2022 | THE APRIL ISSUE: "WRITE A NEW CHAPTER OF JOY AND LAUGHTER"
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13
It's April and time for another Monthly Basic Devo! This month our subject is simple: joy and laughter! Are you ready to write a new chapter of joy and laughter?
I want to share excerpt from one of my Life Basics Bible Studies titled, "UP: Writing a new chapter of joy and laughter" to encourage you in the very real and tangible experience of living in God's joy!!
So, let's go...
Excerpt... from Chapter 1: When the sky is not blue
Got the blues? Feeling bummed out? Down in the dumps? Fighting discouragement or depression?
You’re not alone.
If you’ve experienced a set back or disappointment lately, it can knock the wind out of your sails. If you’ve lost a loved one or grieving a loss, you can feel heavy-hearted. If you’ve felt isolated, overlooked or rejected, then you know what an invitation to a pity party looks like.
Depression is a big problem these days. Whether it’s a mild case of the blues, clinical depression or severe depression. Many people need encouragement to find happiness and joy in their lives. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re a teen or adult, male or female, single, married, or a parent; at times, everyone is tempted to get down.
Perhaps you wonder if things could be different for you? Is it possible to be “up” in a down world? Will your sky ever be blue again? Does God have real answers? The good news is that God cares and in His Word He has given us real answers to help us. (In addition, He’s gifted and empowered professionals to assist you as needed.)
How I Learned This Lesson
I remember a season of the blues during my junior year in college. I was a nice, “happy-go-lucky,” Christian college student with plans to become a dentist. I had just spent 12 weeks doing beach evangelism and discipleship training with a campus ministry on a summer project in New Hampshire. It was a life changing summer of stretching, sharing Christ and growing in my faith. I returned to college as a junior and was on fire, sold out, ready to serve God with my life! Coming off that summer project and into the first semester of my junior year, I had a powerful encounter with the Lord where He called me to the ministry, quickened Romans 10:13-15 to my heart and gave me a “mini-vision” of what I’d be doing someday. That fall semester was a marked time in my spiritual growth and personal destiny. I was excited about God and I wanted to spend my life doing eternal things.
Little did I know that the enemy would immediately try to quench my zeal and commitment to God. My “happy-go-lucky” disposition was attacked and I found myself feeling depressed, bummed out and frustrated. I didn’t quite know what it was. The only way I could describe it was that it seemed that negative thoughts were bombarding my mind and I felt blue for no specific reason. I eventually realized that many times the reason for an attack of discouragement or depression is because God has great plans for us and when the devil perceives that God is up to something and tries to short-circuit God’s plan. This went on and off for several months. I loved the Lord with all my heart. I was reading my Bible, praying and committed to serving Him, but I was living the defeated Christian life in my thoughts and emotions. I didn’t know what to do. As I sought the Lord, He began to show me what I was dealing with and His strategy for being set free from the blues. I will share some of those strategies in this Bible study.
Nugget: Some of you may be facing more severe causes and types of depression. If you’ve lost a loved one, experienced divorce or a tragedy of some kind you may be in a time of heartbreaking grief; if you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, or if you’ve experienced some type of traumatic stress you may feel like a prisoner to the oppressive power of depression. Again, you might benefit from getting some professional and/or pastoral help to walk you through the process of healing and recovery.
Our focus in this study will be on living in the “up” side of life and choosing joy, rejoicing, laughing and dancing to help lift you out of season of weeping, mourning, sadness, discouragement and depression. We are going to focus our attention on general principles from God’s Word for experiencing the life of joy and peace. Fortunately, God knows you and your circumstances intimately and He’s sent the Holy Spirit to be your Helper, Counselor and Comforter. As you purpose to study and obey God’s Word on this subject, expect the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you into a customized plan for freedom from depression and expect to be embraced by the One who loves you most!
