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Hey, it is okay if you are hurting!

Laughter cannot mask a heavy heart. When the laughter ends, the grief remains. (Proverbs 14:13) Erma Bombeck once reminded us, "There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt." This "thin line" as she calls it is really very concerning - for if it is crossed, the laughter can certainly turn to pain quite quickly. We never really know what is just beneath the surface in the lives of those we meet with each and every day. We might think we really know them, but in truth, there can be very little 'space' between immense sorrow and loneliness on the inside from what we see displayed as confidence and friendliness on the outside.

We need to become skilled 'readers' of the human condition. We might not always recognize just how close to grief or sorrow a man's heart may be until we cross the line into that 'finite space' between the happier self displayed on the surface and the hurting self hidden just beneath. We often hear this referenced when someone takes their own lives - those who knew the individual well sometimes not even really recognizing the sorrow that was hidden in the recesses of the individual's heart. The final 'note' left behind can be the only 'telling' sign of their tremendous anguish which burdened their hearts until the final beat. The human condition is indeed frail - we just don't recognize the depth of this frailty.

Back in the day, I loved to read those funny quips in Reader's Digest, for they were designed to get us to chuckle a little, if not openly laugh out loud. Most of us would relish the idea of a world where there was no sorrow or grief, but the truth of the matter is that grief does a great deal to refine what is in a man's heart. It could just be the purpose behind it! Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. (Ecclesiastes 7:3) I wonder how different our encounters would be if we were to ask someone what is bringing them sorrow in their life right now? I wonder just how many of us would admit we are in the refiner's fire? Most wouldn't - but the brave will!

While all of life is not going to be fun and games, not all of life is going to be sorrow and pain, either. When it does come, though, do we embrace it, or do we bury it? Buried grief is not really going to do us any good - it just burns a hole deep into our souls. While we might want to display a cheerful life on the surface, just beneath is this tremendous weight we carry. Maybe the best thing we can do for a friend is to just hold their hand, allowing them to unburden their hearts, and coming to terms with the immense grief that has dug deep into their souls. It might just be that we connect more on the 'sorrow' level with each other than on the 'happiness' level! It might just be the place where our breakthrough comes in life. Just sayin!

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