Faith can be arduous. There, I said it. For anyone who has been a follower of Jesus for more than three hours, you will know that statement to be utterly true. If you don’t agree with me, I would strongly suggest you take a step back and consider the possibility that you’re not doing it right.
As for me, I’m often not doing it right. I fail at faith and I fail at life. Yet this is exactly why God has called me to the ministry he has; a ministry in stand-up comedy. Yes, you read that right. I have been literally called to perhaps one of the most dubious positions a Christian could hold; being consistently funny, clean (whatever that means) and to present the gospel without compromise. All this from a woman with a traumatic history of infant loss, clinical anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a chronic pain condition and young motherhood.
If I didn’t know any better, I would say God was a sadist. But because I know that not to be true, I have to conclude that God does in fact have a tremendous sense of humour; a facet of his character I am frequently asked about. I also know that the moment I take my eyes off Him, I sink faster than Peter in the Sea of Galilee.
So what does being “called” into stand-up comedy actually mean? Well, just between you and me, I’m still figuring that out. At this point I can tell you that God uses my comedy to build up his church in love and joy, to break down barriers, to encourage those of faith and to share the gospel. On the secular comedy circuit, I also have the opportunity to be a living example of the gospel in action in an overwhelmingly anti-gospel environment. Yikes.
I won’t lie to you, it’s tremendously difficult. Personal struggles aside, the pressure of trying to meet everyone’s expectations of what it is to be clean, funny and Godly can squash me faster than my one-year-old excitedly gripping a banana. The financial stress, constant anxiety, fear and doubt in my own ability to perform well me want to curl up in a ball and not leave my house (and some days I do).
Cue Peter and his adventure. I love the account of Peter walking on water with Jesus (Matthew 14:28-31) because we get to glimpse Jesus’ tremendous sense of humour—an aspect of his humanity we often miss when we read the bible.
Here we have the disciples sent ahead of Jesus across the Sea of Galilee, battling strong winds to get to the other side, and Jesus intends to catch up with them at some point.
I want you (just for a moment) to close your eyes and stand on that shore pretending you are Jesus. Your buddies are in the boat ahead of you, rowing their little hearts out. What are your options?
Could you order the wind to settle to make life easier for them? Hmm—did that last week.
Could you be taken in the spirit to the other side of the lake to meet them with a cooked breakfast? Nope—been there, done that.
I know! How about totally freaking them out by casually strolling past them on the water in the middle of the stormy night? Now that’s a winner. It’s going to be epic!
Each time I contemplate this scenario, I can’t seem to fathom any man (even the God-man) executing a prank such as this without at least a twinkle in his eye. These were real people in a real-life scenario. There is no way Jesus pulled off this stunt oblivious to the affect it would have on his disciples. And that, my friends, is hilarious.
What I also love about this story is Peter. After peeing his pants from seeing a “ghost” on the water, he actually has the faith to get out of the boat when Jesus tells him he can! But it’s not long before he gets distracted by the storm around him, loses focus and starts to sink.
Oh Peter, I can relate. That sinking sensation is so tangible when I am feeling crushed under the weight of expectation in my comedy ministry. I look at my own skills—short of where I’d like them to be, or my ticket sales—often far less than I want them to be, or the times when I have misjudged or not presented the gospel as faithfully as I could have—the mistake that guts me more than any other. It is easy to get swept up in these things, and when they become my focus I start to descend into the pit of hopelessness. My eyes are no longer on Jesus.
So how do I get my focus back on him? I reach for him as Peter reached for Jesus on that windy sea, wobbles and all. When I do, everything rights itself and is put in its proper perspective. It’s not that he lessens the storm (he didn’t for Peter either), but he pulls me up and stops me from sinking.
I’ll probably never know exactly how Jesus delivered his punch line to Peter on that windy day. I’m sure it’s one of those stories where you really had to be there. One thing I am certain of is that the Jesus of Peter’s day is the Jesus of Hannah’s day and he is right there in the storm with me, unafraid and full of humour. As he hauls me to the surface again and again I see his grin in my mind’s eye as he speaks those same words to me, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?
Hannah Boland is a comedian, writer and founder of LOL Ministries. She is currently speaking this ‘Hilarious God’ message in churches throughout Australia. To have her speak at your church service or event, or to get in touch visit www.hannahboland.com.au/churches