My Jesus Does Stuff: Serving the God Who Laughs

by | Mar 9, 2021 | Faith, Uncategorized | 28 comments

Merchandise is Here!

Back in 2012 my family and I ventured to Europe (back in the days when we could still travel!) to see the sites of Rome, and Florence, and Greece, and some others. It was tremendously fun, very educational, and extremely hot.

Italy Family

But one day, after my husband had I had toured the Renaissance art gallery in Florence (the Uffizi), I was struck by a rather melancholy feeling.

I couldn’t really put my finger on it until the next day, when we visited another church and looked at all the breathtaking artwork. In Italy, I never saw Jesus do anything.

Italy Colisseum

Jesus was everywhere–though perhaps Mary was in slightly more paintings. But everywhere that Jesus was, He wasn’t doing anything. He was either a baby, or else He was dead. Now, I’m not trying to say that dying on the cross wasn’t important, but more often than not He wasn’t even depicted on the cross; He was off the cross, with his bleeding head cradled in some women’s arms. So he’s a baby, or He’s weak, helpless, and dead.

Jesus as a Baby Painting

I found the artwork beautiful, and the cathedrals stunning, but I can’t say that I had very many profoundly religious experiences, because I didn’t really sense the Jesus that I know. Rarely did I see Jesus feeding the five thousand, or talking to the woman caught in adultery or the woman at the well, or pulling little children to His lap, or making a whip out of cords, or even rising from the dead! No pictures of empty tombs here.

Jesus on the Cross

In the Sistine Chapel there were some paintings of other scenes from Jesus’ life, but in all, His death and his baby-hood took the pre-eminence, as if there was nothing between and nothing afterwards. And I thought to myself, that’s a very hard Jesus to relate to. You know that He suffers, and you know that He was human, but that’s really it. You can’t get a sense of His personality, or His very real-ness. He seems almost impotent.

In contrast, the saints were always doing stuff–slaying dragons, or writing letters, or debating. The apostles were, too. Even the women in Jesus’ life seemed to take the initiative and do something. But not Jesus.

But then I started to wonder: in all my criticizing of this art, do I honestly believe that Jesus does stuff?

Or am I just comfortable with the Jesus that I know from Bible stories, too? Do I think that Jesus’ whole life can be depicted in paintings, and that it somehow ended 2000 years ago?

I’m not talking about whether or not I believe that Jesus is alive now–I do, and I think most reading this blog do as well–I’m talking about whether or not we believe and we act as if we believe that Jesus is still active now. There’s a whole lot of difference between being alive and being active.

Do we really believe that God does stuff, even today? Do we really believe that He can make a difference in our lives, or are we trying to follow a God who we know about through the Bible, but that’s really as far as it goes. We haven’t experienced Him. That was the overwhelming feeling I got in those cathedrals: they knew about Jesus, but I didn’t see Jesus being an active part of anyone’s life.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do have two big thoughts today that I’d like to introduce as we start a new series on the blog. 

1. God rarely answers prayers as we think He should–but He does do neat stuff.

Ever get tired of prayers that go, “Lord, if it is your will, let X, Y and Z happen, because that just seems obvious to me.” We throw in the “if it is your will” so that if it doesn’t happen, we can say, “well, it’s not my fault. It’s not that I didn’t pray enough. It’s God’s will.” It’s kind of like a cop out.

And we often judge our faith by how well God answers our specific prayers. 

But one thing I’ve found over my half century of life is that God often does absolutely amazing things that I could never have prayed for because I didn’t even know they were a thing. Let me tell you a bit more of the story of The Great Sex Rescue, and Joanna. 

Our family met Joanna through Joanna’s little sister Gracie, who was best friends with my daughter Katie. Both of my girls were involved in Bible quizzing with the Alliance church when they were teenagers. They memorized entire books of the New Testament (seriously; Katie has about half the New Testament memorized, and Becca almost half). They were so good they made the internationals team.

