Laughter: Did you hear the one about…

Guest Blog by Mary Jane Johnston

My mother-in-law had just lost her husband after having been married for over fifty years and, understandably, she was sorrowful and felt a great loss. I’ll never forget what she did following his passing: this 80 year-old widow booked herself on a trip to take a week-long class in … stand-up comedy!

Now, she didn’t have any real interest in becoming a stand-up comic nor did she see herself as having any natural ability.  What she did know was that her best way out of sorrow was to find a way to see joy and, she felt, what better way than with laughter!

While laughter can lift one’s mental state momentarily, can it have any lasting benefit?  Can it possibly provide a path to grow spiritually and even bring about healing?

In the Bible story about Sarah (Abraham’s wife), God tells her that she will bear a child at age ninety.  Initially, Sarah is said to have “laughed within herself” which I interpret as her thinking,  “Not a chance!”  Yet, following the desired baby’s birth, Sarah said, “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.” Upon seeing how ridiculous it was for her to doubt God’s promise, she expressed joy through her laughter and asked others to join her in praising God for His expression of love.

Often, in recognizing God’s goodness, we can’t help but smile, and even chuckle with joy.  The action of offering a smile to a passer-by, sharing a humorous anecdote or retelling a funny story can lift someone’s thought to a better place.

Johns Hopkins University Medical School has studied and published the positive effects of laughter.  In one study, students taking a test were divided into two groups. One group received a test with humorous instructions, while the other group received the exact same test, but without the humor. The group with the humorous instructions scored significantly higher than the other group.

In my experience, laughter shifts our thought away from focusing on whatever seems to be worrisome and allows us to glimpse the goodness God has already bestowed on us. These glimpses bring healing.

And that’s no joke!

Mary Jane (“M.J.”) Johnston is a former executive with a Fortune 10 company and is now in the full-time study and practice of Christian Science.  She and her husband live with their (2) sons and “Grandma J.” in Lutherville, MD.  M.J. enjoys outdoor activities and plays the bagpipes with a local band.  

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1 Comment

  1. Kathy

    I absolutely Love this! Laughter truly is a wonderful medicine. (Prayer is still the best)Everything seems better, easier to handle when you can see the humor and joy in things. Thanks for sharing M.J.!