Once upon a time there was a newly wedded couple. The husband was happy with his bride and loved her very much. She was beautiful, modest, and smart. She spoke well, and–being deeply in love–she delighted in making her husband happy. There was only one thing wrong with her. He hated her laugh.
The loving young husband hated how she laughed during comedies. He hated how she laughed at his friends’ jokes. He hated how she laughed with her friends. Her laughter was repulsive to him.
One Sunday morning their pastor was preaching from Luke, and a single verse leaped off the page, as verses sometimes do. “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.” It was an epiphany.
The loving young husband rushed home after church and pulled his concordance off the shelf. He was amazed at what he found. “It’s not just me,” he thought to himself, “God hates her laughter, too!” The young man put a sticky note on every page of the Bible that proved that God condemned his wife’s laughter.
When he was finished, the loving young husband said to his wife, “I love you with all my heart, darling, but there’s something I need to tell you. I can’t stand it when you laugh. I love you, but you just have to stop laughing.”
His wife said to him, “What? You’re kidding, right? You don’t like how I laugh?”
Her husband replied and said to her, “No, I can’t stand you laughing at all. I can never accept your laughter. I will always hate that about you.”
And the young man’s wife answered him saying, “What do you mean, you hate my laughing?”
And the young husband said to the wife whom he loved, “I’m sorry, but I hate how you laugh during comedies. I hate how you laugh at my friends’ jokes. I hate how you laugh with your friends. Your laugh is repulsive to me, and it’s repulsive to God, too.”
“But I still love you with all my heart,” he continued, “and I always will.”
Unhappy memories filled in her mind.
The young woman answered her husband saying, “You can’t be serious! God hates it when I laugh? You’re joking, right?”
And the loving young husband said to his wife, “No, I’m not joking. God hates your laughter, too, dearest. It’s not just me.”
Then the loving young husband opened his Bible to all the verses that proved God disapproved of her laughter. In Proverbs he read one verse: “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”
In Ecclesiastes he read three verses: “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” “As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is meaningless.”
In Jeremiah he read four verses: “I will put an end to the happy singing and laughter in the streets of Jerusalem.” “In your own lifetime, before your very eyes, I will put an end to the happy singing and laughter in this land.” “I will take away your happy singing and laughter.” “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.”
The loving young husband went to the sticky note in the Epistle of James and read to his beloved wife, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.”
Turning to the Gospel of Luke he read Jesus’ words, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”
Finally the loving young husband turned to Genesis and read to his wife, Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But the Lord said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
The loving young husband closed his Bible. He arranged the yellow sticky notes in a neat pile, each one on top of the other. As he piled them on he said to his wife, “You see, it’s not just me. It’s those thirteen verses. It’s God who’s speaking to you. God has spoken consistently in his Word that he hates your laughter, in both the Old and New Testaments. God consistently disapproves of your laughter in every section of the Bible: in the Law and the Prophets, in Wisdom Literature, and in the Gospels and the Epistles. I’m sorry. I will always love you, but you must never laugh again.”
The young wife was silent. She remembered her father telling her she cackled like a chicken. She remembered her friends mimicking her in school. Now her husband said he hated her laughter, and God hated it, too. The proof was there.
“It must be true,” she said to herself. “Everything they said must be true.”
In the coming months and years the wife trained herself to not laugh. When she knew she would be watching a comedy, she would steel herself against laughing. When she knew she would be with his friends, she practiced being icy cold. “Self-control,” she thought to herself, “a fruit of the spirit.” Even when she was with her own friends, she learned to never relax, to never laugh.
Years went by and all of the woman’s love grew cold. Her love for her husband grew cold, her love for life grew cold, and her love for God grew cold. One day when the minister said, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.” She prayed, “God, please forgive my iniquity and my coldness of heart.”
The woman knew her love had grown cold, but did not know that the cause was not because iniquity abounded in her own heart, but because of the iniquity in the heart of her husband.
When the loving husband observed that the love of his wife’s heart had grown cold, he said to himself, “Jesus said this would happen. He said that once she repented of her laughter that she would mourn and weep. I am not responsible for this. God did it.”
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