"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones" (Proverbs 17:22). We have all heard and referenced this verse at some time. We know and have experienced that a good belly laugh really makes you feel good all over. There is scientific evidence that laughter has positive effects on the body. When God brought Israel out of their captivity, they sang and danced and laughed! Psalm 26:1: “Our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with singing. We felt like we were in a dream.” God turned their tears to joy, and the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). This is literal as well as spiritual.

Laughter Makes You Feel Good!

Laughter helps to relax tight muscles. Try lifting something heavy when you're laughing really hard – a belly laugh — you can't do it, because your large muscles are totally relaxed. You have to put the heavy object down! Laughter also strengthens the immune system. When you laugh hard, your body produces more immunoglobulin (try saying that 5 times real fast!), which provides a defense against upper respiratory infections. The thymus is located in the upper chest and is a major gland controlling the immune system. When you're stressed out, it actually shrinks, and this is why we feel tightness in the chest area when we are distressed. But when we laugh, it produces good hormones that strengthen the immune system and make us feel good physically. Laughter is like giving our internal organs a massage. It improves circulation, increases oxygen supply to the brain, and causes the brain to release endorphins which not only make us feel good, but they act as nature’s painkillers.

So what if you do not feel like laughing? Fake it until you make it! That's right: fake a laugh, such as “tee-hee” or “ha-ha.” You see, the diaphragm is a “stupid” muscle. It doesn't know a true laugh from a fake one, and once it is triggered, laughing will increase. Try it – you can’t hardly not laugh once you get started! For instance, when we sing the song in church, The Joy of the Lord is My Strength, and we get to the part “ha-ha, ha-ha-ha….”, it makes us want to laugh for real! People are literally bending over with joy!

Laughter Makes You Look Good!

A merry heart not only makes us feel better, it can make us look better! Proverbs 15:13: "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance…" Gladness of heart brightens the face, and makes our eyes shine brighter, drawing people's attention to the beauty from within, shining through "the windows of the soul." Even a plain face is made pleasing by smiling eyes and uplifted spirit. We call the opposite a "sourpuss"!

A merry heart determines a person's outlook on life, and our outlook determines our outcome! Proverbs 15:15: "All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he that is of a merry heart has a continual feast." There are powerful truths here that are somewhat obscured by the KJV English. First, instead of feast, think banquet, celebration. Here is how some other translations read:

NIV: All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continuous feast. AMP: All the days of the desponding are made evil by foreboding thinking, but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast, regardless of the circumstances.
MESSAGE: A miserable heart means a miserable life! But a cheerful heart fills the day with song! (Because we often sing as well as eat at banquets!)

The point is: Your outlook on life determines your outcome.

If you think oppressed, desponding, discouraging thoughts, you will create bad days, and bad things will occur in your life. They will turn around and generate more bad thoughts, depression, discouragement, and so on. But if you choose to think cheerful thoughts — even choose to sing joyful songs – even in the midst of bad circumstances, you will have a life of continual feasting at the banquet table of God's Word and the blessings it brings. Proverbs 23:7: “As a man thinks in his heart – so is he.” In other words, it’s the heart that creates the banquet. If you have a downcast heart, you'll have a downcast day, a downcast week, a downcast month, a downcast year, and a downcast life!

But if you have a cheerful heart that is full of praise and thanksgiving, you will have happy days, weeks, months, years – a happy life – an everlasting banquet!

As illustration, I paraphrase this story from Streams in the Desert, L.B. Cowan, Zondervan: A prominent believer related this story about his mother, who was a very anxious and troubled Christian. He spent hours talking to her, trying to show her the sin of worry, but to no avail. Then one morning she came down to breakfast with a beautiful smile on her face. He asked her what happened, and she told him about a dream she had the night before: In her dream, she was walking along a highway with a large crowd of people, all of whom seemed to be very tired and worn. They were all carrying little black bundles, and she noticed that more bundles were being dropped along the way by numerous hideous, repulsive-looking demonic creatures. As they were dropped, the people stooped to pick them up and carry them. Like everyone else in her dream, she also carried her load, weighted down with the devil’s bundles.

Then she saw a man whose face was loving and bright as He moved through the crowd, comforting the people. Finally He came to her and she realized it was Jesus. She told Him how tired she was, and He smiled sadly and said, "My dear child, the bundles you carry are not from Me. They are the devil’s burdens, and they are wearing out your life. You need to drop them and simply refuse to touch them with even one of your fingers. Then you will find your path easy, and you will feel as if I carried you on eagles’ wings."

Then Jesus touched her hand, and peace and joy quickly filled her soul. She saw herself casting her burdens to the ground at His feet in joyful thanksgiving. She suddenly awoke, finding all her worries gone. From that day forward, to the end of her life, she was the most cheerful and happy member of her family.

This woman had finally learned to put into action what Peter wrote: "Casting all your cares upon him, for he cares for you" (1Peter5:7).

“The Blues Buster”

The Book of Philippians is Apostle Paul’s “Epistle of Joy”, written late in his life as he waited his execution in a cold, dank Roman prison. He had suffered decades of physical suffering and spiritual warfare, betrayals by enemies without and brethren within the church. He had no wife or children to visit him. His own family had long ago disowned him because of his faith in Jesus. He had no earthly possessions. He requested a cloak to help ward off the bone-chilling cold. Yet this letter speaks of joy and rejoicing more than any other. The way he saw it, the things that he had lost for his faith in Christ were far surpassed by his quest to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and be called up on high into His presence. In this backdrop, he exhorted believers, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice! Be anxious for nothing! Think on the things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, are virtuous and bring praise! And the peace of God that passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”(4:4-8).

One more thing: God is always voting for you. Satan is always voting against you: How YOU cast your vote determines the outcome!