Excerpt... from Chapter 4: Going to Your Happy Place
It was a very stressful time in our lives. We were raising four young children, building a new church building and keeping up with the demands of a growing congregation. One day I noticed that I had not laughed in a long time. I consider myself a person who laughs easily and who usually finds the humor in just about anything, but for this season it was all work and no play––all serious and no laughter. I realized that I had gotten in a bad habit of not laughing! To remedy the stress and seriousness that had overtaken my life I decided to start looking for the light side. I knew I needed to get a new vision so I searched through old boxes of photos looking for a snapshot of me laughing. When I found one, I posted that photo on our refrigerator so that I could get a new image of the person I wanted to be, again! It worked, and within a few weeks I found myself laughing and enjoying the season of life in a new fresh way. It was confirmed when a co-worker who heard me laugh one day said, “I love hearing you laugh; you have not laughed in a long time.” How about you? Have you laughed lately? We’ve all had those days, weeks, perhaps long seasons where we just wanted to tune out all the negativity around us and run to our happy place. Well, here’s good news: Jesus wants us to live in the happy place! Have you noticed that when you are full of joy, laughter and happiness in the Lord you are stronger in every way? You feel more energized. You are hopeful and motivated. The joy God gives us is our strength. No wonder Nehemiah 8:10 says, "Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength." Nehemiah told the people to rejoice in God’s goodness. He told them to celebrate, change their thinking, eat feast foods and give gifts to others. A spirit of celebration accompanies the joy of the Lord. Nugget: Notice they made a choice to celebrate with joy! In verse 12 of the King James Version of the Bible says they decided to “make great mirth.” I love that! When was the last time you just decided to make great mirth? There is a lot of truth to the old song, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Joy is attractive. Joy is fun. Joy is refreshing. Often we have to stir it up and make ourselves rejoice. Whether it’s small, natural things or big, spiritual things, we can "make mirth." For example, what refreshes you? What brightens your moment? In what ways can you celebrate and stir up the joy of the Lord? Is it a thirty minute walk? Coffee with a friend? A new tube of lip gloss or a fishing magazine? Is it alone time with God? Organizing a cluttered drawer? Shopping? A massage? Singing? Prayer and God’s Presence? A funny movie? Watching the sunset? What is it for you? Make mirth! Nugget: In this story in Nehemiah when the people were wrongly interpreting the Word of the Lord, they were sad and depressed. When Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites helped them to correctly interpret what the Word of the Lord meant, it brought great joy. Maybe you should take a moment to evaluate the things you are hearing. If you are reading books, listening to sermons or songs that are causing you to be overly introspective, depressed, sad and distressed, it’s likely that those things are not in agreement with God’s Word. Unfortunately, some preachers preach the Bible as if it were bad news and as if we weren't living under a NEW Covenant of God's grace! Certainly, there are some sober truths in God’s Word, but for those walking with God in the light of His Word there is fullness of joy. Jesus said God’s Word and His plan is Good News, and in most cases, good news brings great joy! I encourage you to take inventory of the things you are listening to or watching and be sure to read books, listen to music and sit under ministers who are preaching the Word in such a way that the truth you hear sets you free, and you experience the life and joy God’s Word brings! God’s Word is a delight and a cause for rejoicing in our hearts, if we will let it be. If you believe God’s Word and take Him at His Word, it is absolutely thrilling! Besides all of that...Jesus is our example and guess what?
