A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Have you noticed that as we age, we laugh less? It is as if the world's traumas, pressures, and grief add up, crushing our spirit and drying up our bones. Wrinkles on our faces are inevitable, but not all wrinkles are created equal.
The lines on our faces are formed over time and represent moments we have laughed, cried, worried, or frowned. The lines formed from laughing and smiling show times of beauty and life. Conversely, the worry and frown lines not only impact the lines on our skin, but can go deep and calcify, causing our hearts to grow hard and our spirits to grow old.
There is something sweet about a "seasoned" person breaking out in a deep belly laugh. I can remember my Grandpa Clements getting tickled about something. He would throw his head back, mouth wide open, and laugh until tears would stream down his face. Soon, anyone in his presence would be laughing along with him. The thing about laughter is that it is contagious.
Even though my grandpa was well advanced in years, I never considered him old. It wasn't because he had an easy life - he didn't. His life was marked with hardship and sorrow, but despite those hardships he learned to laugh again.
When our daughter Nicole went to Heaven, laughter seemed absurd, like I was somehow forgetting about her if I allowed myself to feel joy. I believe that is a common thread in the tapestry of grief - the struggle to laugh again. In my book Victorious Heart, I have a chapter dedicated to learning to laugh again after losing a loved one. In it, I describe the struggle I experienced:
"I wondered if I would ever be able to laugh again. I mean really laugh, deep from my body until my stomach ached. Our family used to experience that type of laughter, but it was different after Nicole went to Heaven. It was a challenge to think of us laughing like that again."
Laughter and Joy, Victorious Heart
It took time, but I eventually realized that my laughter didn't take away from Nicole's memory but actually honored it and was evidence of her beautiful, well-lived life. I had to learn to let go of the guilt I felt and cultivate joy, welcoming laughter back into my life. Over time, laughter began to bring a layer of healing to me in my grief journey.
When was the last time you laughed so hard that your sides ached and tears flowed from your eyes? Maybe that seems like forever ago, or even thought of it feels like an impossibility. Just remember you will laugh again, and when you do, it's okay. Not only welcome laughter, but cultivate it. A cheerful heart is good medicine and will bring healing to your own life and to a broken world.