Internationals Quizzing

both my girls, on separate teams, quizzing against the team Joanna’s dad is coaching

And so they met teenagers from all over, including a family of 4 from Pittsburgh (Joanna and her family). But Joanna met other Canadians while quizzing, including a really tall guy named Josiah from Saskatoon. They married. My girls even did the hair for the wedding! 

Fast forward a few years and Rebecca gets an email from Joanna because Josiah has graduated law school and needs a placement, and wanted to know if we had any leads. So I put them in touch with a lawyer from Belleville, and lo and behold, they end up in Belleville! 

We get to know them a bit, and Joanna starts doing some work on the blog right around the time the whole Love & Respect thing breaks. Because she’s an epidemiologist, she’s worked extensively with data coding and analyzing in academia, and she’s able to write up the first report for Focus on the Family–which they ignore.

And one day Joanna and I are FaceTiming when she says, “Maybe I should just go back and do my Ph.D. so I could do a big survey and see how these teachings have affected women.” And I reply, “We don’t need to do a Ph.D. for that. We could just do it!”

And we did. Because I had Joanna, who actually knew what she was doing with statistics, and Rebecca, who knew what she was doing with survey development, and me, who could write (although Rebecca wrote all the funny bits of the book).

None of us could have done this project alone.

Now, it turns out that Josiah’s job was a wonderful learning opportunity and gave him some experience, but it wasn’t forever. And so he moved on to a job in the Canadian arctic. 

The Great Sex Rescue authors before Joanna moved up to the Arctic!

We all thought they were moving to Belleville because of Josiah’s job. But it turns out they were moving to Belleville for Joanna, who, at the time, was a stay-at-home mom with a baby. We would never have reconnected with Joanna otherwise. 

One of my sharpest memories of internationals in 2009 was Josiah in the finals, answering a question clearly and solidly. I never remembered his name, but I remembered him. And who would have thought that we would know them so well now?

One of the few pictures I have of Katie quizzing against Josiah’s team (Josiah is looking down). Little did we know!

We could never, ever have prayed for any of this. I think we were praying totally different things for the direction of the blog or for Rebecca’s work or anything. But God was weaving all these strange pieces of our lives together so that at just the right time, we would all be together. 

I can look back at so many different times in my life when I was praying for something specific, but I didn’t know the big picture. I thought God wasn’t answering my prayers, but really He was doing something even stranger and cooler. 

And it makes you sit back and be in awe sometimes. 

What I’ve learned in prayer is that a powerful prayer isn’t so much about specific actions God should take as it is about the qualities that we want to see in people afterwards. So rather than pray, “God, teach my husband how to show me love by helping him to see that I need him to talk to me at night, and not sit in front of the TV all the time,” you can pray, “God, make my husband into a man who seeks you first, and then shows your love to others. Let him experience your love in a powerful way, and let that spill over into all aspects of his life.”

Or instead of praying, “God, get me this particular job,” you can pray, “God, give us our daily bread. And work things out so that whatever we do in life puts us in exactly the place you want us to be for what you have in mind. Keep us open to opportunities to speak a word into someone’s life. Let us be part of making your kingdom come on earth. Make us always sensitive to your Holy Spirit.”

2. Finally: We Serve a God Who Laughs

This is really the point I want to make today, and what I’d like to talk about through the rest of the month.

Would our view of God change if we understood that Jesus laughed–a lot? Would our walk with God change if we understood that God has a sense of humor, and that He enjoys laughter?

Think about it: rough fishermen liked spending time with Jesus. Sinners and tax collectors liked eating with Jesus. They didn’t feel judged. Little children liked sitting on Jesus’ lap, and felt welcome. 

What do all of those things have in common? Laughter

So often, in our art and in our prayers, we picture God as the Man of Sorrows–which He was and is. But He is more than that. He is also the creator of laughter, the author of joy. He laughs when babies chortle. He laughs at squirrels that chase each other up trees. He laughs just like you do when you watch your children. 

Jesus enjoyed life. He had to–or people wouldn’t have particularly liked Him. It was the Pharisees who were sad and somber, not Jesus. 

Sure, He got angry, too. Sure, He wept over Jerusalem. We know that Jesus well.

