Our former pastor, Monsignor Neal Dolan, had the above picture hanging in his office, and whenever anyone would get too serious, he would point to the picture and say “Lighten Up!” This picture of Jesus Laughing is a great example of how we need to be living our lives today in these very messy times.
In the Book of Job in the Old Testament, we learn that Job was a wealthy man with a large family. Satan believed that Job was only good because he has been blessed by God, and Job would certainly turn and curse God if his fortunes changed. God allowed Satan to test Job, by taking away all of Job’s belongings and afflicting him with painful sores all over his body. Yet, Job did not turn away from God, despite his despair. Because of Job’s patience and quiet faithfulness, God helped Job out of his dire situation and restored him to prosperity. God did not leave Job – he filled his heart with much joy and laughter.
While certainly none of us is in the same situation as Job – in fact, we possess infinite wealth and good fortune in comparison – it has been sometimes difficult to be joyful, to smile, and especially to laugh lately. Everyone seems to be “walking on eggshells” just trying to maintain some level of normalcy. There is a lot of stress and strain and worry for everyone, children included. It is so important, now more than ever that we remember how advantageous it is to smile and laugh.
No doubt you have heard that smiling takes less effort than frowning. It is believed that laughter strengthens the immune system. It releases endorphins in the brain, which in turn helps us to improve our mood, lessen pain, and protect us from the negative effects of stress. Children certainly seem to have an innate ability to laugh and smile at almost anything, but as adults, we lose that impulsivity and we often hold our emotions a little too tightly.
So, at some point every day from here on out, we all need to try to find an opportunity to laugh. That might be by streaming an old sitcom, watching funny YouTube videos (a few I have shared with teachers are posted below), observing your children (or grandchildren) at play, and/or spending time with your pets. You might need to force yourself to smile and laugh out loud until it becomes natural again, but eventually the habit will become contagious. It might also help to turn off the news!