Do You Laugh at Misfortune?

"You have to laugh or you'll go mad." Can a joke about cancer be funny? What about a humorous situation in a Third-World country or a nursing home?

Do You Laugh at Misfortune

It’s advice I hear in hospital corridors and grocery stores… Laugh. In this era of ‘political correctness’ there are a surprising number of opportunities to snigger at the antics of dementia patients, our children’s disobedience, or someone else’s misfortune. So, where do we draw the line?

“You have to laugh or you’ll go mad.”

We can laugh

Firstly, humor is God-given. It is part of the human experience, something Jesus embraced by taking on flesh. In this chaotic, broken world, suffering and joy are not always clearly separated. Jesus’ cross was an object of torture, yet it has become a symbol of joy for Christians. The Bible calls this paradox a “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV) – a laughable means to a perfect end, the world’s greatest joke.

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The cross is important because it gives us permission to laugh at ourselves. A ‘safe target,’ if you will. We cannot take our own lives too seriously – not when God has saved us apart from our own works. There is no real need for us to be driven to other people’s experiences in desperate pursuit of endorphins. We have our own ridiculous lives, with ample fodder of jokes and puns!

Should we laugh?

So, we can laugh – but should we? It depends. To love others is our calling. Remember, some people might be sensitive to things which we are not. Is a beautifully delivered pun worth wounding someone we care about? Think also of others who will hear the joke. Will they be offended or drawn into sin?

Just because we can get away with something doesn’t mean we should!

Laughter is a powerful tonic, but it’s not a cure-all. Laughter is not hope. Christ is. We do not need a series of knock-knock jokes or witty puns to stay sane – and so we must not act as if we do!

There will come a time for each of us when we cannot wring even a single repartee out of our dark situation, yet even then, we can have contentment and confidence in our God. Our sanity does not depend on our wit.

Better than a laugh

If we are given a chance to witness tragedy and respond to misery, we must not joke it away. This is our greatest opportunity! As Christians, is laughter really the best answer we can give to suffering? Perhaps sometimes it is, but I suspect in many situations, it’s simply the easy way out. Yet if we hold that God has a bigger plan for the world beyond what we see, surely there is some other solace we can give besides a joke.

A laugh passes in a moment, but eternity lasts forever.

Question from Emily J.M., the author.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Comment below!

Written by Emily J.M.

Emily works in healthcare and believes we are all called to love suffering people, because that’s what Jesus did. She is passionate about equipping and encouraging others to do just that, and is the author of the website As well as uncovering God’s presence in lives filled with disease and disability, she enjoys running, reading, writing fiction and reflecting on life at

4 thoughts on “Do You Laugh at Misfortune?

  1. Pingback: Do you laugh at misfortune? – Emily J. Maurits author
  2. Pingback: Do you laugh at misfortune? | Glory Afterwards
  3. I agree. Laughter lightens the mood and some circumstances and de-stresses the body. I never thought laughter would be something I could use to deal with my own struggles, but it has and it def puts a smile on my face. Being too serious at everything just takes the fun out of life. Great read!

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