I’m not a naturally funny person. I just happen to stumble into something humorous on occasion. So, I’ve been studying humor the past week in an attempt to better replicate it on paper. Coming to Acts with a mind primed to laugh, I read Luke’s bland irony and loved it. Let’s see how humor aids in stress relief, particularly in Acts 12.
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!”
“You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”
But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place.Acts 12:11-17 NIV
Surprise! Acts 12
I don’t know whether the factualness of Acts 12 comes from Luke’s status as a doctor or from the academic mindset of the translators. I think a writer would have a lot of fun describing what happened that night. After all, the events basically read like a sitcom!
Imagine, a house full of people pray feverishly because they believed their dear friend and leader would die the next day. Rhoda hears a knock at the door. She stumbles to the door without looking while her mind stays behind her in the prayer room. She hears Peter’s voice. The fog of fear loosens. Peter escaped jail! Rhoda jumps, yelps, and runs back to the praying group. “Peter’s here!” she yells, and she doesn’t even realize she’s screaming. The others are too numb and afraid to believe her, so they huddle back into their mournful prayers.
Meanwhile, Peter, rubbing his raw wrists where the chains chafed only thirty minutes before, glances up and down the street and hopes no one recognizes him. He rolls his eyes when he hears Rhoda run off in joy. Perhaps he bangs his head against the door once or twice. Then the fear and adrenaline sets back in, and Peter knocks at the door again. He hits the door too hard one time and tries to muffle the sound against his body so the neighbors don’t wake up. Finally, his friends open the door. “PETER’S ALIVE!” they yell. Peter would smack his forehead if he weren’t so glad to see them, too. He hushes his friends as quickly as he can and pushes into the house.
Humor and Stress Relief
Unfortunately, the believers nearly missed the miracle they sought while they feverishly prayed, and the irony left Peter standing on the front step. What humor and miracles do we miss while our stress fills our minds?
Mayo Clinic advises that laughter can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. I find it comforting, then, that God included stories in the Bible to make us laugh. What a good God to make something so joyful as humor act as medicine for stress!