Sunday, January 6, 2013

What Makes God Laugh?

My last post, and the quote it triggered for me, got me thinking about this question.  'Cause, like I said, I find it hard to believe God would sit there laughing at all us poor schlubs just because once in a while we need to labor under the delusion that we have control over our fates.  I just don't want to think God is that spiteful, that mean-spirited.  Maybe it's a gentle sort of laugh.

On the other hand, we really ought to imagine God laughing more often.  The Bible says, "He who sits in the heavens laughs."  But there's not much in the Bible to tell us what makes God laugh.  If we're made in God's image, maybe we have to look to ourselves to see what makes God laugh.

Laughter definitely feels heaven-sent to me.  Some of the most joyful times I've ever spent were those where I laughed the evening away over the freewheeling exchange of thoughts and comments and ideas that somehow sent me into big, beautiful belly chortles, though I honestly think any individual item that set me off, removed from the context of love and friendship in which it was born, just wouldn't seem as funny.

The best laughter grows and builds from shared awareness of our own foibles, our common humanity.  It feels freest, most holy, if you'll pardon the use of that word, when it represents our own ability to laugh at ourselves, when it is born from an ineffable soil of humility and empathy.

Unfortunately, like so many human gifts, sometimes we use laughter for good and sometimes for harm.  When laughter is driven by cruelty, by the desire to exclude, by envy and the mean-spirited wish to make ourselves seem more important at the expense of someone else's dignity, it is an ugly and harmful thing.  A lot of social bullying in elementary school feeds on this kind of laughter.  Sometimes we laugh at things that make us uncomfortable, like we just don't know how else to respond.  There's an anxiety and uncertainty to that kind of laughter that lacks the strength to build into joyful rolling waves.

I'd like to believe that when God laughs, He is laughing with us instead of laughing at us.    But if God is completely removed from us, superior to us, how can we believe that he laughs with us?  This is where the Christian belief that God became human comes in handy.  If God has truly and completely experienced what it is to be human, then he can laugh with us, from that place of empathy that drives the best of laughter.

So what makes God laugh?  I'd like to think God gets a good laugh out of some of those goofy, halfway jokes that third graders tell, you know, the ones that represent kids' early explorations of their own sense of humor.  And I'd like to think God gets a good laugh out of watching us laugh, 'cause we all know laughter is contagious.

Now I'm back at that quote that started me down this road:  "Man plans and God laughs."  Can that possibly be a laughter of empathy?  When I think about it, I believe it can be.  After all, surely God's plans don't always go the way he wants.  Look at the story of Adam and Eve.  Free will makes it a given that God's plans may not go the way he thought.  Maybe he looks back on some of those moments, in the hindsight of eternity, and laughs.  At the very least, this experience means that he can laugh in empathy when things don't go our way.  He can laugh and say "I've been there, my friend."

I wonder what it looks and sounds like when God laughs.  If God is in all of us, then maybe, when we laugh, it is really God laughing.  When I hear my students laugh, perhaps I should say to myself, "There goes God, cracking himself up again."


  1. I have often thought of this as well, hence the google search and stumbling on your post.... I think that sometimes when we do silly stuff God laughs.. like when Kenneth Copland what binding the devil when he saw a she over a chair and thought it was a spirit... (at night) or Kid's .. yes Kid's who say the darndest things.. or animals.. my my my.. they are funny.. especcially cat's... I now the bible says that a merry heart brings good health... (Be anxious for nothing.. not even the things relating to God for an anxious mind can cloud our thoughts so we can't hear the still small voice...

  2. Mmm - I like that about a merry heart bringing good health. Is that Proverbs? And I love the idea of linking that with "Be anxious for nothing" (or "Do not worry about tomorrow; today has worries enough of its own), the idea that laughter can dispel anxiety and clear the path for us to hear that still, small voice.

  3. Dear Cynthia:

    This is Michael Tibbetts. I am a 43 year career marketer/educator and, through God's Loving Grace, a “Family Healer.” I have shepherded my own Family's Healing Journey since 1985. During this same period, I have helped hundreds of other families to begin and nurture their own restorative pilgrimages. This is my Divine Mission, which God has used my entire life to prepare me for. As you well know from your own and others life experiences, we are all, as Henri Nouwen, a 20th Century Catholic Mystic would say, “Wounded Healers.”

    I am really impressed with your reflection here and was wondering if I could copy it onto my own blog, giving you full credit for its authorship here. My website is: My blog is listed under "Inspirational Articles" which is a drop down link from "Services and Classes" on my Home Page.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request. Blessings. Michael

    1. You are more than welcome to share this piece on your blog if you credit it. Thank you for joining the conversation.