How To Take Off The Happy Face And Still Have Joy

The memorial service was coming to a close.  Several ladies began carrying the food from the kitchen out to the waiting tables while the final song was playing.  

Then it happened.  

Hearing her deceased daughter’s favorite song playing was too much.  

With her knees beginning to buckle, she placed the tray of food on the table and moved as quickly as she could through the kitchen door and out the back.  

She tried desperately to hold back the tears while profusely apologizing for making such a “scene.”  The ladies desiring to console her told her it was okay.  Through the sobs, she questioned, “Why after 21 years, can I not control myself when I hear that song?”

Why do we feel the pressing need to put on our happy face when we are hurting?  

Why do we walk around with a forced smile covering over our grief, sorrow, and hurt?

Why do we seek to cover even our “normal” griefs of life such as a friend misunderstanding us, a child’s behavior causing embarrassment, our family finances being inadequate or the flu knowing us down (Vroegop), with an “I’m okay” attitude instead of confessing our true feelings?  

Two things prevent us from embracing the spiritual gift of lamenting and hinder receiving the gift of joy during our pain.


We are prideful people.  To cry is to admit weakness.  To weep is to acknowledge that something in our life is not right.  To mourn tells the world we are broken and we don’t like to feel broken.

But how do we heal or carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) if we are not real with one another?  We can’t honestly know how to minister to someone if we do not know what is going on in their life.  

It is especially hard for people in the Christian world to be real with one another.  People place such high standards on believer’s that they forget that we are all in the process of becoming more like Christ; not that we have already arrived!

So when we do muster up enough courage to become vulnerable, the response is usually not one of comfort but one of judgment.  

Thus the second barrier that prevents us from embracing the lamenting process and experiencing real joy instead of masking our sorrow with a happy face is our past hurt.  

Past Hurt

Everyone has had their heart broken at some time in their life.  Whether it be through the loss of a loved one or the backstabbing of a friend, hearts are tender and easily hurt.

It is hard to understand why God allows pain and suffering, and yet, in His grace, He meets us in our pain and helps us through.  Mark Vroegop, in his book, Dark Clouds Deep Mercy, states:

The book of Lamentations, “shows us that God’s sovereignty and his reign are not negated by suffering.  God is still in control, even through loss…Even when we can’t imagine how God might use hard circumstances in our lives, we can still believe he’s in control.”  

So if God is in control even in the midst of our pain, then we no longer have to be concerned about our happy face.  

We can be real before God and others and in so doing receive His gift of JOY.

Joy In The Pain

Our happy face can be real even in the midst of the pain.   Not a forced happy face, but one that knows and has experienced the joy of toiling and coming through sorrow.  

A face full of joy can only happen if we look to the Lord and not to self or others.

I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed. Psalm 34:4-5

Notice a couple of encouraging things from the above verse.

First, when we look to the Lord in our pain, He is faithful to answer us as well as deliver us from all fears.  How much of the pain we experience is a direct result of our fear?  God tells us He will deliver us from all the fears when we look to Him.  

In so doing we our faces will no longer be marked with a mask that covers over our fear, hurt, and pain.  Instead, our faces will glow with radiant joy as one who has been in the presence of the Father.  

Not only that, but we will never have to feel ashamed of what our faces reveal.  We no longer have to cover them up.  Because even when our face is filled with tears of pain and sorrow, our face will still have joy in the midst of it all.  

This reassurance is stated over and over again by the apostle Paul who knew much suffering and pain.  To Timothy, he writes:

And that is why I suffer these things.  But I am not ashamed, because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day.  2 Timothy 1:12 

When you have a God who guards and protects all you have given to Him, then you do not have to be ashamed and can endure the pain and heartache that comes your way.  

Paul encourages the church at Corinth not to give up when hard things arrive.

Therefore we do not give up.  Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18


There she was ministering to another family who had lost a loved one when she was slammed with her grief.  

She should have felt comfortable in her tears, but instead kept apologizing over and over and over again. 

Fellow believers, we need to take off the happy faces and put away our pride.  We need to willingly put our hearts out and become real and vulnerable with one another.  

How else will the world be able to know we serve a God of comfort if we never walk with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ during their pain and suffering?  

Mark Vroegop challenges us to consider: “what would happen if more Christians confidently walked into the darkest moments of life and guided people in talking to God about their pain.

Take some time today to go before the Lord with your hurt and pain.  Cast aside, your pride and unashamedly come to Him with your tears.

Embrace the gift of joy in the midst of pain and see the freedom that comes through open lament before God and others.  

You Yourself have recorded my wanderings.  Put my tears in Your bottle.  Are they not in Your records? Psalm 56:8

Additional Resources:

If We’re Honest by Francesca Battistelli (Song)

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop (Book)

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