“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…..a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4)
I can’t always figure out why there is this vast misunderstanding about the relationship between maturity and seriousness. It’s common for kids in high school to not understand this. They assume being an adult means being serious all the time and being young means being fun. They may even interpret parents joking around as “trying to be like kids” and “dorky”. Unfortunately, some adults hold this misunderstanding too. More unfortunately, some Christians hold this misunderstanding about maturity as well.
Maturity really has very little to do with who jokes around a lot and who is serious all the time. Rather, it pertains more to your level of emotional development that allows you to respond appropriately to the context in which you find yourself.
Here’s a quick example: when a teenage girl cries like the world is falling apart after her boyfriend of 2 weeks breaks up with her, this is an inappropriate response to the circumstances. The feelings may very well be real, but they are immature. She’s being too serious about the situation. As she develops emotionally, she’ll eventually come to understand that relationships may come and go and 2 weeks probably is not enough time (particularly at that stage in life) to develop deep-rooted attachment.
One more example: when an obnoxious teenage boy makes noise (of any sort – unfunny jokes, trite catch phrases, body noises – use your imagination here) in a classroom or hallway, he’s doing so merely to generate attention for himself, and this is an inappropriate response to the circumstances. Other people are trying to learn. Other people are trying to hold conversations. He’s being too casual about the situation. As he develops emotionally, he’ll eventually come to understand (hopefully) that not only do most people not want to hear him all the time, but that he’s actually alienating himself by turning people off for the future.
Now you’d expect high schoolers to demonstrate this type of immaturity from time to time. It’s part of the natural emotional development process of life that we all go through. There’s probably not another stretch of 4 years in life when maturity development is expected as much. So parents struggling to raise teens expect it, deal with it, and are sympathetic to it.
Spiritual maturity, on the other hand, has a relationship with emotional maturity, but they’re really not the same animal. The definition of maturity that we’re working with remains about the same though – being serious when the circumstances call for it and being light-hearted when the circumstances call for it. And it’s fairly transparent when Christians still have some growing up to do.
When Christians come across as “devastated” in a sluggish economy despite God’s promises to make sure all earthly needs are provided for (Matt. 6:25-34; Romans 8:32; Philippians 4:19), there’s still some maturing that needs to take place. When Christians show up to worship on Sunday mornings with sourpuss scowls across their faces (or really when they have that look any other day of the week either) despite the 1,260 or so promises that God makes in Scripture, there’s still some maturing needing to take place. When we Christians mourn the loss of a Christian loved one as though we’re never going to see this person again (spiritually in heaven & physically come the great Resurrection), and I know this is as tough as ANYTHING, but finally, it means we still have growing to do. Losing a Christian loved one in life is, although tremendously difficult, in the grand scheme of things, not as “mourn-worthy” an occasion as losing a fellow believer from faith. While mourning at physical death is natural and even healthy, a Christian in maturity MUST understand the Apostle Paul’s words: “But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.” (1 Cor 15:51-53 NLT) Being lonely for that person is one thing, but if we mourn like it’s the end of relationship with that person, then we need to ask God for a maturing faith that increasingly trusts his promises.
The reality is that when we add all of God’s promises up, and realize that he has every detail of our lives (and our eternal life) covered, we conclude that we have very little to get so bent out of shape about in life. Things aren’t as serious as they appear. So whatever the “captain of the football team who recently broke up with you” occasion in your life is, your perceived reality is not true reality. Stepping back and looking at the big picture, it’s probably just not that big of a deal.
If we Christians aren’t laughing……regularly……we’re probably taking ourselves and little things in our lives more seriously than we should. Christians typically don’t have any fewer problems (circumstantially) than the rest of the world – they lose jobs; they get sick; they physically die. And yet, Christians are afforded a drastically different perspective on the things of this world than unbelievers because they have spiritual maturity, faith based on the promises of God.
A practical illustration of what I’m talking about here, in my experience, can be found at our national church body’s seminary (Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary). One thing I always found interesting in my years at seminary was that the faculty had one of the better collective senses of humor that I’ve ever run across in a group. It’s not that all the professors were the funniest guys I’d ever met. Rather, it’s that across the board they typically always seemed to have a wonderfully mature perspective on things – they didn’t get bent out of shape about life and they were always smiling and open to laughter. Not surprisingly, this was also probably the most spiritually mature group I’ve ever run across. Probably not a coincidence.
Christians are to get very serious about the welfare of souls – making their Heavenly Father’s will, relationship with spiritual family, and desire to extend that spiritual family top priorities in life. Everything else they are to take in stride. As they gather with their church, as a family at home, and out in the world, they joke, they laugh, they dance, they rejoice. They do so because they know Jesus freed them to do so. This doesn’t make them juvenile or cavalier or apathetic. It makes them spiritually mature.