We know God is holy. We know is kind, good, just, gracious, and all the spiritual qualities we observe in Scripture. But if we are image-bearers of Christ… created to echo His creative and loving power… is our playfulness an echo of His heart?I
Perhaps a better word for playfulness is “joy”. I like the word joy, but I think we’ve loaded it with so much spiritual meaning we tend to forget the practical implications! Joy is laughter. Joy is fun. Joy is doubling over wheezing with hysterics among close friends. Joy is a winter meal at the table and tickling your baby until giggles pour out of him. Joy and playfulness go hand in hand, so if God authored joy… He also authored play!
It was my marriage that first made me consider the playfulness of God. I’m married to a playful man – he loves to joke, to jump out from behind doors and scare me and the kids, or make us laugh with painful dad jokes. I love to laugh, but being the person to initiate playfulness isn’t innate to my character. Josh’s playful personhood made me ask the question: Is God playful too?
Embracing Our Playful God
What would it do to our relationship with God, viewing Him as playful? When I first considered this I was in the middle of my “flirtation experiment” with Josh. We were in a dry-ish season of marriage and I wanted to put some fun back into it. I made a list of 30 “flirtation” ideas and did one a day, recording my feelings and his response. One of my experiments was “playfulness”. I told jokes. I did a silly dance. I surprised him with water balloons after work.
He was a little surprised at first. While I readily laugh at his jokes, I’m not the one to initiate silliness! But by making an effort in this area I noticed Josh’s joy increasing, his own readiness to make me laugh increasing, and – what surprised me most – my own love increasing. Laughing together, playing together, brought us closer together.
I began to wonder: If I laughed with God.. would I feel closer to Him?
God is a spirit, not a human, so “laughing” with Him was very different from laughing with Josh. The very concept probably sounds abstract. But based on what Scripture says about God’s joy, I take for granted that the Lord wants to hear from me – in good or bad, joy or sorrow. I started sharing the things I found hilarious with the Lord. I would actually pray them to Him as if I was telling a friend:
Did you see what Adeline just did? Isn’t that hilarious??
I am laughing so hard at this reel on Instagram. Thanks for making people so creative.
This joke was so funny. I love that you gave humans a sense of humor.
If you don’t pray to the Lord like this, I understand if it feels foreign. But can I encourage you? If our God loves us deeply, if our God authors joy, and if our God designed humans with the capacity for humor, it follows that He would enjoy hearing from us when we’re laughing! It follows that He is a God who laughs.
Playful God = God of Joy
I want to look at a few places in Scripture that point to God’s joyful spirit.
- Romans 15:13: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
- John 16:24: Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
- Psalm 16:11: You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
- Romans 14:27: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
- Psalm 118:24: This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
What if we replaced the word “joy” with “laughter”? Not mocking laughter, sarcastic laughter, or the like; but the kind of laughter that makes memories for years to come?
May the God of hope fill you with all laughter and peace in believing.
Ask, and you will receive, and your laughter will be full.
In your presence is fullness of laughter!
This is the day the Lord has made – let us LAUGH and be glad in it!
Look, I understand that joy, as a theological term, has a much wider range of meaning than I am displaying here. But I fear that in our seriousness about God we forget the playfulness of God. We forget how much he enjoys little children; how He gathered them on His knees and told His serious disciples to gain some perspective (Mark 10:13-16).
In this article from the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, an interesting observation is made about the laughter of a mother and child:
Interestingly, by the second year, the rate and duration of laughter was significantly correlated between mothers and their infants, meaning that the more a particular mother laughed, the more her infant also laughed. Thus, laughter appears to be modeled by the mother during the first year and stabilizes in the infant by the second year.
I have to wonder: Would my joy increase if I fixed my eyes every hour on the face of a joyful God?
If I embraced His identity as joy-filled, willing to laugh, loving to see me play and love with my community? If I stopped seeing Him as the cosmic fun-police and saw Him for who He is – the author of festivals and rejoicing and celebration, the One who will return with the greatest wedding feast the world has ever known?
Perhaps, if I saw my God as playful, I would have more joy.
Perhaps, if I looked into His joy and let Him model it for me, I would have more of my own.
The shirt, children’s book, and kid’s tee modeled by Phylicia and her girls are available in the Every Woman a Theologian shop here!
For more on The Flirtation Experiment mentioned above, check out the book here.