzed as a teen from a diving accident in Chesapeake Bay, Joni’s story is one of triumph — even joy — amid the trials of paralysis. Wheeled onto the platform, this is what she said.
“I understand some of you are not sitting in the chairs you expected to be sitting in tonight. Well, neither am I. And I’ve been in mine for more than 30 years.” Then she added softly, “I have at least 1,000 friends who would give anything to be sitting in the chair you are in if only for tonight.”
Organizers said the complaint department was unnecessary after that.
Gratitude. It will add life to your years and years to your life. My wife reminded me of this last night when I said, “My electric toothbrush died. And now I have to move my arm.”
PHIL CALLAWAY is the bestselling author of 25 books, including Laugh Like a Kid Again. His radio program Laugh Again airs on 400 radio stations. He and Ramona have been married for 37 years in a row. Visit him at philcallaway.com.
Alison Potter says
How uplifting and inspiring! Blessings to you and yours.