This article, The Christian's Great Interest, on Tim Challies' blog last week, gave me food for thought.
It convicted me, but I have mixed feelings about my convictions. I am aware that we have been given different personalities, and that laughter and (outward) joy appear more easily to some than to others. I believe, looking back, that the Christians I knew as a child who had the greatest impact on me were those of a joyful personality to whom laughter came easily. I think of some of the elders who came to our home and who always had a word (and a sweetie) for me. I think of our local minister, here in Ness, who is still one of the Godliest men I know, but whose face in my mind always smiles. I think of the Christian ladies who visited us often, and I associate them with laughter and with Godliness.
Yes, they laughed often ... but never about spiritual and eternal matters.
And I think this is the difference. Matters of the soul, whilst often joyful - indeed, so joyful that I could almost burst - are never amusing.
I have had times - thankfully they have been relatively short-lived - when I couldn't laugh. My providence at the time wrapped everything in a blanket of greyness. I found it difficult to look at our wonderful sunsets and see any beauty. The beauty of the sea seemed masked. The awesomeness and the wonder of the creation surrounding me didn't seem able to move me at all. All was dull, and grey, and drab. I was sad, hurt, tearful.
When these times passed, I was so thankful for joy to be my portion once again. The sound of laughter, and the ability to laugh, were such blessings to me. Had I not gone through these times, I think I would see things differently now, but I have had times like these. I feel sure that I will go through times of little-joy and no-laughter again - probably times of harder and deeper grief - but, for now, I cannot but give thanks for the times I have of joy and laughter. My laughter is almost always supplied by my children, for whom I thank God every day. I know that our children can bring heartache as well as laughter; sorrow as well as joy. For this reason, I count our times of laughter as great blessings and wonderful gifts from my loving Father.
My children, though, know that there are some things of which I can never laugh. Matters of the soul - eternal matters - are never funny.
Never, ever, ever.
If I laugh at sin, I pray I repent of that, and that my children are aware that this, in itself, is sinful. When I see sin in myself, in them, or in others ... I can never laugh at that. Sinning against a holy, omnipotent, omnipresent God can never make us smile. If it does, I pray forgiveness for this.
And so, back to the original article. I am glad Tim published it, and glad I read it. It is helpful for me to question myself, and to bring myself to a more 'centred' position if I have gone too far to the left or to the right.
And just to say to you all: in all my laughter, levity and fun, there are certain things that are true, and maybe I don't speak of them often enough...
We have all been given life. One day, we will all die. We have a soul which will never die. We will spend eternity either in Heaven or in Hell. Salvation in this life, and eternity in Heaven is possible in only one way, and that is through Jesus Christ, who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life". If you don't know Christ Jesus as your own personal Saviour, I urge you to seek Him with your whole heart. The Gospel (which means 'good news') is that 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners' (1Tim 1:15).
When Christ is your Saviour, your Comforter, your Constant in this ever-changing world, you find that the best kind of laughter - the laughter that is able to rejoice in the world and gifts God has given you - comes more easily.
You will also find that tears come more easily: tears for those whom you love who are still outside of Christ; tears for those who mourn; tears for those whose lot in life is so different to what the sovereign God has given me.
And tears of joy - when the emotion of knowing what Christ Jesus has done for me .... 'that saved a wretch like me'; of knowing that when my time here comes to an end, the beginning of an eternity with my Saviour begins. When I think of these things, I may not laugh outwardly, but my soul overflows with joy, nonetheless.
(Today, my heart is sore for the family of a boy who passed away at the weekend. He was Catherine's age. None of us knows how we would survive this kind of heartache, and for now I 'mourn with those who mourn'. And I give thanks for the providence God has ordained for me which, today, is so different from what another mother is going through.)