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?

Categories: Character

22 Comments

Alex Miller · March 20, 2018 at 2:00 pm

Your writing blows me away Josh. This piece reaffirmed what the Lord’s been speaking to me lately about “choosing joy.” Love your heart!

    Joshua Bontrager · March 20, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement! “All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15).

Chad Anderson · March 20, 2018 at 10:12 pm

You made me laugh!
You made me feel like I was on the wagon. Actually for a minute, I thought that I was the wagon!

Jared Sutherland · March 21, 2018 at 1:29 am

So true, and great post! I feel sorry for those that don’t have those “moments” to look back and laugh about and learn from. I think of that song “Through It All”, If I never had a problem I wouldn’t know that He could solve them, I wouldn’t know what faith in God could do!

Clara · March 21, 2018 at 6:28 am

Such a great post, Josh! It reminds me of just last week, I was at a speech and debate tournament and during one impromptu speech round, I was given the topic “Laughter is the best medicine.” It was so encouraging to me as I gave a speech about the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of laughter and choosing joy! “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”

    Joshua Bontrager · March 21, 2018 at 8:21 am

    Thanks Clara! What are some of the primary benefits of joy?

      Clara · March 21, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      Hi Joshua! Well these are some of the primary benefits that I have learned and experienced:
      Physically: those who have experienced depression would tell you that it is physically debilitating. “A broken spirit dries the bones.” Melancholy can affect the way one eats, influencing their health, and also cause one to be languid. On the positive, when one has a heart and spirit of joy, they generally have more energy! Interestingly enough, it has also been found that having a joyful attitude aids in digestion! 🙂
      Mentally: I believe that joy is a frame of mind, a worldview as it were, that flows from a heart that is right with God and bounding with gratitude to Him. Because of this, joy will affect every aspect of one’s life, not allowing them to become bogged down in self-pity or hopelessness. This joy will spill over into your relationships, workplace and family.
      Spiritually: Recently, a mother shared with me that it is physically impossible to complain and sing at the same time. God has commanded us many many times to sing joyfully to the Lord, and when we obey this command, we will also obey His command to “do all things without murmurings and disputings.” Joy (countenance, conduct, and mindset) stems from gratitude in a right relationship with the Lord.
      These are some of the things that I have learned and I love to see the contagion of a smile or the laugh of a truly joyful child of God! Thank you for your encouragement to choose joy even in the unlikely places. 🙂

        Joshua Bontrager · March 21, 2018 at 1:07 pm

        Very insightful! Thanks for sharing!

        Alyssa C · March 23, 2018 at 8:41 am

        Clara, how did you come to these conclusions? You are spot on! I was immensely encouraged by your comment on Joshua’s post as I was by Joshua’s post.

          Clara · March 23, 2018 at 4:52 pm

          That’s sweet of you to say, Alyssa, and I’m glad you were encouraged! These conclusions came directly from Scripture and my parents’ examples of joy, along with wise counsel from mentors. 🙂 Spread the joy!

Paola J. · March 21, 2018 at 6:47 am

Thank you for this timely post, Joshua. I’ve been learning a lot recently about the link between trust and joy. And also with priorities and focus. Generally, a short-term self-centered focus will lead to a lack of joy and I’ve been learning to deal with those heart issues to restore true joy, rather than trying to replace it with circumstantial happiness.

ChelsyRenee · March 21, 2018 at 10:52 am

Love this, bro! I had to laugh as I read along, reliving those memories + loving every bit of your unique writing style. =) This was great!!

    Joshua Bontrager · March 21, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Thanks Chels! Even if we didn’t think the stories were funny at the time, we definitely do in retrospect today!

Allison Bontrager · March 21, 2018 at 12:59 pm

EXCELLENT post, Josh! You have a way with telling stories.:)

Jay · March 22, 2018 at 11:29 am

I love this post!! My husband says I find humor in the strangest places, and it is places just as you have described. I don’t think I am laughing so much at the situation, which is surely problematic, as much as I am laughing at the scenery. Who couldn’t laugh at these pictures!!

Ty for sharing,
J

Carson bontrager · March 22, 2018 at 7:57 pm

Thanks josh!

I really appreciate what you said about trusting in God rather than thinking we are always in control of the circumstances!

Aunt Karen · March 22, 2018 at 10:06 pm

This is such a practical and relevant post Josh…and well written! You have such a creative way with words! How healing if our laughter were as liberated as the milk😀 I’m sure you could’ve also added the devastating story of when your dad threw a garbage bag of good clothes away accidentally, while travelling!

    Joshua Bontrager · March 26, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Aunt Karen,
    Thank-you! I definitely should add the devastating story about the burned concert clothes! Maybe I’ll save it for a future post.

Alyssa C · March 23, 2018 at 8:48 am

Just like you find laughter in the most unlikely of places and choose joy, one can find insight, encouragement and conviction in the most unlikely of places. Thank you Joshua for being so convinced that God’s word is true and showing them in life’s circumstances. Thank you for this blog! I will pray God uses it mightily for ministering hope to all who read it.

Gina · March 23, 2018 at 5:33 pm

Yes, medical science eventually discovered the tremendous benefits of joy and laughter which God has told us long ago of in the Bible.
And today many debilitating conditions are attributed to stress…. Or you could say a lack of taking life in stride, joyfully trusting God….. and laughing. I enjoy your ideas and thoughts and word choice as well.

Sarah · March 26, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Great post, Josh! I wonder if you meant to write “inherently”, rather than “innerrantly”?

    Joshua Bontrager · March 26, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Sarah,
    Thanks for the correction! I just corrected it.

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