But He also laughed. 

Don’t you think He laughed when He was feeding the five thousand and the bread kept coming? Don’t you think He laughed when He told some of His parables? I think He likely had a twinkle in His eye. 

And I actually think that makes a difference. And so this month, I’d like to talk about the God Who Laughs, and what that means for us in marriage. 

Are you with me?

 

The Great Sex Rescue

Now Available!

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

Serving the God Who Laughs

Do you ever picture Jesus laughing? Does that make a difference to you? Have you ever seen God do something amazing–but you only recognize it after the fact? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

Related Posts

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28 Comments

  1. Anon

    Growing in my faith with a legalistic mindset which led to a lot of issues which in the end lead to me being spiritually burned out, its really difficult to picture Jesus as laughing.
    For a long time the image I got in my mind when thinking about God was Him looking angry at me. At best He was looking at me with toleration.
    At times I thought about Him smiling but it wasnt often.
    Even imagining that he could answer my prayers? I mean I pray but I dont know how much hope and faith I put on that. Can He answer even when I feel so far away? Am I good enough for Him to answeIr? Can He even change the circumstance? Theoratically I know He can but practically, will He do that for me?
    Its tough. Maybe I need to hear more about this laughing God.

    Reply
    • Kristen

      Me, too, Anon. I’m always torn between feeling like God isn’t happy with me and then feeling like He’s still got some kind of plan for my life. I still feel like He’s opened doors and opportunities for me this last year that I wouldn’t have been able to open on my own, but deep down I have a hard time really talking to Him after my own experiences with evangelicalism.

      Reply
      • Elizabeth

        This is EXACTLY how I feel! I feel closer to God talking ABOUT all He’s done in my life but when it comes down to actually being with Him or trying to talk about Him, I feel distant and disconnected. I see His hand but not His face. It’s really sad and heartbreaking because I deeply want to know Him and be close with Him

        Reply
  2. Anne

    The comment of “they didn’t feel judged” brought something to mind. I left a deeply legalistic culture that actively and openly judged. They preached that to NOT actively call your friends out for perceived issues was granting a license to sin. (Apparently always leading to an affair).
    I’m now in a deeply nonjudgmental culture and it turns out the opposite is true; the more accepting people have been, the more I’m able to relax, trust, and Be. So far, I feel no desire to go on a sin rampage.
    But there is a lot of judgment in a lot of conservative church circles and it seems to stem from a poor view of personal accountability, deep fear, and a lot of control issues.
    A Jesus who laughs isn’t trying to control. In those circles, he would be better off laughing derisively but not openly or with welcome because OTHERWISE HE WELCOMES SIN?! (Emphasized to show mock horror)
    Laughter and playfulness have been things I’ve forgotten about.

    Reply
  3. Paul

    While reading through the BIBLE last year I came across Zephania 3:17. One version says God sings over me. Another says HE will delight in you with shouts of JOY.
    That was such a neat feeling to know that because I am a believer God is Happy.

    Reply
      • Jacqueline

        Just a little story that showed me that Jesus laughs. A few months ago I was pondering the question how much time is enough time to spend on your quiet time? I simply asked the Lord saying: “Ok Lord how much time is enough time for a quiet time?”
        His reply in a laughing voice was: “Well I’m here all the time aren’t are? It’s as much time as you want to give me.” Just the way I heard the reply made me laugh out loud. It was like I asked a silly question and his reply was stating the obvious. Anyway, I found it funny!

        Reply
  4. Jen

    I so need this series! We’ve been walking through a dark time in our marriage, and I’m struggling to get rid of “false Jesus” ideas (like the idea that Jesus wants me to be a doormat for my husband because that is “submission”) . I’m saved and love the LORD, but now it’s time to clean house and get rid of false teachings that have hurt me. Thanks for being one way the LORD is using to show me the real Him!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yay! I’m so glad I could be a part of that important journey, even if it’s hard.

