James and I were sitting at a restaurant enjoying a night out with some friends. We were joking around, laughing, and making plans to hang out again.
Some time throughout the evening my friend paused the conversation to ask me a question. This particular night was about three months after my brother passed away. My friend asked, “How are your parents doing because clearly, you’re fine.”
I answered the question stating my parents are doing well considering. However, on the inside I was screaming, “Just because I’m smiling and laughing doesn’t mean I’m OK!” Because honestly, I wasn’t. I wasn’t ok and this dinner was the only time I had smiled and laughed all week because it was the only time I had left the house.
Proverbs 14:13 says, “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.”
Recently, I was praying and came across this scripture and immediately, it spoke to my heart. The Lord started showing me how there are people around me whose heavy hearts are concealed by laughter. How I am literally surrounded by people who are hurting and I have no clue. I’m assuming everything with them is OK because I see them smiling or laughing. I’m doing to them what my friend did to me.
There are people around you who are hiding their pain. They’re waiting for someone to ask how they’re doing and not just as a salutation. They’re waiting for someone to sit with them with a loving and open heart as they pour out their thoughts and struggles. There is someone looking at you with a bright smile on their face but completely broken on the inside.
Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see past the laughter. To give you the words to speak as you pray over them. To give you the heart to listen intently. To give you the compassion and kindness to reach out again. When you have a friend who you know is walking through some serious things, give them your time and encouragement.
Or maybe you are that person.
You are the one hurting. You are the one waiting for someone to ask you how you’re doing and wait for a real response. You are waiting for someone to offer a time to sit with you as you talk through all your pain. You are waiting for a non-judgemental, compassionate, empathetic heart to cover you with encouragement.
If this is you, my heart is with you today. When someone asks you how you’re doing- give a real response. You don’t need to spill your guts to everyone who asks, but rather have a discerning heart on who to respond to with honesty. Open up and share that you’re dealing with a lot and would like to chat with someone. Please don’t hide. It hurts you and those around you.
If I could go back to that dinner with my friends, instead of ignoring the second part of their question, I wish I would have said, “My parents and I are both struggling. We know we will get through this, but this is really hard. I’m not OK right now.” That would have opened a conversation that I truly needed. That would have given me the space to get out everything that I’d been bottling up for months. I could have had others covering me with their prayers because I didn’t hide behind the laughter. My process of healing might have been smoother or even quicker.
I didn’t hide behind my laughter on purpose and others don’t either.
I want to encourage you to be the friend who sees past the laughter and takes the time to talk about what’s really there. To not take their smile as a sign that everything is OK. If they don’t want to talk about it- they will tell you. But most of the time, they’re desperately waiting for someone to open the door so they can. Don’t be afraid to be the one to bring it up, they may need your strength to feel safe to express their hurt.
I want to encourage you if you are the one hurting behind your smile. I want you to know that I am covering you in prayers. I want to encourage you to speak up and while you do, I pray God gives you the discernment to know who to speak to and when. Don’t worry that you will be “annoying” or “that friend who always talks about their issues.” Your friends care, they just don’t know how to ask.
I would love to hear from you! Please share what side you have been on, or maybe you’ve been on both and how you dealt with it.