While these are serious times in our world, I can’t help but find amusement in peoples’ responses. I know I am not the only one who has found occasion to laugh. The greatest source of humor is people whose attempts to protect themselves from disease are actually exposing them more. This is the case of people who wear masks in public, but continually fuss with the mask, thereby touching their faces repeatedly with unclean hands. Then, there are the glove-wearers, who are prone to remove their gloves to pay at the store. I know that stores are working hard to keep things clean, but with the shortage of supplies, it’s a challenge. Why remove your gloves before touching an object that has almost certainly been touched by other people? Perhaps the most shocking tale of human folly I have heard, was that of a woman who used her teeth to pull off her glove so that she could remove cash from her wallet. I am sure not everyone finds the same humor in this, but it has been a source of laughter for my sister and me, of late. And it caused me wonder: Does God laugh at human folly?
I have long believed that God has a sense of humor. Humans are made in the image of God, so we have a mere reflection of God’s perfect sense of humor. Why else would God have made us able to laugh and joke? God’s sense of humor has been evident to me in my life. Too often, I find irony and humor in how God confounds my plans. I have been thinking about this more as I have been reading John Piper’s The Pleasures of God, which has been broadening my understanding of Who God Is. I began going through this book with a group at church, just at the pandemic was beginning to unfold. So, the ideas in the book are coloring my analysis of the circumstances. In reading this week, I came across the idea that God confounds human wisdom and expectations in order to exalt Himself.
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
One example is God’s plan for Abraham and Sarah to have a son. God promised the barren couple a child, but waited until Sarah’s childbearing years were far behind her. What strikes me is that when God made the promise to Abraham, He instructed that the boy was to be named Isaac. (Genesis 17:19) The name Isaac means, “he laughs.” Who laughs? While Abraham and Sarah did laugh at how God gave them a son in their old age, it was God who named him laughter. I can’t help but think that God laughed with them as they rejoiced in the birth of their son. God was likely laughing ahead of time, as He anticipated how He would bring this about in a way that made His role unmistakable.
It is part of how God reminds us Who’s in charge. It is funny to me when people’s attempts to control their circumstances are so plainly making the situation worse. Still, it doesn’t seem quite right to think of God laughing at people. Yet, in our study of God’s character, it is often helpful to think of Him as the parent, and ourselves as a toddler. When a two-year-old insists, “I do it myself,” only to have a mishap, we are prone to laugh. Small children amuse us when their words and actions betray a view of the world that is incomplete. Every family has favorite stories of these instances. Might God have the same inclination to laugh at us when we show a similar lack of understanding?
Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
There they are, bellowing with their mouths
with swords in their lips-
for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”
But you, O LORD, laugh at them;
you hold all the nations in derision.
I learned to laugh at myself during my time at the Coast Guard Academy. I finished high school second in my class, and I graduated from the academy second from the bottom. In between, I learned that I needed to have a sense of humor about my failings if I wanted to stay sane. It wasn’t just a coping mechanism; I was learning to view myself correctly. As A.W. Tozer put it in The Pursuit of God, “In [myself], nothing; in God, everything.” I’d like to think that God laughed with me, as He taught me important lessons of humility. Even more than a person, God’s emotions must be complicated. If we can find laughter even in the midst of difficulty and crisis, surely God can do this even more perfectly. He can laugh with some, even while He grieves with others.
When God frustrates human plans and wisdom, He is pointing us to His superior wisdom. Surely there is joy for Him in that. He is not cruel because He makes wisdom available to us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all with reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) I feel confident that God does laugh, though I am not certain of all the circumstances He would laugh at. Did He laugh at the confusion He caused at Babel? What made Jesus laugh in His days on earth? Did He ever tell a joke? Does God laugh at us, just as much as He grieves, when we try to rely on our human wisdom?