A few months ago my wife Laura was diagnosed with cancer. Her surgery went well and her prognosis is good, and for that we’re thankful.
But right now, she’s exhausted. Her skin is fiery red from the radiation, itching like crazy. (It doesn’t affect everyone this way.) Some days she can work a few hours. Other days she can only get out of bed long enough to get her treatment.
I’m trying to be supportive. When she feels guilty for not being able to work, I remind her, “During this season, healing is your work.”
Backrubs help. She claims they release endorphins.
And, of course, I pray. I remind her to look at her situation from God’s perspective. But you know how you do all you know to do and it doesn’t feel like enough?
In our church, whenever people get together for ministry team meetings or small groups, we ask, “What do you need Jesus to do for you today?” and we pray for each other. Lately I’ve been saying, “Ask God to show me how to better support Laura.” I couldn’t imagine what that might look like.
Last night as we lay in bed, Laura was describing how miserable she felt and then she made a request: “Tell me a stupid joke.”
So I said, “What’s the difference between a hippo and a Zippo?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“A hippo is a lot heavier and a Zippo is a little lighter.”
She laughed. I knew she would because she loves stupid jokes. In fact, if she didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be married. On our third date, I showed her videos of my favorite childhood cartoon, Super Chicken, one of the stupidest cartoons ever made, and she laughed hilariously. If she hadn’t, there probably wouldn’t have been a fourth date.
After a bit more pillow talk, Laura said, “I feel better now.” Then in that voice people reserve for when they’ve been touched deeply, she said, “Thanks for the stupid hippo joke.” Laughing had renewed her spirit.
I never would have thought of ministering to Laura with jokes. When I’m trying to help people through painful times, I wonder if I sometimes get too serious. Prayer and Scripture are powerful, but are there moments when God chooses to use a bobblehead or a goofy stocking cap? A bottle of bubble bath or a scented candle? Proverbs says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (17:22, NLT). When life is heavy, sometimes the best gift may be to lighten up.
Funny how God answered that prayer. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to find tonight’s stupid joke.
- When you’re stumped in how to support someone, can you ask God to show you possibilities you’ve never thought of?
- Can you draw inspiration from the thought, “When life is heavy, lighten up”?