By Jill Briscoe
The question, “Are we having fun yet?” is one my husband, Stuart, has asked me hundreds of times in my life! Usually in the most exhausting and un-fun situations! He has taught me that joy comes in the middle of the problems of the day, and is to be found in the most unexpected places, because He is found in the middle of the muddle and is waiting around the corners of our days for whatever hard thing happens to us, reminding us: He is Joy!
Joy is Jesus
God in Galilean cloth
Making my heart smile!
Stuart’s question always makes me laugh. Seeing the funny side of life that sometimes is no fun at all, is where we have found our ‘funnest’ ( no such word, but it says what I mean) moments. Real joy has to do with “the joy of the Lord” that He shares with us even when we’re doing things that are really hard work ? things He has asked us to do for Him.
Stuart’s question also makes me realize that looking at life with a view of being able to laugh at something in the situation or at myself settles me down when I’m uptight. It relaxes me in dark days, helping me to create my own let down times wherever I am, whether at home or traveling on my own in the big wide world.
This month we were going on a walk. Stuart was teasing me about something and we started to laugh. We ended up laughing for a mile! As we were rounding the bend near our house, Stuart looked at me and said, “There’s one great thing (among many others!) about our marriage, Jill ? we do have FUN!” We were not on a beach, an exotic trip, or playing golf! We were simply walking around the block near our house on a freezing morning, after Stuart just got out of hospital (he’s fine!), and I was just back from a week in prison (I’m fine!) speaking to life termers. We had problems galore in our lives (in fact some had put their Nikes on and had chosen to accompany us on our walk), and here we were having so much fun!
I have also learned that I can have a lot of fun by laughing at life and at myself! That, of course, is because I am really rather funny! “Never take yourself too seriously,” Stuart warned me years ago when we got into ministry. He didn’t mean don’t take the work of the Lord too seriously ? that is a given ? but rather, don’t take yourself too seriously! We really are pretty amusing folks you know! This attitude keeps you from pride, and avoids the trap of thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.
It’s also a great relief when I’m in a situation where nothing that is going on around me is very funny. Like having all my papers, passport, tickets, and identification stolen in India, and being told I was being deported immediately. Or landing flat on my back in Cyprus and having to stay on my own on the island until I could stand upright while everyone else in the conference left, or finding myself on 9/11 high in the sky as the twin towers came tumbling down, and landing up in Newfoundland for a week sleeping on a Salvation Army floor!
Then of course there have been more mundane moments when I shut up the house and went shopping having left the upstairs bathroom sink blocked with the tap running. It wasn’t much fun coming home to a downpour through the kitchen ceiling that was sagging alarmingly! (Stuart, of course, was away!) It took a while to laugh at myself. The police and firemen thought it was funny immediately, and helped me to see the humor after a bit! But I know when there’s nothing to laugh at outside myself, there will always be something to poke fun at inside myself!
Fun with Whomever
I have also learned that people are fun. Not just wonderfully fun people like Stuart, but un-fun difficult people, too. I can deal with difficult people when I see the funny side of the situation the difficult person has gotten me into, or I’ve gotten them into, and try to help them to see it too. Humor is a great gift from God and can diffuse really intense situations that are no fun at all. I, however, have to work at it!
We can have fun with all sorts of people. They don’t have to be like us! Some of my most wonderful, joyful, relaxing times have been with people very different from myself in really difficult circumstances. I think of sitting in a cramped room in secret, teaching on joy from the Epistle of Philippians to women who had come there, at the risk of their freedom, to hear of faith in Christ. It was hot, humid, and uncomfortable. It was a lot of intense work, sitting on a hard floor for six solid talking hours a day, five days at a time. I was sweating, often with a headache and backache, sometimes with a stomachache, and always with heartache, yet with a joy that wouldn’t quit. In fact, it was sheer unadulterated fun!
All day at the drop of a hat the laughter in that stifling attic couldn’t be contained; there was joy dancing all over that dingy room. When we went down on the floor for the mandatory midday rest after a meal of who knows what, the 40 women wouldn’t stop giggling. And these women weren’t teenagers! They were recalling stories that sent the whole group off into fits of quiet laughter (both laughter and praise songs had to be whispered in case they were heard by enemies of Jesus and His joy!). Not being able to speak the language, I didn’t know what they were finding so amusing in this hard situation. But their joy was contagious and I found myself joining in, not knowing what it was all about! It was sheer unadulterated, exhilarating, infectious joy!
Joy was Jesus?
God in Galilean cloth,
Making their hearts smile.
But what did they do for real fun you may ask? For those of you who can’t put such things as I have described into any relaxation category, I can tell you they made their own fun with each other in simple conversation (a lost art), and at night after we had finished teaching and had eaten together, they brought out some sort of handwork they had brought with them, talking and laughing together all the time. You find fun within yourself, where you are, and with whom you are.
Fun in Well Doing
So I found myself at the end of the week facing another group in another place strangely renewed inside, as if I had been lying on a Caribbean beach for the last two weeks! No doubt my outer man (or woman) had wasted away a bit, and my face was ‘wan’ instead of ‘tan,’ but my inner man was being renewed day by delightful day!
You can be tired in the work of the Lord or tired of the work of the Lord ? and there is a big difference. Being tired in it is a given in this lost and hurting world. There are too few hands to the pump, but that’s a good sort of tired. Watching me crawl into bed at midnight after a harrowing and difficult day, Stuart said cheerfully, “It’s a good feeling to be weary in well doing, darling, isn’t it?” I couldn’t whine after that, could I? But it was a good feeling ? even a ‘fun’ feeling ? and good feelings at the end of such a day lead to sweet, undisturbed, renewing, and peaceful sleep!
Real joy has to do with the joy of the Lord that He shares with us when things are not always easy. It is God’s “thank-you” in our hearts! So, wherever God places you, whether in good circumstances or difficult ones, grab on to the funny side of life and learn to laugh at yourself – in the process you might just discover that you are not only having fun, but more importantly, you’ve found “the joy of the Lord.”