by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

Even as the airwaves were filled with devastating images of floods, tornadoes and fires, a flood survivor was able to express humor in the midst of his own catastrophe. I was impressed.

He was being interviewed by a television reporter as he stood on the balcony of his second-floor home. His first floor was submerged by a swollen river. The reporter made the statement that this man’s town was completely under water and everyone appeared to have left, except for him. And the man wittily responded, “Yes, my town’s population is now only one.” Never during the conversation was there a sense of doom in his words, tone or appearance. He even described the peacefulness of evenings when he sat out on his balcony. He expressed confidence that he and his wife would recover and rebuild from this destructive rain event. He showed no doubt or dismay.

As I’ve thought again and again about this man, I’ve concluded he knew a truth that was bolstering his spirits and confidence. He must have known the truth of the adage “The darkest hour precedes the dawn.” So much so, in fact, that he convinced me he was already envisioning that dawn. And I was inspired by his joyfulness.

His demeanor reminded me of words from Christ Jesus that my mom has often quoted: “…and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). My mom also paraphrased those words into the instruction “Let nothing take your joy from you.” And nothing can take our joy, because joy is indeed God-given. It can’t be lost or taken away. God-given joy is powerful and healing. I was certain this dear man must also have known this spiritual fact and was already experiencing the restorative effects of joy in his darkest of days.

Who hasn’t experienced blessings from life changes that follow an adversity? Much is to be gained amid these struggles, and only our depressed vision can keep us from seeing what can be gained. I’m not in denial of the bad stuff. But I do believe seeing the brighter side enables us to find the good that lifts us out of the bad. Paul said it this way in his epistle to the Romans, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). This tells me acknowledging the presence of God’s love and power right in the face of discord will enable me to indeed overcome evil with the power of God’s law of good.

Our five senses are not enough to get us through life successfully. We also need to use our sixth sense — our sense of humor — as a way to view the world that surrounds us and often troubles us. And I’ve found that our seventh sense — our spiritual sense — helps me put into practice my sense of humor, while giving me confidence that better days are within reach.

Being spiritually lighthearted means placing the burdens of life where they belong — on the shoulders of our Father-Mother God, who truly does make all burdens light by pointing us upward and making our days bright with infinite possibilities. God wants only good for His precious children and will lead us to the dry ground where we can continue our journey with sure footing. In the words of the Psalmist, “…when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalms 61:2). And God will lead us, as I believe he is apparently leading the man with the flooded house.

Nothing saps our energy more than the time and focus we put into coping with life’s problems. I’ve found that humor can lighten our burdens and help us keep things in perspective. Laughter can enable a person to look at a problem from a different point of view and make the problem seem less formidable. Consequently, this lighter view provides opportunities for greater objectivity and insight. Yes, humor can adjust the meaning of an event so that it is not so overwhelming. In fact, humor can help reveal that small things are not the earthshaking events they sometimes seem to be. I’ve found this to be true myself many times, helping me turn my anger at something my hubby said or did into laughter.

Interestingly enough, I only recently learned there was such a thing as laughter therapy. Apparently, a number of medical studies are concluding that laughter just may be the best medicine. Many studies say that a good, hearty laugh can reduce stress, decrease pain, lower blood pressure, elevate mood, boost the immune system, increase job performance, protect the heart, connect people emotionally, foster instant relaxation, dissolve anger, give hope and make you feel good — as well as provide the glue for a good marriage. Most studies agree that by loosening up a bit, we can undo some of the stress we face in our everyday lives.

Perhaps as we laugh to lighten our own burdens, we also lighten those of everyone we meet. After witnessing one man’s lightheartedness in the midst of his struggles, I found that my own sadness and frustrations from dealing with problems and challenges were replaced with the ability to see a brighter side that is now moving me in a direction toward positive change and healing. So I will do my best to remember that even in the most difficult of times, a laugh, or even simply a smile, can go a long way in helping us, and others, to feel better.