When I was a young boy, elder people would chide me for laughing during Holy Week. Laughter was carnal—exceptionally sinful during the three summer days when God was “dead.” Holiness, my young mind concluded, must mean wearing a somber face; rarely smiling, if at all; always appearing contemplative of things more heavenly than the sticky discomfort I felt from not taking a bath at Lent.
In short, holy is boring.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. From what I’ve observed, one luminous mark that characterizes the holy is joy. The godly men I have been blessed to know up close and personal all exude lightheartedness. Regardless of temperament, they are wont to smile and hospitable to spontaneous laughter. And yet this disposition doesn’t come across as giddy silliness or sheer comedic deftness (quite the opposite sometimes, as the godly are by no means spared from being corny!) Rather, it strikes me as childlike glee over both the mundane and the profound; a happiness that radiates from the heart that delights in God.
How beautiful! Holiness has freed them to smile, laugh, and loosen up—to exercise joy.
Some people have wit and humor that send others gasping for breath. Faces of people around them are turned red by incessant, hysterical laughter. And yet the best of these comics, Charlie Chaplin among them, confess to unspeakable loneliness and emptiness.
The sound of joy is there, but not its peace-giving, life-enhancing presence.
Joy, after all, is not merely in laughing or making others laugh. It is the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s working within us. It is born of an eternal perspective that sees present trials as “light and momentary.”
In a society craving constant entertainment and amusement, smiles and laughter devoid of meaningful joy are common. Joy that never smiles or laughs, however, is dubious. A joyful heart will smile and laugh—maybe not all the time, but enough times to infect others with hope and delight.
A Christian growing in holiness also grows in his exercise of joy, soaking in its presence long after the smiles have waned, the chuckles have died down, and breathing has normalized.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! – Galatians 5.22-23 (NLT)