by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

Even as the TV screen flashed images of raging water, a flood survivor was able to express humor in the midst of his own catastrophe. I was impressed.A reporter was interviewing this man as he stood on his home’s second-floor balcony. A swollen river had submerged his first floor. The reporter made the statement that this man’s town was under water and everyone appeared to have left. And the man chuckled and jokingly responded, “Yes, my town’s population is now only one.” Never during the conversation was there an apparent sense of doom. Instead, the man went on to share his confidence that he’d surely recover and rebuild.

As I think about this one story, I continue to be inspired by that man’s upbeat attitude and expectation. And I asked myself, How can I better practice joy on dark days?

Maybe you’ve heard the old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine.” I was intrigued to learn recently that there’s actually such a thing as laughter therapy. Apparently, a number of medical studies are concluding that laughter and humor, applied to distressing situations, just may be the best remedy.

But is humor merely part of a stoic “grin and bear it approach”? A “cheer up and smile” to someone who’s struggling? I don’t think so. Throughout my life, I’ve returned again and again to Jesus’ words “. . . and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). And I’ve discovered that nothing can take away honest joy, because joy is indeed God-given. In fact, I’m convinced that there’s real healing power and value in joy that springs from spiritual convictions. It’s this kind of joy that lifts us up, shifting our focus from a sense of human helplessness, to the naturalness of God’s care for His children.

I’m learning that being spiritually lighthearted means letting go of and placing the burdens of life where they belong-on the shoulders of our Father-Mother God. This truly does lighten all burdens by pointing us upward and making our days bright with the realization that there are infinite possibilities. God wants only good for His children and will lead us to “dry ground,” where we can continue our journey with sure footing.

I’m reminded of these words of Paul in his epistle to the Romans: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21).

This tells me that acknowledging the presence of God’s love-right in the face of chaos-will enable me to better feel the power of God’s law of good. It’s not about being in denial of the “bad stuff.” But I do believe that opening our thoughts to seeing a promising horizon enables us to find the spiritual levity that lifts us up, and brings with it all of God’s goodness, including joy. Who hasn’t experienced blessings from life changes that follow adversity? Much is to be
gained amid struggles, and often it’s depressed vision that keeps us from seeing what can be gained.

I love these words of the Psalmist: “. . . when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Ps. 61:2). Nothing saps one’s energy more than the time and focus put into trying to manage crises. It can be overwhelming if we feel responsible for manipulating circumstances that are beyond our control. This ultimately leads to believing that the situation or problem is beyond God’s jurisdiction, too. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health that such an admission “disarms man” and “prevents him from helping himself” (p. 394).

Maintaining a sense of humor can turn a once formidable looking issue into something more manageable. Consequently, this view provides opportunities for greater objectivity and creative insight.

Letting go of burdens, we also help ease them for others. After watching that one man’s lightheartedness when floodwaters filled his house, I’m putting my frustrations in perspective, and praying more consistently to acknowledge the power of lasting joy in everything.

Even through the darkest moments, cultivating a lighter heart (and sometimes even having a good laugh) can go a long way in helping myself, and others, break free from suffering and discouragement. The restorative effects of joy just can’t be underestimated.