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Laughing Your Way Through Life, Love and Loss.

By Norris Burkes March 20 2022

Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there’s “A time to weep, and a time to laugh.” I tested that adage this week in Charleston, S.C. where I spoke on both subjects — humor and grief. 

On Sunday afternoon, I spoke at Providence Church on “Laughing Your Way Through Love, Life and Loss.”

I began by reminding the audience, as I’ll encourage you, that “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

My new grandson is teaching me the universal value of laughter in daily life. The little guy has perfected the art and, like most preschoolers, he pegs the giggle meter 80-90 times a day. 

Depending on how researchers define the act of “laughter,” various studies track adult hilarity at less than two dozen chuckles per day.

Medical folks tell me that laughing gives our internal organs a gentle workout. It aerates our blood, oxygenates our brain, and improves our circulation. All of this helps to lower blood pressure.

That’s why, as a professional chaplain, I try to inject laughter into patient visits because it’s truly the best medicine.

Hopefully, because of that, I believe I left this theologically progressive congregation in great health. See the full talk at

My second talk was across town in the Seacoast Church chapel, just one of 14 locations for this multi-site megachurch in suburban Charleston.  

Sadly, my topic, “The Grammar of Grief,” left little room for laughter. 

I covered those clichés that constitute spiritual malpractice including, “He’s in a better place,” “Everything Happens for a purpose,” and the inevitable, “I know just how you feel.”

The most difficult for me, is the implication that people of faith shouldn’t cry. 

So I shared a story about a young woman’s journey through terminal cancer. The 34-year-old was her mother’s only child. She told me that she was trying to be strong and not cry. 

“Trying not to cry expends an inordinate amount of emotional energy,” I told her. “Perhaps your effort is better spent talking with your mother.

“Besides, you know your mother is going to cry after you’re gone. Maybe she’d like to cry with you now. Perhaps she’s waiting for your cue to cry.”

“Mom’s not cried since this whole thing began,” she admitted.

“Maybe you’ve not seen her cry,” I speculated. “My guess is losing her only child has to be devastating, so maybe she’d like the opportunity to express that.”

I told the patient that grief is something her mother has in common with God. 

Noting her quizzical look, I suggested, “Surely God must have cried when his only Son died.

“Doesn’t the Bible teach that Jesus’ crucifixion caused the earth to go dark for three hours? I think your mom’s world must be looking pretty dark too,” I told her.

“Tears can be God’s Holy Water,” I prompted. 

Suddenly moisture filled her eyes, and tears fell like water leaking from a paper sack. 

A few minutes deeper into my talk at the chapel, my own words boomeranged on me when I shared my recent heartbreaking loss of both my brother Milton and my best friend of 45 years, Roger Williams.

My voice cracked and the words stuttered between my sacred pauses.

I told my listeners that I knew both my brother and friend were with God, but I wanted them back with me. I wished that we could have made that journey together. I missed them and had no words to say that — only public tears. 

My tears did not embarrass me. They didn’t hurt. I was not ashamed. My faith felt stronger, not weaker. 

So, for all those who grieve today, I pray this blessing: “May God hold you close to his heart and allow you to hear his reassuring voice. May God’s holy water wash you anew with his love and care. Amen.”


If you would like to Norris to speak at your church or organization, contact him at or 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail (843) 608-9715.