      Reply
  5. edl

    Unfortunately many people can not imagine a God who laughs or imagine Jesus laughing.
    Some of my favorite pieces of art are those of Jesus dancing with children, such as Dance of Grace by Mark Keathley. One of my favorite books from 1975 was the Humor of Christ by Elton Trueblood. Although I have not read the book since those days, it is a concept that needs to be more widely discussed to help us understand the fullness of God’s character.
    We are talking about a God that created babies and playful creatures and bubbling brooks; why would an always stern God bother to create these joyful places in life if He Himself did not also enjoy them?
    Psalm 45 is an obvious depiction of Christ the King. Verse 7 says “God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). 1 Chronicles 16:27 says “Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His dwelling place.”
    Yes, there are some very sad and serious things happening as a part of life here on Earth. But He has “read the end of the Book” and knows He is working everything together for good.
    Thank you, Sheila and Team, for once again bringing to the forefront an important discussion that we all need to take to heart and then share with others.
    Please keep changing culture for the Kingdom of God !

    Reply
  6. Sharon

    I love this topic. I recently watched The Chosen, and it portrays Jesus as joyful, funny and compassionate. I look forward to this blog series!

    Reply
    • Sandy

      Yes! I wanted to mention The Chosen series as well, since it helped me to see Jesus’ humanity and approachability. The episode that impacted me the most was the one where Jesus interacts with the children (I think it’s episode 3). That truly caused me to fall in love with Jesus all over again.
      Regarding prayer, I recently heard a quote from a book by J.I. Packer that struck me deeply. “God fixes our prayers on the way up! If He does not answer the prayer we made, He will answer the prayer we should have made.” I found that concept very helpful to my attitude towards prayer.

      Reply
  7. Em

    That’s a good point, Jesus laughing. I usually think of Him eating! He was always eating! Eating and laughing could go hand in hand.
    Have you watched The Chosen? It portrays Jesus’ and the disciples humanness. It is epic.

    Reply
  8. lady lavender

    Oh! This is an excellent topic and such good timing! It is Spring – a time of birth, renewal, new beginnings. A time to refresh ourselves, and acquaint ourselves, with God’s beauty, His healing, His tenderness. And yes, God does laugh….He created laughter! Yes, He can be stern, angry, and many other “negative” emotions (what parent isn’t at times?), but He also laughs with us, and when we are really silly, perhaps at us. I believe that He does want to indulge us with His goodness.

    Reply
  9. Krista

    Have you seen the Visual Bible Matthew movie? Bruce Marchiano plays Jesus. He is a laughing, joyous Jesus! Bruce wrote a book, called In the Footsteps of Jesus, about his experiences in preparing for and filming the movie. It is eye-opening and a revelation for a laughing, extremely joy-filled Jesus, a Jesus who aches with love for us. Both the movie and the book drew me closer to my Saviour than pretty much any other book I have read, other than the Bible.

    Reply
      • Krista

        The movie is the entire book of Matthew in NIV, word for word. It even has the chapter and verse on the bottom of the screen.

        Reply
  10. Jane Eyre

    Lovely post and a lot to think about.
    It occurs to me that laughter can be misinterpreted. It can be joyful; it can also be cruel, condescending, or snide. Perhaps artists are uncomfortable portraying Jesus as laughing because of the potential for misinterpretation.
    Likewise, when we think of “being like children” before God, that could mean a child’s complete trust in her parents and joy in life, or a child terrified of misbehaving. I want to believe that God means the former, and is taking us to come to Him like a child who seeks solace, comfort, joy, and direction in her parents.

    Reply
  11. Melissa

    Husband and I have had conversations about this. Jesus had a sense of humor, Jesus was kind of a smart-aleck, and Jesus wasn’t afraid of taking the shock and awe approach when it was warranted. He wasn’t this weak, milquetoast, quiet, pale looking dude. He was kind of a beast. A gentle beast, but a beast nonetheless. And I like that.

