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Laughter therapy

"A cheerful heart is good medicine..." Proverbs 17. 22

A friend of mine is in the habit of regularly circulating material they assume will edify or amuse family and friends: a smorgasbord of pithy stories, sumptuous images, occasionally songs or music. The latest was a joke: "Yesterday my husband thought he saw a cockroach in the kitchen. He sprayed everything down and cleaned thoroughly. Today I'm putting the cockroach in the bathroom!"

When I was preparing to join the military as a chaplain, I asked an old Royal Marine what advice he had for getting through training and then cutting the mustard in the Corps itself. He took a pen and wrote three letters: U-M-A (humour!). I later discover that we Brits get by on a particular brand of humour, which verges on the dark side. That's OK because the principle is the same, whichever brand flicks your laughter switch, and it is: that seeing the funny side of a situation has a tempering effect; somehow things are not as bad as they seemed.

My Russian teacher at school in the '80s had a store of anti-Communist jokes, which she collected on her occasional visits to the motherland. But you don't have to travel to discover humour in unexpected places. If you tune your playful antennae, the Bible is replete with wit, innuendo and sometimes even hilarity. One of my favourites is when God accosts Gideon, cowering in his wine-press for fear of the Midianites: "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!" (Judges 6.12) It would be hard to imagine a more absurd description of Gideon at that moment. But, if he didn't see the funny side then, God's ironic address certainly propelled him into action later!

Today the sun is shining (again). If it's dark inside, consider opening the curtains of your heart and letting in some light. If your predicament is particularly bleak, you should do this gently. God's humour is not cruel. Like everything else about him, it brings healing and hope: medicine for the heart. Let him nurse you towards recovery...

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