EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently, Stephen Colbert opened up to Dua Lipa about the intersection of his faith and his comedy stylings. “If there’s some relationship between my faith and my comedy, it’s that no matter what happens, you are never defeated,” Colbert told her. “You must understand and see this in the light of eternity and find some way to love and laugh with each other.”
His thoughts called to mind this piece from Jonathan Trotter, which we first published in 2017.
There are times when laughing very hard is brave defiance; a dare to the darkness impinging.
Satan, the lying burglar, loves to steal joy. But Jesus, the rough-hewn Carpenter, loves to give it back.
There’s a difference between joy and happiness, between joy and laughter, I get that. But sometimes, we try to be so spiritual that we end up being too grown up for God.
Joy is richer and fuller than happiness. But joy does not exclude happiness. That’s like saying, “I’m joyful, I just look bitter and angry and like I want to kill a bunny!” Really? Is that all we’ve got to offer a world that’s drowning in its own pessimism and rage?
Is some sort of hunkered down holiness God’s idea for the Church? Yeah, I don’t think so.
In such a world (which, it should be noted, is not too dissimilar from times past), laughter is a bright act of rebellion.
Seriousness is not holier than joviality. For many, though, it’s much easier.
Laughter as Prophetic Rebellion
I’m no stranger to sad things or places. I worked in a hospital emergency room. I watched people yell and scream until their bodies ran out of blood, their brains starved and they just stopped.
Every week I sit in a counseling room and watch brave peoples’ tears smack the floor. My parents and my sister are still dead. And I still miss them.
So no, I’m not talking about a laughter that requires denial. I’m not talking about a laughter that’s fueled by alcohol or idiocy. I’m talking about a laughter that is fueled by Christ. To remember the sun’s existence on a rainy day is to remember reality. Dancing in the downpour is a prophetic thing: It will not always storm.
We need a second childhood; to be born again into childlikeness.
A joyful heart really is wonderful medicine, healing the imbiber and others.
We must boldly remember that after mourning comes dancing, and gazelles still dance on mountains of spices.
Humanism: enemy of happiness
Happiness without Christ relies on humanism. And humanism, as a source of joy, is simply not strong enough or deep enough for the long haul. It can produce flashes of joy and pleasure, for sure, but it is not durable. It is a plastic bag.
The alternative, according to G.K. Chesterton, enables joy. Speaking of Robert Louis Stevenson, Chesterton said: “Stevenson’s enormous capacity for joy flowed directly out of his profoundly religious temperament. He conceived himself as an unimportant guest at one eternal and uproarious banquet.”
The Christianized humanist stands on the edge of the sea and says, “How great I am that the God of all this would love me!”
The Christian stands at the same sea and exclaims, “How great God is that he would create all of this and love me!” Though those two statements sound similar, they diverge sharply, and having diverged, end poles apart.
So Rebel Already
Look for the wonder. Look for the humor. Laugh at the darkness as a child of the Light. Don’t be afraid of the godly guffaw. Read Chesterton.
Now, I’m not interested in ignorant bliss. I’m not promoting a happiness that exists only in the absence of pain. I’m advocating a worldview that views the world as it is. And then keeps looking. To see the world as it is, isolated and suspended in nothing, results in terror and too great a cognitive dissonance.
No, we must see the world as it is, without blinders, and then we must keep looking and see the great Actor who exists outside of (and inside of) the world.
His presence changes things. It must change things.
So look up.
Lift up your head and see the King.