The Medicine of Laughter: Spurgeon's Humor
by Dr. Larry J. Michael
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Your Site is very informative and quite unique.
What a refreshing approach. My heart joins with you in hopes that through all our prayers, the Kingdom of our Lord and of our Christ will reign in the hearts of many persons as God's Spirit draws to Himself those for whom Christ died.
I will stay in touch.
Blessings to you, Larry J. Michael _______________________________________________________
years ago there was a documented case in the British Medical Journal
about a man who laughed himself well. He actually had a terminal
illness, and through the employment of laughter therapy, he allowed his
body to successfully fight the disease.
While we may grudgingly acknowledge the merit of such a case, for the most part, we find such an incident almost incredible. Can laughter really be that good for us? The Bible definitely supports such a notion.
Bible Advocates Laughter
The writer of Ecclesiastes stated: “There’s
a time to laugh, and a time to cry” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). We know
that there are plenty of reasons to cry. Just a casual glance at our
world, with its wars, hatred, violence and evil—makes us sad. Every
day we see/hear on the news horrible accounts of hurting people who hurt
others. We are grieved at the plight of so many persons who are living
in darkness and have rejected the light of Christ. The stark reality of
sin in our world is indeed sobering.
It’s not surprising that many of us as leaders may be more inclined
toward sadness than to joy. Given the nature and demands of Christian
leadership in an increasingly challenging world, one could cynically
surmise that leaders may have more reason to be glum than glad these
days. The pressures of our organizational responsibilities, and the
accompanying stresses, can drag us down. Handling church conflict,
losing someone special, helplessly seeing a marriage dissolve,
experiencing personal betrayal, facing an unsuspected tragedy—all may
give cause for tears.
Great Sense of Humor
Many evangelicals know well the stern side of C. H. Spurgeon and his
serious pursuit of the holy life. Indeed, his stands for righteous
causes, and countering doctrinal error are often recounted. But many
readers may not know that he was a man with a great sense of humor.
Spurgeon knew the value of laughter and mirth. He virtually took to
heart the word in Proverbs 17:22:
“A merry heart doeth good like
Spurgeon laughed as often as he could. He laughed at the ironies of
life, he laughed at comical incidents, he laughed at the amusing
elements of nature. He sometimes laughed at his critics. He loved to
share wholesome jokes with his friends and colleagues in ministry. He
was known to tell humorous stories from the pulpit. William Williams, a
fellow pastor who kept company with Spurgeon, was a near and dear friend
in the latter years of Spurgeon’s life. He wrote:
a bubbling fountain of humour Mr. Spurgeon had! I laughed more, I
verily believe, when in his company than during all the rest of my life
besides. He had the most fascinating gift of laughter…and he had
also the greatest ability for making all who heard him laugh with
him. When someone blamed him for saying humourous things in his
sermons, he said, “He would not blame me if he only knew how many of
them I keep back.” (1.)
Spurgeon considered humor such an integral part of his ministry that a
whole chapter in his autobiography is devoted to it. Humor permeates his
sermons and writings, often woven into the fabric of his messages. It's
one reason among many why he is still so readable today.
Therapy of Laughter
Spurgeon knew the blessing of the treatment of humor. He often spoke of his illness in humorous terms: “I have had sharp pains,” he wrote to a friend, “but I am recovering. Only my back is broken, and I need a new vertebrae.”(2.)
Once, when he was feeling depressed, he spoke of the remedy of laughter:
other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt
wearied and sore depressed, when swiftly and suddenly that text came to
me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ I reached home and looked it
up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way. ‘My grace
is sufficient for THEE.’ And I said, ‘I should think it is, Lord,’
and I burst out laughing. I never understood what the holy laughter of
Abraham was till then. It seemed to make unbelief so absurd…O
brethren, be great believers. Little faith will bring your souls to
heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls.
Some of Spurgeon’s humor even bordered on the cynical--like the time
he was embroiled in the Baptismal Regeneration Controversy. When
Spurgeon took on the Church of England clerics because of their belief
in baptismal regeneration, he had a baptismal font installed in his back
garden as a birdbath. He referred to it as “the spoils of war.”
While the great “Prince of Preachers” may have gone over the top on
that one, for the most part, his humor was balanced and appropriate.
A Needful Release
Laughter is an important release in a leader’s life. It is much-needed
therapy for positions that are most often fraught with stress and the
burdens of the day. Certainly there is a time to be sober as we face
many tough situations in our lives and ministries. But, we need to learn
how to experience the relief of laughter. Part of the problem is that
too many of us take ourselves way too seriously. When we forget that God
has a sense of humor, we need to do as one leader suggested--go look in
Spurgeon knew the value of laughter and humor. Both in tough times and sick times, humor was a means for him to deal with his situation. It was a coping mechanism for him. There will always be seasons of sadness and joy for the conscientious leader. But, the leader who learns to balance the two, will learn the discipline of employing laughter and joy in his life. It could very well make a difference in his fulfillment and purpose in his service to the Lord.
(1.) William Williams, Personal Remembrances of Charles Haddon Spurgeon (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1895), 24. (2.) Ibid, 231. (3.) Ibid, 25.
Copyright © 2003 Larry J. Michael. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Book Review: Spiritual Warfare in a Believer's Life by Charles Spurgeon ___________________________________________________
Except where otherwise noted: Copyright © 2003 S.G.P. All rights reserved.
Dr. Larry Michael is senior pastor at First Baptist Sweetwater near Orlando, Florida. He has previously served as adjunct professor at Beeson Divinity School (Samford University) in Birmingham, Alabama.
By Larry J. Michael ______________
Spurgeon On Leadership
© 2003 by Larry J. Michael
Published by Kregel Publications, a Division of Kregel, Inc.
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