Laughter is inherently Biblical. In fact, it is one of God’s attributes. According to Psalm 2:4, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.” Psalm 37:13 says, “The Lord will laugh at him [the wicked], for He seeth that his day is coming.”
My life has been filled with many unexpected moments. I have felt the warm misery that follows the expiration of a bus air conditioner in a 100 degree Oklahoma summer. I have buried a grain wagon’s wheels halfway to the top. I have helplessly witnessed a steady stream of cattle surge en masse through an open gate before I could stop them.
I have discovered that joyfulness and laughter strengthen a Christian in disappointment and brighten otherwise ordinary days. Truly, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 17:22). “…The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). “In thy presence is fulness of joy” (Psalm 16:11 ).
When things go wrong, we can either fume about that which is out of our control, or we can trust God. When we view undesirable circumstances as lessons in God’s classroom of life, we can experience joy as we trust the Father’s plan.
The Mighty Milk River
We sometimes fail to see the humor in catastrophic situations until after the fact.
About ten years ago, my family began traveling in a green 1986 40-foot Silver Eagle bus. Though some who have never traveled in a bus may think such a life is glamorous, those who have can assure you it often is not. Hence, the following story to prove this point:
One day, in the earlier years of our singing ministry, we were traveling near Urbana, Ohio. As always, we keep our fridge stocked with milk, an indispensable staple for Bontrager manhood.
As we were driving down the road, the bus descended a steep hill and rounded a sharp corner. Like rear gates on a dump truck, the fridge door swung open and a milk pitcher lept out and began a rapid descent.
Upon making contact with the floor, the lid popped off, liberating the milk from the bondage of the pitcher.
Like a mighty stream, the milk ran down the carpeted flood plain between the couches, then past the driver’s seat, and finally on down the steps. Unforunately, not quite all of the milk completed the iconic quest for freedom. Remnants stayed behind to soak the carpet. The stench remained for days afterward.
To this day, we all agree that the episode was worth every quart of milk wasted. As Psalm 126:2 declares, “Then was our mouth filled with laughter…” In the words of Sarah, “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6).
The Stuck Bus
In locations from Iowa to Saskatchewan our bus has found soft parking spots. One late night on our first Western tour, Dad attempted to pull the bus out, but it was stuck fast. He waited till 3:00 A.M. when a tow truck finally rescued us. Last year, in Dodson, Louisianna, we parked the bus on the grass beside the church. Some unnamed family members decided that it would be a good place to drain part of the water tank. Consequently, after the service one of the church members pulled our bus out with a tractor.
Our most memorable episode in the “stuck bus” series occurred in Cleardale, Alberta, in the summer of 2015.
After the concert, Dad pulled the bus into a nearby freshly graveled lot. Only this time the bus almost mistook the gravel for quicksand. As he turned the bus around, it sunk lower into the gravel. Attempted extrication only worsened the problem. The more we tried, the more the bus sank, until the front end was almost touching the gravel and we could barely open the bus door.
Apparently, the people at our concert had not viewed good entertainment in weeks. As a crowd congregated around the bus, one farmer brought his John-Deere tractor and some chains. Another man brought a shovel, in order to dig two trenches of gravel beneath the front end of the bus to make room for the chains.
As the cameras rolled, the John-Deere nudged forward with the obedient bus in tow. This was truly “a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) and to exercise the fruit of the spirit, which is “love, joy, peace…” (Galatians 5:22-23).
“All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15).
The Spilled Beans
Several years ago I began hauling grain during harvest. While my Dad combined, I hauled the grain to the local elevator. At that time, my outfit consisted of a Case-IH MX 200 pulling one or two gravity wagons. Though I may have esteemed myself a skilled driver, one fateful day shattered that conviction.
Every good ole’ farmer has a patch called the “back 40”. Ours is about one mile from our house. The path to the field snakes through woods and a cattle pasture and rolls over a few treacherous rut-filled inclines and declines.
For a while, I navigated the gauntlet successfully, driving loads of grain from the field to the elevator. As I took two more full wagons out of the field, my success nosedived.
Disaster struck on a narrow decline that featured a deceitful rut on its left hand side. While driving down the decline, I failed to straddle the rut. The next instant, the front wagon wheel momentarily shinnied down the deep rut.
Without warning, the front left wagon axle popped off, the wagon tongue twisted, and the wagon careened over, as hundreds of bushels streamed onto the ground.
In five seconds, the wagon was tweaked, the grain spilled, and my confidence rattled forever.
I slowly walked back to the house, thankful that the tractor had not flipped and that nothing worse had happened. When I told Dad about it, he was disappointed, but not angry.
A few hours later, another family joined us for supper. While they enjoyed taco soup and cornbread, I had humble pie.
After supper, some of our friends and our neighbor joined us to vacuum up the mess of beans.
When I think of that time, I remember that no matter what happens on any given day, we can all say “This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” (“Psalm 118:24).
The Reason for Joy
The mighty milk river, the stuck bus, and the spilled beans remind us that we can choose laughter and a joyful perspective in the midst of difficulties. Becoming stressed, wearing a frown, or venting angry words do nothing to alleviate a problem. In fact, these actions and attitudes reveal a dependence on ourselves to solve our problems rather than a sublime trust in God.
It’s all a matter of perspective. When we focus on God rather than on our problems, we can take comfort knowing that God sovereignly rules, He cares for us in every circumstance, and He works all things together for good. Releasing our problems from our clenched fists into God’s caring hands frees us to discover joy in the heart and laughter in the mouth.
Finding laughter is a choice. Job 8:21 says, “Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.” God wants to fill your mouth with laughter, but you must allow Him to do so.
Next time you’re faced with an unwanted circumstance, will you choose laughter? In so doing, you will not only reflect the image of God; you will also find joy and peace in the arms of Christ.
Question: When Have You Found Laughter in the Unlikeliest of Places?