The Bobby McFerrin song "Don't Worry, Be Happy" reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1988. I'm sure it also merited a special place on the Sappy Song and Sentiment chart.
I'll probably be labeled as the kind of person who paints horns and mustaches on smiley faces, but I think we've all outgrown the shallow sentimentality of feel-good phrases and bumper-sticker bywords. Generations are looking for answers with substance. Bobby's song invites us to stop worrying while listing a litany of things to worry about. Like those rapid-fire lists of side effects for medications in the TV commercials, the cure seems scarier than the disease. Only the song offers no good cure or reason for its prescription of optimism.
As we get older, the number of things to worry about multiplies like rabbits, only they're not as cute and harmless. Warm fuzzies make us feel good for a while but soon disappear into the dark holes of reality. Aging brings troubles - real troubles. We need comfort - real comfort.
Times change but people don't. Almost 3,000 years ago, King Solomon said, "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, 'I find no pleasure in them'" (Ecclesiastes 12:1). He then lists the physical ailments that attend old age, reducing our ability to enjoy life as we once did. Later, he concludes the whole matter: "Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (v. 13). In our declining years, God declines to just say, "Don't worry, be happy;" he tells us to continue to trust him.
When our earning power and our faith in government programs decrease, and the number of people we can depend on decreases, the preciousness of God's promises increases. When teaching the importance of prayer, Jesus commanded, "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear" (Matthew 6:25). That sounds suspiciously familiar, like "Don't worry, be happy." However, Jesus doesn't leave us there. He continues: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (v. 33). That sounds suspiciously familiar, like Solomon's words above. The bible doesn't just give simple slogans; it offers solid solutions. The remedy for worry is to trust God to supply all your needs.
The Apostle Paul reinforced this truth in Philippians 4:19: "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Paul knew what it was to be hot, cold, hungry, full, sick, well, popular, hated, etc. (2 Corinthians 11). He knew God's supply first hand and was confident that the Lord could meet every need. The key, however, is to fear God, keep his commandments, and seek him and his righteousness.
Knowing that a loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, all-present heavenly father is in charge frees us from every fear. Does this mean we go through life jauntily tiptoeing through the tulips, laughing at calamity until our dentures fall out? Only if we want to be branded as lunatics. The bible encourages normal expressions of emotion and concern; it just forbids morbid worry. If we don't think God can and will handle our needs, do we believe worrying will accomplish anything greater than God can or will do? Hear the word of the Lord: "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" (Matthew 6:27).
Read again one of the most liberating verses I've ever read: Philippians 4:19 (above). If we don't have it, we don't need it. If we need it, we have it. Sounds simple, but it's oh so deep when backed up by the promises of God.
Alan is a freelance devotional writer for Lifestyles Over 50 and the Allentown, PA, Morning Call. He is also the Peer-less Reviewer (General Editor) for Bridgeway Homeschool Academy in Catasauqua, PA, a Christian homeschool academy. Passionate about reviving theology and church methodology.
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