Laugh when it’s inappropriate and cry when you shouldn’t.
JANUARY 31, 2023
Laugh when it’s inappropriate and cry when you shouldn’t. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
That was Steve Brown. He’s an author, seminary professor and our teacher on Key Life, a program all about God’s radical grace. We’re committed to bringing you Bible teaching that’s honest, straight-forward, and street-smart. Keep listening to hear truth, that’ll make you free.
Thank you Matthew. If you were listening yesterday, I was talking about how a friend of mine told me that I was uptight and intense. He said, Steve, you seem to be loose and laid back and you’re not at all. You’re the most intense person I know and you, you are not loose. And I asked Jesus cause I thought I was, and Jesus said, Bingo, your friend is right. And so, I decided to let Jesus change me. I’m going to laugh when it’s inappropriate, even at a funeral. And I’m going to cry even though real men don’t cry cause Jesus said he would show me how. And then I told you yesterday, I’m going to show you how too. I’m really not. Jesus is the only one who can do that. And he can show you, you know. He knows everything there is to know about laughter in lament. Hebrews 4:14 through 15 tells us that we have a great high priest Jesus, who sympathizes with our weaknesses and gets our suffering, who in every respect has been tempted as we are. That’s the amazing reality of God’s identification with us. It’s not just that God knows laughter and lament, he has come to actually share in our laughter and lament. The Incarnation of God in Christ is in itself an incredible occurrence, but when one considers that God has suffered and cried, just as we suffer and cry, was lonely and afraid just as we are lonely and afraid, suffered the loss of those he loved just as we suffer the loss of those we love, questioned in the dark just as we question in the dark, and struggle just as we struggle. It’s so unbelievable that you can hardly comprehend it. When Paul in Philippians 4:4 says that we are to rejoice in the Lord. Actually, he says it twice. He is referring not only to us, but to something in the nature of God that reflects his joy, that is found in Jesus too. Jesus was of course, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, but he was also a man whose laughter is seen in his delight with children, in his ironic and humorous turn of phrase, the reason so many followed Jesus wasn’t just because his identification with their tears, but because, and chosen, by the way, if you haven’t seen any of that, allows you to see this side of Jesus. Not just his tears, but because of his presence at their party. Did you know that the first miracle Jesus ever performed was turning water into wine? And do you know why he did it? He did it so the party wouldn’t be dull. He did it so the party wouldn’t bomb. He did it because he loved to laugh with his people. In the identification of God with us and in our laughter and lament, there is incredible freedom, by the way. It’s the freedom of authenticity. That freedom is found in our recognition and worship of the God of identification. It can be seen in the free and sometimes loud laughter one finds in a Christian gathering. And in the refusal to hide the tears that reflect our pain. When I was a young pastor, and that’s been a lot of years ago, and I was just learning to deal with folks with addictions, I figured the best way to do that was to show compassion by sharing a few cliches. A man in the little church on Cape God, where I was then serving and a former drunk was not kind to me about my kindness. He talked about tough love and suggested that I save my phony compassion until I had experienced what it was like to be willing to die for a drink. And to be empty and ashamed after I got one. He said that only a drunk can help a drunk because only a drunk knows the pain. That’s the profound and surprising message of God, that he’s been there, that he’s done that. Real men don’t cry. Oh yeah, they do. They just hide it. Proper women don’t laugh in the wrong places and at the wrong times. Oh yes, they do. They just pretend not to. There’s an incredible freedom to be discovered in authenticity. And authenticity isn’t getting over the pain and going about one’s life, or in finally getting serious about one’s faith. To the contrary, authenticity is reflected in the childlike laughter of children to whom Jesus likened the kingdom of God. I was once speaking for a Christian college’s let’s get religious week. And at one of the evening sessions, a student came up afterward to speak to me. She referenced her late father and his recent death. She said that she thought I knew him, and I replied, I did know him. And I loved him, and I’m going to miss him. I then expressed my condolences to her on the loss of her father. The student said that she missed him, but that God had used her father’s death in some wonderful ways, and that his memorial service was incredible. You wouldn’t believe she said how many people came to Christ because of my dad’s death. It was a joyous time. And I said, a joyous time, are you crazy? Your father died. That’s not joyous. It’s terrible. And that’s hard. And it’s painful. Do you know what happened? She fell apart in my arms and cried, and that week I spent much of the rest of the week walking around campus with her and giving her permission to cry, to be angry, to grieve. Not only that, when she recalled something her father said or had done and felt guilty about laughing about it, I gave her permission to laugh. I could do that because it is exactly what Jesus has done for me. He gave me permission to cry and affirmed my laughter. And incidentally, that student’s father wrote her almost every week. And after I got to know her, I did too, kind of, not as her father, but as a substitute to remind her that she could cry, to remind her that she could laugh. And Jesus has done that for me too. That’s what my devotional time is. When he says you’re free, cry when it hurts, sob when it hurts, and laugh when it’s funny and laugh when you’re free. A few years ago I wrote a book called Hidden Agendas: Dropping the Masks that Keep us Apart. I’m not above pushing my books. By the way, as you know, I don’t get royalties from my books, they all go to Key Life, so there. And I feel quite self-righteous in saying that too. And I repent. There’s probably no place in which Christians wear masks more than our, in our stifling of laughter, in our fake or denial of lament. If it’s funny, laugh. If it’s sad, cry. Contrary to what you may have heard, the God of the universe will cry and laugh with you. But there’s still more when we’re on this subject. Let me mention it and we’ll talk some about it tomorrow. We are connected to each other in our laughter and lament. In created, in being created in the image of God there’s a connection with God, but also it connects me with you and you with me. I’m sure I’d seen that connection before, but that didn’t make the quote connection until my kid brother and my dog died. I know, but wait a minute and I’ll explain the connection, my brother’s death was a horrible time. He was my best friend. My dog, though different was loved too. When my brother died, I started getting letters from all over the country from people I had never met. And when my dog died, the same thing. It was a connection. And in those letters there were often jokes. And I laugh with God’s people. You think about that. Amen.
Laugh when it’s inappropriate. Cry when you shouldn’t. Now, that’s an invitation that only God could give. Thank you Steve. And if you’re enjoying the series as much as I am, good news, we will continue it tomorrow. Do hope you’ll join us then, and you know, maybe even invite a friend. Well, we’ve talked about it all this week, steve’s new book, Laughter and Lament: The Radical Freedom of Joy and Sorrow. It’s all about how laughter and lament are often found together in unexpected places. Steve shares that speaking honestly about the ways we have been hurt and the ways we have hurt others, opens the door to the joy of God’s presence, even as we grieve. Now, here’s something cool. We’ve created a special Laughter and Lament booklet with excerpts from the book. Can we send you a copy? Just call us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that booklet. And if you’d like to mail your request, just go to key life.org/contact to find our mailing addresses. Just ask for your free copy of the Laughter and Lament booklet. Finally, a question, have you ever considered partnering in the work of Key Life through your giving? Giving is easy. You can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. Or join the growing number of folks who give safely and securely through text. How do you do that? Easy, just pick up your phone and text Key Life to 28950 that’s Key Life, one word, two words. It doesn’t matter. Just text that to 28950 and then follow the instructions. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And as always, we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.