Often, when I think of the healing process, I picture the tears, the sleepless nights, and the hard emotional work of processing through trauma and setting healthy boundaries. It’s all too easy to forget that the healing process is also a journey that is punctuated by holy laughter and the joy of community.
Viktor Frankl was a survivor of the Holocaust who was imprisoned in a concentration camp, and he recounted and reflected on his experience in his 1946 memoir Man’s Search for Meaning. While his memoir does not shy away from the depth of suffering he experienced, it also resounds with hope and surprising humor. Even when confronted with dehumanizing forces, Frankl insisted on his humanity and never lost sight of the importance of connecting to others. One of the keys he talks about was humor. He later described his experiences by calling humor one of “the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation.”
We find similar advice in Proverbs. In this collection of ancient wisdom, Proverbs 17:22 (NIV) highlights the importance of joy: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” There is a deep healing power in joy! Later in Proverbs 31:25 (NIV), we find a picture of the virtuous woman, and joy is a defining feature: “She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Laugher here implies both a lack of fear and delight. Humor, laughter, cheerfulness, and joy are not identical, but they are intricately interconnected, and God invites us into His joy with every sunrise and sunset painting the sky a brilliant rainbow of colors.
At Rebirth Homes, making space for fun and connection is essential. Simple things like watching the garden grow, painting a picture, writing a poem, playing a game, or making dinner together are little spaces for cultivating joy each day. Exciting outings are also key ways we open space for fun and connection. One of the most beautiful sounds is laughter ringing out across the home as our participants do the challenging work of healing. Learning to give yourself over to joy again is an integral part of healing.