A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken. —PROVERBS 15:13

A scientist who studies the effects of humor on the human body reported that laughter stimulates the brain to produce the alertness hormone, catecholamine. The long-named substance contains epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine and enables us to respond physically to emergencies. When the arousal hormone is released, it in turn stimulates the release of endorphins—the body’s natural painkillers. As the brain’s level of endorphins increases, the perception of pain decreases. Laughter, then, causes the body to produce its own painkiller.

I love to see the truth of Scripture confirmed by secular sciences. God has prescribed a joyful heart as good medicine (see Proverbs 17:22), and now science confirms that our body’s natural painkillers are released when we laugh. The oft-repeated scriptural imperative “rejoice” takes on new significance as we realize what happens physiologically when we do rejoice.

It is not his intent that we suffer from ulcers, migraine headaches, and other stress-related illnesses. God means for us to experience joy, and we find our joy in him. If we are not experiencing joy, perhaps David’s prayer in Psalm 51:12 could be ours: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Our salvation is Jesus; because of him, we anticipate an everlasting eternity with the God of the universe. Before that eternity is ours, however, we live out our days on this earth. We want to live them with joy. We want to live them with health. —Marilyn Meberg

Faith, Women of. 2012. Daily Gifts of Grace: Devotions for Each Day of Your Year. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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