    Reply
    • edl

      On the subject of how Jesus can be portrayed as a milquetoast …
      Consider the fact that before his ministry years, Jesus was by profession a carpenter. Back in those days the carpenter likely had to go into the forest, cut down the trees and physically bring them back to the shop to be made into the various pieces of furniture or whatever was needed; that takes muscle. And without electric tools … wood working would take a strong athletic man to be a carpenter in those days.
      Add to that the fact that in classical Greek (the language that the New Testament was written in originally), the word “tekton” means a craftsman or builder in wood, stone or metal. Stone and metal would take perhaps even more physical strength.
      Jesus being portrayed as always a baby or a milquetoast comes from either the uninformed or from evil roots (trying to diminish His strength, majesty, power).
      When we consider Jesus’s Tekton profession, His years of ministry (traveling, walking), and all that Jesus endured during the torture and crucifixion, it should be easy to see how strong and athletic He must have been during His days on Earth. He was a “man’s man” (as one used to say), able to feel right at home with strong physically active fishermen.
      And when we consider all that Jesus does today … His strength, majesty and power are more awesome than we yet fully know.

      Reply
  12. Lindsey

    I grew up in a very legalistic denomination, and one of the most influential things in helping me with my relationship with God and Jesus was the show “The Chosen”. Before that I never understood the humanity of “God in the flesh”. It also shows his great concern and respect for the women around him. It’s absolutely beautiful and my husband and I cried in most episodes.
    If you haven’t yet seen it, you can stream for free (just download the app “The Chosen”). Season two is supposed to drop soon!

    Reply
  13. Phil

    I am with you Sheila 🙃

    Reply
  14. Hanna

    I came to the comments section to recommend The Chosen but quite a lot of people beat me to it! I’ll still add my voice to the choir and say that I’m currently watching the show, and it’s changing my view of Jesus and is awakening a deep longing in me to touch people’s lives the way He did and still does.

    Reply
  15. Renee

    Sounds like a good topic! I think the issue is we don’t have many clear examples of Jesus’ sense of humor in the Gospels. One I like to point to, though, is Luke 14:16-24 where Jesus appears to be including a (sexual!) joke (vs. 20) in the middle of a parable.

    Reply
  16. Dani

    I have a couple of thoughts, kind of related and kind of not haha.
    I wonder if part of the problem is a difficulty relating to men in general. I have a hard relationship with my dad and I struggle so much with the concept of God as my father. That doesn’t have the best connotations and doesn’t conjure up images in my mind of a happy, accepting person…
    Also, kind of unrelated but also on the topic of emotion… How much emotion is too much? When we have significant conflict in our marriage and I have an emotional reaction (particularly anger) he straight away stonewalls. As Christians we say it’s ok to be angry, we say be angry but do not sin but what does that mean? Is anything except saying in a calm tone, “I am feeling really angry” sin? I don’t think Jesus was all calm and collected when he turned over those tables…
    Of course I am not suggesting it’s ok to yell and scream like a maniac or say nasty and hurtful things but surely showing negative emotion is not sin in and of itself… I see so many of my friends beat themselves up for all the times they snap at their children or raise their voices, like the only acceptable way to speak is calm and gentle and devoid of emotion. They expect themselves to be perfectly calm, all of the time or it’s sin. It’s a heavy burden.

    Reply
    • Katydid

      Dani, I wanted to address anger. I believe you are correct. I don’t beat myself up for getting upset at wrong things my kids do. They need to see that poor choices and selfishness has consequences. Of course, don’t fly off the handle or be abusive.
      As for your husband’s stonewalling, I used to “shut down” whenever my husband was angry because anger scared me. When I was growing up, anger was scary and I didn’t have choices nor was I taught how to co-communicate or make amends. Anger meant loss of freedom and punishment. Anger meant I already lost my voice.
      Since you can only change you and I am writing to you, I recommend next time taking a deep breath and telling your husband, “Yes, I am angry, but we are still able to talk about this and we need to.”
      With my kids I reassure them that I am angry at the bad thing that happened, not angry at them, and that I still love them.

      Reply
      • Dani

        I totally understand that reaction to anger Katydid as my experience of anger growing up was the same as yours.
        Thanks for your reply, I appreciate it.

        Reply

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