LD Tyson was one of those Methodist preachers I looked up to when I was a young preacher myself! After he retired, he served on the staff at Vestavia UMC, where I was an associate right out of seminary. At every Administrative Board meeting, he told a joke. In fact, I think some people came to board meetings not to hear the finance report, or learn what the trustees were working on – they came to hear LD’s joke!
A sense of humor is an important thing to have. In his book, Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins told about how he laughed himself well. Cousins had been diagnosed with a degenerative disease for which there was no known cure. The doctors told him there was nothing that could be done. Refusing to accept that diagnosis, Cousins had a friend bring in a movie projector, screen and reels of films, all of them comedies. (This was before the days of VCR, etc). He used the films as part of his therapy. Day after day, he would laugh until he was crying. After a while, something strange began to happen, the symptoms of his disease began to regress. Cousins laughed himself well. Laughter is good medicine.
Laughter can be a form of “whistling past a graveyard.” It is a way we deal with our fears and anxieties. Harvey Mindess writes that “Those topics we laugh at most heartily are all, in some way, sources of anxiety or discomfort, but as we laugh at them our anxiety lessens and our discomfort decreases.” Humor, he concludes, is therapeutic. It helps us to get through the stressful times of our lives.
When God told Abraham, who was 99, that his wife Sarah, who was 90, would have a son born to them, Abraham laughed. It seems that even God enjoys a good joke.