I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, its only something I’ve noticed. After reading a Psalm, a prophet, or a parable there is rarely a laugh on the other side, and given that laughter could be our most God-like quality it’s a quirk of Scripture that we so rarely see a little humor.
The reason behind the thought is I have been binge-watching (Collins Dictionary 2015 word of the year) Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee by Jerry Seinfeld and I have been surprised at how serious and even theological Seinfeld’s show gets. For example, in one episode, (link here) a Jew (Jerry Seinfeld) and a Christian (Stephen Colbert) walk into a coffee shop and the conversation gets real.
Colbert asks, How do you feel about happiness?
Seinfeld answers – I feel its a foolish thing to pursue.
Then Colbert comes back – Suffering is actually a pretty good way to get to happiness.
Welcome to the Christian message.
What God the Father, Jesus, and apparently select comedians know is there is a connection between suffering and joy, one is the door to the other. The irony this creates is that so often we are tempted to avoid what is painful in order to be happy when it is actually entering into and moving through a difficulty that will bring the joy we seek. The major purpose of the Bible, I believe, is to bring us to this door – a knock, knock with significant stakes.
Jesus tells the same story in Matthew 7 where he says – Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Often I hear this passage preached in such a way that it is a promise God will do whatever we ask – an if I pray enough God will do what I want sort of thing. I don’t think this is what Jesus meant. We have to remember this is Jesus telling the story, and every word is shaped by Him and what He did – meaning the cross. The promise Jesus make us is that if we look, ask, or knock on the door to find Him, that door will open. Or in other words, if we want to find joy, Jesus will open that door, but do not be surprised if initially suffering is on the other side because His life is a demonstration of the connection between the two.
Moving through suffering brings us to joy. It is a fundamental both Jesus and Colbert know. You may know Stephen Colbert is an active Roman Catholic – an extraordinary interview about his faith is here – and in his comedy you can see how a smile or laugh is the result of pain pushed through.
Maybe the Bible, while not funny is better thought of as doorway to joy. The Bible encourages us to move through whatever is ahead, and as we do God will help us until we reach a place where we both can smile…and do.
(thanks for reading, if you found Jesus in this please comment and share)