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Friday, September 10, 2010

Laughing at the Devil - The Art of Riding Out the Storm While Maintaining a Sense of Humor


Over the past four years my relatively stable life has been pitched into the dumper in exchange for an emotional, financial and spiritual roller coaster ride (mostly downhill). Generally roller coaster rides are fun, but in them is an element of terror too. I've often wondered why we risk being flung about in a tiny cart on thin rails at 50 or 60 miles an hour and pay for the privilege.  If something goes wrong, the consequences are not pretty. We don't know who's doing the maintenance on any particular roller coaster and we don't have a 100% assurance that everything will come out okay at the end.  Yet we have faith in those unknown maintenance people to look out for our safety.

Like most folks, I will likely as not, continue to cue up in the hot sun for my turn at the ride - at least, so long as my spine will endure the shock.

Reliable witnesses have told us that it would be like this in these last days.  Though we have long expected it, still the intensity of it has been a surprise now that it's really come at last.

Has anyone been surprised at the raw anger that Christians have faced in the news media, the blogosphere and in what we once thought of as "polite" society? Even comedians have brutalized Christian belief and practice in the name of humor and the "comment" section of on-line commentaries and news stories are rife with frighteningly intense and vicious diatribes against believers.  Even some of the very people to whom we have shown the greatest love, kindness, patience and longsuffering, have turned on us with a vitriol that is nothing short of stunning.

I had a conversation with someone the other day, who was having trouble getting around the fact that a loved one was behaving in a way that he could not understand. We laughed about it; tried to make excuses for the person. We even made jokes about  it.

So why do we laugh about something that makes us so sad? I think it's because in these "end of the roller coaster ride" days, stuff like this comes at us so hard and fast anymore that if we didn't laugh, the alternative would be to weep all the time. It's like the folks coming off the roller coaster when it's over who, having been frightened out of their wits, and find themselves laughing at themselves for their earlier terror.

If, like me and roller coaster riders everywhere, you operate on the belief that everything is going to turn out okay in the end (see Romans 8:28, if you're a Christian believer), then after a while, you recognize that the increasing trials, troubles and assaults on your peace and security, that we've all endured of late, are nothing but a last desperate attempt to knock you from your seat in the coaster tram by a "designer" with nasty intentions.  If you can just be frightened enough to jump over the side, he wins.


Martin Luther once said, "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." Sir Thomas More wrote, "The devil... the proud spirit.. cannot endure to be mocked." Lucifer must be having a right old unhappy go of it right now, because the primary targets of his machinations have begun to figure out what's going on - and we've begun to laugh at him.

Lately, I talk to a lot of Christians who have begun to see clearly why so many troubles are coming at us all at once. Not only that, but we see clearly who is behind it. It's gotten laughable. It becomes a comedy routine when it gets that bad.  There you are, unemployed, broke, your loved ones seemingly turning against you, your dog's hair all falling out and headed for that interview for that janitorial job you probably won't get because you're old and gimpy kneed.  It's 105 degrees outside, 99% humidity and your air conditioner has failed.  Then, at that very moment the car radiator starts blowing steam, you run out of gas, and discover you have no money with you AND your cell phone has been shut off.  At that point, if you truly believe in God, you sit back in your seat, throw back your head and laugh.  THEN YOU START WALKING!


"Is that all you've got?" I grin. "I'm supposed to curse God and die over a little 5 mile walk in the hot sun, some public humiliation and a lost janitorial job? Ha!  I know what you're up to and it won't work. Kill me if you want to, I really won't mind.  It'll be restful.  I am not afraid of you!"

If we really believe that God saves us, we're coming upon a time when our belief in eternal life and our faith that God has our salvation well in hand will be surely tested. It will be hard for those of us who harbor a sneaking suspicion that this life is all there is and that God's promises are nothing more than a mass delusion, opiate of the people, psychological crutch with no basis in fact.  It should come as no surprise when we see some of our number leaping over the side, unable to take it anymore.

Meanwhile, some of us will be laughing, not at the loss of our comrades, of course, but at the pathetically transparent attempts by the devil to make our heart's fail with fear.

I recently had been saying some terrible things about me. At first, my reaction was to work up into a rage over it.  "Why how could.....I mean......after I....I will never....."  You know the kind of thing that I wanted to say.

Then, I laughed.

I remember once how Ronald Reagan, in a presidential debate, responded to distortions of his record by his opponent.  "There you go again..."  he laughed.  It wasn't so much what he said, it was that bemused chuckle that people remember. It was so powerful a thing to do that nobody remembers the point Jimmy Carter was trying to make.  It wasn't so much the words Reagan said as the way he chuckled when he said them that disarmed his opponent.

I said to myself, "No.  You don't win.  I will not be the kind of nasty vindictive person Satan wants me to become in response to this. I will not seek revenge, Instead, I will declare a holy war.  I will fight my jihad with the tools of love, patience, generosity and  faith - the only weapons of war a Christian soldier is allowed. I will become a better, stronger person after this, not a worse one.  I will overcome my enemies with kindness and love. I will forgo the hollow pleasure of vengeance for the eternal pleasure of life everlasting."

(insert hearty chuckle here)

Tom

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