Jesus was anointed with gladness. Too many people view Jesus as this sober, somber, serious person. No, Jesus had more joy than anyone else according to these passages. Isn’t that awesome! He was not angry, sad, mad, introspective, depressed or discouraged. I can just imagine Jesus walking around with a radiant joy and spirit of gladness as He talked with and ministered to people. Gladness is a sign of spiritual maturity. The Bible says Jesus was anointed with the oil of gladness more than anyone else! Jesus was and is a happy, full-of-joy kind of person and we can be just like Him! Laugh A Lot Laughter is good for you! It’s just impossible to be sad, depressed, bummed, blue or in the dumps if you cultivate a life of laughter. When was the last time you had a real hearty, refreshing laugh? Did you know Proverbs 15:13 tells us, "A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit." (NIV)
If you want to look younger? Laugh! Happiness and joy light up your face! It gets even better with Proverbs 17:22, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (NIV) If you’re thinking of being medicated for depression, have you considered this type of medication as well? A cheerful heart IS good medicine! Take your laughter pills every day and watch what God does! The Message Bible makes it clear. “A cheerful disposition is good for your health; gloom and doom leave you bone-tired.” The Message Everyone in medical science doesn’t agree with God’s Word on this subject. But there have been numerous people that have testified to the healing properties of laughter. Not all of these people have been Christians, but is it possible that they have tapped into something that the Lord told us in His Word thousands of years ago? Nugget: Researchers tell us what we already knew instinctively about laughter and health, “We’ve long known that the ability to laugh is helpful to those coping with major illness and the stress of life’s problems. But researchers are now saying laughter can do a lot more — it can basically bring balance to all the components of the immune system, which helps us fight off diseases . . . laughter reduces levels of certain stress hormones. In doing this, laughter provides a safety valve that shuts off the flow of stress hormones and the fight-or-flight compounds that swing into action in our bodies when we experience stress, anger or hostility. These stress hormones suppress the immune system, increase the number of blood platelets (which can cause obstructions in arteries) and raise blood pressure. When we’re laughing, natural killer cells that destroy tumors and viruses increase, as do Gamma-interferon (a disease-fighting protein), T-cells (a major part of the immune response) and B-cells, which make disease-destroying antibodies. . . What may surprise you even more is the fact that researchers estimate that laughing 100 times is equal to 10 minutes on the rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike. Laughing can be a total body workout! Blood pressure is lowered, and there is an increase in vascular blood flow and in oxygenation of the blood, which further assists healing. Laughter also gives your diaphragm and abdominal, respiratory, facial, leg and back muscles a workout. That’s why you often feel exhausted after a long bout of laughter — you’ve just had an aerobic workout!” The psychological benefits of humor are amazing, according to doctors and nurses who are members of the American Association for Therapeutic Humor. People often store negative emotions, such as anger, sadness and fear, rather than expressing them. Laughter provides a way for these emotions to be harmlessly released. Laughter is cathartic. That’s why some people who are upset or stressed out go to a funny movie or a comedy club; so they can laugh the negative emotions away. These negative emotions, when held inside, can cause biochemical changes that can affect our bodies.
Norman Cousins’ 1979 book, Anatomy of an Illness, brought the idea of laughter and healing to the forefront. He was suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, a degenerative spinal disease which put him in almost constant pain. He decided to watch comedy films and laugh a lot. He discovered that as little as 10 minutes of laughter would give him 2 hours of pain-free sleep. The explanation for why laughter reduces pain is not yet clear. While most people assume that it’s because of the production of endorphins (one of the body’s natural pain killers), there is still no scientific evidence to support this view. The reduced pain may also be explained by the muscle relaxation that occurs from laughter, or because humor and laughter distract us from the source of pain. Here are some natural tips to help you put more laughter in your life: -Figure out what makes you laugh and do it (or read it or watch it) more often. Funny movies, books and stories are a great source for priming the laughter pump. -Surround yourself with funny people—be with them every chance you get. -Develop your own sense of humor. Look for ways to make others laugh. Find the light side and the bright side of every situation. -Just start laughing and praising God, as a matter of choice on purpose. You’ll be surprised by how refreshing it will be.
God's Word is loaded with His will for us to "make mirth" along with all of the benefits that it brings! Let's get serious about joy and laughter. Why not commit 6 days to studying this bite-sized Bible study, "UP: Writing a New Chapter of Joy and Laughter!"
As we approach this Easter season, may you experience a fresh dose of joy in knowing that Jesus went to the cross for you -- to give you the free gift of righteousness -- so you could reign in life with joy and laughter as you represent Him here on earth. That ought to make you smile!
Yours for the joy of the Lord,
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