“I smile at my enemies." —1 Samuel 2:2
Laughter, I read somewhere, is caused by the sudden perception of an incongruity. A story or event takes an unexpected, surprising twist, jerks our minds around and we laugh. It's a gift God has not given to the animal kingdom. Only human beings laugh.
The biblical word “joy” suggests a similar idea—a response to a sudden turn of events, a serendipity, a “surprise.” (That’s the basis of the pun in Lewis’ autobiography, Surprised by Joy.) God sends a happy surprise and the emotion we feel is joy.
To illustrate: I have a friend who spent four years of his life and thousands of dollars pursuing a Ph.D. at a prestigious university in California. When he met with his faculty advisors to defend his dissertation he was told that it was not acceptable. "Lacking in scholarly support," they said, but in reality their rejection was based on his Christian presuppositions.
Two thoughts went through Bob’s mind. The first was the sight of thousands of dollars and four years of his life sprouting wings and flying away. Then the words of a chorus broke through:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather have him than have riches untold.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.
And Bob laughed—at which point his advisors thought he had lost his mind.
No, Bob just got the joke.