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How Laughter Overcomes Depression

Photo courtesy of iStock Photos
Photo courtesy of iStock Photos

I list laughter as a skill on most applications I fill out.

I make sure to include it in any bio required of me for any forum. People think it’s cute, and they might possibly snicker as they read it in the list of my other skills: piano, guitar, singing, Microsoft Office, etc., but I am extremely proud of the fact that I have become a professional laugher!

You see, at several points along the way, I found myself face-down in the deep chasm of depression. I know what it feels like to go through the motions of living while your soul is being sucked into the darkness … and, worse, how it feels when you just stop trying at all and wish you could go to sleep forever.

The first time I can remember sinking to the bottom of that chasm, I was only sixteen years old. From the outside, it must have seemed like I had things under control: I had good grades, I followed the rules, I was active in sports and cheerleading, I loved God and was at church every time the doors were open. But the perfect storm of circumstances, plus the pressing lies of the enemy, landed me in a heap on the floor of the school nurse’s office. I didn’t realize this back then, but during that particularly stressful week of school, I experienced a panic attack and just snapped. Everything started spinning, I felt lightheaded and strange, and I knew something was wrong. I began crying uncontrollably in the middle of the floor, and no one knew what to do with me.

Enter depression.

I wasn’t able to identify what it was, and my family had no idea something so serious was going on with me. But my rosy world had turned cold and gray, and I didn’t know how to change it. I just knew it must change.

I had given my heart to Jesus as a child and had truly fallen in love with Him by the time I was a teenager. I heard His voice and felt His presence, and He was the reason I was living. So even when I slammed into the cold floor of depression, I knew I would hear Him if I cried out to Him.

He answered me.

In fact, He didn’t yell at me from the top of the chasm to “hang in there”; He came down to the very bottom and wrapped me up in His arms. He was in the depression with me. The Light of the World came down into my darkness and covered me up with His presence!

Before this moment, I had always loved how it felt to be in His presence, but this was a whole new world! As I laid back in His arms, He began to heal my heart. That was the only thing I could do, being so broken, so that’s what I did day after day.

Weeks went by, and I kept focusing my mind and heart on Him. I put everything else aside–school, friends, sports–and I made restoration my only goal. I started listening to worship music with Scripture lyrics, and those words embedded themselves into the fiber of my heart and gave me new life. Jesus jump-started my heart with His Word! After a few weeks, I felt my mouth spontaneously creep into a smiling position on its own … Then I began to think things were very funny. I picked up on the humor in everyday situations, and I capitalized on every opportunity to laugh. Sometimes I would laugh so hard that I would fall out of my seat or spit out my drink … or worse!

God’s intimate presence and His Word healed me, and the laughter He ignited in me restored me.

I wasn’t in the “holy laughter” persuasion back then, but you know, I’m pretty sure what I got was a gift from God. Laughter is medicine to a sickly, dying soul. Laughter slices through curses and lies. Laughter tears down walls. Laughter builds emotional muscle where the scars used to be.

These days, people laugh at me because I laugh so much! I’m a great audience because if you’re even a little bit funny, I’m there for you! I love to laugh–not just because it’s better than crying, but because it is life-giving to my soul. And sometimes, it is even a declaration to my enemy and his darkness that I WILL NOT BE MOVED.

That first Valley of the Shadow was scary and unknown; it was the darkest darkness I had encountered to that point. But I learned that my God never leaves me. Walking with Him through that valley forged a holy steel in me, and I am no longer afraid. His gift of joy and laughter was unexpected, but such a treasure; it has carried me through many other dark nights and run-ins with depression.

You don’t have to stay in the darkness. Cry out to God and He will answer you! He will swoop down to wherever you are and light up the night. He is good, and He will get you through the valley if you will call to Him. And pretty soon, you’ll be able to turn around and laugh at the schemes of the enemy.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” 

Psalm 42:11

Special Note: Depression is a multi-layered event: it affects your spirit, your soul and your body. If you think you are suffering from depression, seek help! Talk to a biblical Christian counselor or someone trained to help you through these kinds of issues. If needed, see a medical doctor who can prescribe the proper medication to help get you back on track. Asking for help is hard sometimes, but help is what you need when you are under the weight of depression. Don’t try to get through it alone. You are worth helping and you are worth restoring!

About Crista Ashworth

Jesus-follower, worship leader, writer, foodie and professional laugher are the skills listed on Crista's resume. She is passionate about sharing tangible expressions of God's love and seeing people's hearts made alive through an encounter with Jesus. She is married to Tim and is mother to Claire and Graham, and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.
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