Laughing in the Dark

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At yesterday’s Big Brunch for Small Groups, the topic was fun. We talked about the importance of having fun at small group, we developed a theology of fun, and we shared ideas for small group celebrations.

But there’s something we missed: fun in the face of sorrow.

I truly believe that God is fun, that he has a sense of humor, that our deepest joys in life come from him. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine,” and I think it’s medicine that the Great Physician prescribes. Small groups are so much fun when laughter comes easy — when life is good and the kids are well-behaved and food tastes delicious and the wise cracks flow like pass rushers through a Cowboys offensive line. At brunch yesterday we talked about fun in all those settings.

But we didn’t talk about sorrow, and that may be the most important setting for joy.

Over the past few years, my small group has experienced more sorrow than we care to name. Last summer, we buried one of our members: her widower is still reeling. We have faced cancer together: Melinda’s brave fight ended too soon; I go for my annual check-up tomorrow. We regularly discuss career struggles, marital disputes, financial stress. And, of course, we aren’t alone. Every small group faces problems. If everything is going swimmingly for everyone in your group, rejoice! Blessing is beautiful! But it’s often fleeting. There will likely come a time when life seems hard, hope seems naive, and joy seems elusive.

And it’s just at those times when laughter is most unruly and most important. Because it’s just in the moments when the kingdom of darkness seems strongest that the kingdom of light can shine brightest. Like midnight praise in a Philippian prison, like Christmas feasts in Western Front trenches, like bedside communion in a hospital, the joy of God’s people is an act of defiance against evil. When we laugh in the darkness we declare that we are obedient to the Bible’s most-repeated command: fear not.

I hope your small group is a fun place. I hope there is laughter and warmth and rest and celebration. But I also hope your joy is loud because your courage is fierce. Laughter is warfare, brothers and sisters.

Let us bellow at hell.

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