A merry heart does good, like medicine;
But a broken spirit dries the bones.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
She can laugh at the days to come.
As they say, laughter is good medicine.
Early in my missionary journey, I realized how overwhelming grief can be. My heart was broken on so many levels so often. Living in a land torn apart by war, poverty, HIV, and innocent orphans suffering, it was hard not to despair. It seemed the only two options were to develop a hard heart or to fall to pieces.
Thankfully, God showed me that there was a third option. I realized that I needed to find the joy in the darkness, to look for the glimmers of hope and signs of God’s faithfulness and restoration. And furthermore, I needed to laugh.
Just appreciating the comedy of the cultural nuances and different things around helped me to have a much better outlook. I started writing a section of my monthly newsletter titled “Comic Relief.” Since nearly everything else I wrote about was so heavy and sad, I thought it would be good for my readers and even myself to pick one funny thing that happened each month. This wasn’t hard to do, as this uncultured New Yorker tried to navigate life in the bush of Northern Uganda, living communally with some men from South Sudan and having no other Americans around. It made for some funny stories when I thought about it!
But that’s the key- I had to purpose to think about it.
In the beginning of this blog series, I mentioned that there was a time that I fell on my face in the mud. It was the rainy season, and our small team was riding our bicycles from our compound to one of the villages for Bible study. The dirt roads and paths were full of puddles and quite slippery. We hit one particular area where it sloped down and then back up again. When I went down, my tire slid. I tried to pedal fast to get back up but I ended up face first in a big mud puddle.
I was a hot mess.
My clothes were filthy and I still had to keep going to teach in the village (looking like that!). Mostly I was embarrassed. It made me want to never ride my bike to the village again…but I got over it.
When I thought back on it later that evening, after getting back home and taking a long shower (we had no running water at the time, but I must have used double my allotted water from the nearby borehole that day!), I imagined what I must have looked like to the rest of my team. First face planting, then coming out looking all muddy and disheveled. (Not to mention the fact that I already stand out as different here.) I couldn’t help but laugh. What a sight for sore eyes I must have been! I bet I was the talk of the village, too.
Finding the humor helped me to get over the embarrassment and frustration of one of life’s challenges in Northern Uganda. I still have to remind myself from time to time to laugh and find the comic relief in situations. Otherwise they can consume me.
It’s our choice¾we can wallow in the mud and frustration, or we can laugh about it and thank God for the humor. (And speaking of thanking God¾we could go on and on doing that, couldn’t we?!)
Sometimes we just can’t take ourselves so seriously. Sometimes we need to laugh. Find the comedy in your difficult situation, especially when dealing with cross-culture. The language, the mannerisms, the way of life¾the things that can derail your eyes and frustrate you to no end, laugh at them instead. It not only can help your mood and give you renewed strength, but it’s also medically proven to help with various ailments.
So go ahead, get out of the mud or whatever pity party you’re in. Let out a hardy belly laugh and take time to enjoy the comic relief in life.
Two more of my favorite scriptures on laughter are Psalm 126:2 and Psalm 118:24. What are yours?
I would love to hear your funny stories in the comments below!