HUMOR: the ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny
JOY: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires: delight
These are two very different animals. And the difference between joy and humor is something that I mull frequently. Prior to my salvation, humor was a very big part of my life—almost as big as my depression. And I don’t believe that to be an accident. My way of coping with painful truths or disappointments was to find a way to laugh at it, and if that failed, then I found a way to present it to others to make THEM laugh. Humor has always been my catharsis for my bitterness and resistance to the life God’s given me.
Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”
Do you think that Sarah and Abraham were laughing because they were so filled with joy that it just burst out of them? Well, maybe, but I think they were at least partly laughing as a way to release the pain. God promised them the impossible when He promised that they would have a child, a deep dream for both of them that was probably an even deeper wound by that time. I know what it is to laugh because you just can’t bear the hope. Humor creates a space, a distance from the overwhelming emotion that is just too much. And in that sense, we escape the painful truth of life for a moment or two. We delude our hearts with laughter to avoid facing reality – even if the delusion is temporary.
Joy, on the other hand, is an actual state of being. We can choose joy by choosing to be grateful to God in everything. Humor seems to be relative to wounds. The more wounded the person, the darker their humor. There is no single sense of humor that is recognized unanimously, because we don’t all have the same wounds. We don’t all laugh at the same things. But joy! Everyone knows what joy feels like. Joy is universal. The Bible is relatively silent on humor, especially in the life of Christ, but it is filled with joy.
I want to establish the difference between humor and joy so that we’re all on the same page going forward. I have just had a huge encounter with proclamation masked as humor, and it’s very real and very incredible. I made a “joke” six months ago, and it affected every aspect of my life—and I wasn’t even aware of it. I’m beginning to suspect that “just kidding” is an excellent flag for heart proclamations, at least in my own life. And the result is devastating. Check back Wednesday for Part 2.
Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces will never be ashamed.
Psalm 34:5 HCSB