Sometimes we experience outbursts of laughter in our meetings at Catch the Fire DFW. Why?
It’s rarely because I’m funny. That’s for sure.
It’s a good question. If you’re unfamiliar, let me first describe the phenomenon. In our gatherings at Catch the Fire DFW, it’s not uncommon for some people to laugh. There is a wide range of ways this can be expressed. Sometimes it’s one person. Sometimes it’s a few. Sometimes it’s more than a few. It can happen during preservice prayer, or during worship, or during a ministry response, or during the message. It can be a quiet and relatively un-intrusive giggle. It can be a head turning guffaw. It can erupt for a moment but sometimes it can go on for quite some time.
What’s all that about? Why does it happen? Is it okay? What if it’s not God? These are common questions we get. And we get why we get them.
I have a question of my own: What is joy supposed to look and sound like? Few that would complain about the laughter would deny that joy is a pretty important biblical reality. When joy gets expressed in humans, what does that look like?
We smile. We laugh. We cry. We shake. We jump up and down. We do all those things at once. Watch a sports fan respond with joy to their team’s victory. That’s what joy looks and sounds like when humans express it.
The Bible actually commands us to “rejoice.” That means we are responsible to activate and give expression to joy. The question “is that really God doing that in them or is that just them?” is the wrong question. It assumes that joy must be involuntary to be authentic. That just isn’t true. It isn’t true on a human level and it isn’t true in spiritual experience. My observation and experience is that when such manifestations occur in our gatherings, they are usually a combination of God’s touch and human response. Heaven’s joy is being experienced. Humans are reacting to joy the way humans react to joy. There are aspects of that expression that can feel very involuntary. But there is still a definite participation of the human will in the experience and the response.
Jesus rejoiced (Luke 10:21). What do you imagine that looked and/or sounded like? Look at what the word rejoice means:
agalliá; contracted agalli?, fut. agalliás?, aor. ?gallíasa, from ágan (n.f.), much, and hállomai (242), to leap. To exult, leap for joy, to show one’s joy by leaping and skipping denoting excessive or ecstatic joy and delight. Hence in the NT to rejoice, exult. Often spoken of rejoicing with song and dance (Sept.: Ps. 2:11; 20:5; 40:16; 68:3). Usually found in the mid. deponent agalliáomai. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
Jesus would be very at ease behaving this way in our gatherings. Many believers think of joy a an abstraction. Or if they think of it as an emotion at all, they think of it as a kind of mild but happy contentment. But that isn’t the biblical idea of joy at all. It’s loud. Joy moves. Joy leaps. Joy dances. Joy exults. Joy laughs.
It’s a command:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4, ESV)
When we actively rejoice, we actually put our reasonableness on display. The very next verse says:
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;” (Philippians 4:5, ESV)
What is it about giving full expression to our joy that puts our reasonableness on display? How is joy linked to reason? The Lord is at hand. The presence of God among us makes joy a clear display of our reason. It’s unreasonable not to express joy in God’s presence.