New Beginnings: Renew your joy; renew your laughter - 24 January 2022

By Louise Gevers

Laughter is often a spontaneous response to something funny when we’re relaxed; but, when we’ve lived through a time of great distress, hardship or mourning, laughter becomes a stranger to us, and joy a memory of time gone by. It’s only after our dark time is finally over that relief, light-heartedness and happiness can well up again in our hearts and overflow in waves of great joy and laughter, infecting everybody around us.

This was the experience of the newly-freed Israelite exiles that God brought back to Zion. So long had they been away from their homeland, mournfully living out the bitterness of exile in a foreign land, that they’d been unable to joyfully sing their own songs as their captors tormented them.

But when God brought them back, it was as if their miserable nightmare had been transformed into an amazing Technicolor dream. They realised that they’d been freed and were so overwhelmed that they couldn’t stop singing and laughing: “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy”. God “turned (our) wailing into dancing; removed (our) sackcloth and clothed (us) with joy …” (Psalm 30:11)

God had finally set them free and they praised Him wholeheartedly! Solomon had spoken of there being a, “time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4) Their time of weeping and mourning was over – their time of laughing and dancing had come.

There is nothing small about how God, who often works in the realm of the miraculous, does great things for His people, plain for all to see. He had disciplined them when they’d turned away from Him, but as “the God who sees”, (Genesis 16:13) He’d come to their aid when they were in need – as He had done for Hagar and others after her. What a sight it must have been for the surrounding nations to see the effect of this immense act of grace.

The strangeness and loneliness of the past two years that have kept us away from corporate worship and extended family have given many of us a taste of what the Israelites experienced in exile; but although our freedom has been hampered, we have never had to remain in spiritual captivity because Jesus died and rose again to set us free. We know that even when “outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16) And “(we) can do all things through him who strengthens (us).” (Philippians 4:13)

If we are feeling that our world has become monochrome and we need to regain our joy, let’s “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1); to be set free from slavery to the sin that banishes us from God’s saving grace through Jesus.

Prayer: Father God, break the shackles of those things that lure me away and distract me from “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable…” (Philippians 4:8) and as You free me, fill me again with joy and laughter as I see You work in power. Amen