Ecclesiastes 3 opens up with some very familiar words: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
~ a time to be born and a time to die,
~ a time to plant and a time to uproot,
~ a time to kill and a time to heal,
~ a time to tear down and a time to build,
~ a time to weep and a time to laugh,
~ a time to mourn and a time to dance . . .
Did you catch that? “. . . a time to laugh; . . . a time to dance.” Many of us right now are living in very hard times here in America. I know in my own case the struggle with long-term unemployment can literally rip the joy out of my life if I let it. And I have no idea when this struggle will end. Whatever you may be facing right now, you might be feeling exactly the same way. Will this situation, circumstance, health issue, money issue, life issue, job issue, relationship issue (the list goes on) ever improve?
We are all familiar with “. . . a time to weep; . . . a time to mourn,” but when the hard times come and stay for extended periods of time, we find very little to laugh and dance about. Life loses it’s enthusiasm and it’s hard to press on.
A few days ago I wrote a blog post titled, “Don’t Wait.” In it I wrote about buying a pair of stilettos for the first time in many years. I used to love to wear stilettos, but due to foot surgery in 1998, I thought those days were long gone. Well, you can read more about my buying adventure by clicking here, but I ended that segment of the post with a comment about what it meant to me to buy those stilettos:
“ . . . it’s a sign of new hope, renewed determination, and it brought more smiles to my face and happiness in my heart than I have known for a long time. There is a change in the wind, and I hope it’s a change that crosses our country from ‘sea to shining sea.’ I cannot lose my hope, and we as Americans cannot lose our hope for better days ahead.”
This morning I was reading a devotion by Dr. Charles Swindoll titled, “Having Fun.” I’d like to share it with you:
Al Michaels and his team (e.g., Monday Night Football) turn the Swindoll family room into a stadium on Monday nights. That’s one part of my week when all pressures shift into neutral. Even though I may shout and scream and jump and jeer, it’s a relaxing and rewarding experience I thoroughly enjoy. What’s more, it’s the same for Michaels and those players and the refs and those nutty fans surrounding the gridiron. They’re all having a ball!
In fact, I remember when Don Meredith was doing commentary and was interviewed, he stated that one of the reasons he retired from the Cowboys was he stopped “having fun.” He caught himself getting so all-fired serious about the game that he was no longer able to hang loose, laugh off a mistake, and look forward to that next set of downs. When the fun stopped, so did the desire, the delight and the determination. So what did he do? He got into another phase of his specialty that allowed him to bring back the fun that had departed. He exchanged the uniform for the microphone . . . and started smiling again. Good for him! May his tribe increase!
Now, some frowning, neurotic soul is reading this and saying, “Well, somebody’s got to do the job. Life is more that fun ‘n’ games, Swindoll. Grow up and get down to business! Laughter is all right for kids, but adults, especially Christian adults, have a job to do that’s serious.”
Nobody’s going to argue that life has its demands and that being mature involves discipline and responsibility. But who says we have to get an ulcer and drive ourselves (and others!) to distraction in the process of fulfilling our God-given role? No one is less efficient or more incompetent than the person on the brink of a breakdown. He really isn’t much of an asset to society–or to the cause of Christ. And that’s no a criticism; it’s reality.
Old Solomon knew that. Remember his words of wisdom? “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones” (Prov 17:22). There is no more effective safety valve in all of life than balancing the serious, somber side with frequent flashes of fun, fun, fun!
If you’re not enjoying most of your day, if you’ve stopped having fun, you’re missing more than you are contributing.
Oops, gotta go. The stadium is almost full and it’s kick-off time.
When was the last time you laughed till you cried?
Did you know that a good belly laugh is a proven stress reliever?
Now I don’t consider myself to be a morose type of person even in the worst of times. I smile a lot . . . I mean I smile A LOT! I remember a former boyfriend from years gone by getting mad at me because he said I smiled too much and it gave men the wrong impression (that made me smile just thinking about what he said). Hey, I can’t help it if someone gets the wrong impression just because I smile at them! And, I remember another time in my 20’s when I worked a 3-11 shift at a hospital while going to college full-time during the day (from 8-2) that an elderly woman who worked with me used to call me “Sunshine” because I was always smiling so much (I have to watch my definition of “elderly” now since I’m nearing that age myself).
Life is hard and it’s hard on all of us. Sure, I’ve had my days where I’ve cried my eyes out during the past three years and four months of unemployment. There’s nothing fun about applying for almost 500 jobs and being totally ignored. There’s nothing fun about living on an incredibly tight budget and watching what little money I have left disappear every time I spend even a dime because it’s not being replaced by anything. And if you are going through a really rough time right now, you have your own list that could very well be much worse than mine. We are living in very hard times!
However, while I’m not a fan of the shallow “positive attitude” philosophy that tells us to bury our heads in the sand when challenging circumstances come and just “be positive” (Give me a break!!!), there is a great deal to be said for finding real enjoyment in the midst of those very trying circumstances–which doesn’t ignore the hard circumstances we are current facing but helps us to “stop and smell the roses” in the midst of those circumstances. Sort of like what I did when I bought those stilettos. Did it change the fact that I’m still unemployed? Absolutely not! But it helped to change the way I viewed my current circumstances, even if only for a short time. It made me laugh and sing and dance around my little apartment on 4″ stilettos and for a time forget about the fact that I don’t know how much longer this very long time of unemployment is going to keep going on.
We don’t live out our lives by weeks or months or years but moment-by-moment. Now is the only time we really have. And regardless of my circumstances I’d rather live my life with an anticipation that hard times don’t last forever and enjoy the moment (even in the midst of the hard time) in the little ways that bring a smile to my face now . . . like buying the stilettos, or talking with a clerk in the checkout lane, or eating pretzel M&M’s on occasion, or reading a good novel (libraries are full of them), or listening to some great old tunes that make me laugh and dance and sing.
There’s a Three Dog Night song that I just love and it makes me deliriously happy every time I sing it with them. And, I’ve been trying to think of a blog post to write just so I could include that song at the end of it. Well folks, this blog post is it!!!
So . . . no matter what you might be going through right now take a few minutes to listen to this Three Dog Night song and see if it doesn’t put a smile on your face. And, in their own words, let’s . . .
“Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music . . .”
YouTube Video: “Celebrate” w/lyrics by Three Dog Night (1975):
Photo credit here