Monthly Archives: March 2016

A Securely Bright Outlook

Blind Faith (No. 13, 2016)
Weekly Devotional for March 31, 2016
A Securely Bright Outlook

Classic radio is my clear listening choice. I don’t mean
National Public Radio – although I habitually tune in several NPR shows
weekly. I must admit, though, that “Performance Today” or other orchestral
and operatic classical music programs are not anywhere near the top of my
list. My radio “classics” come primarily from the 1960s through the 1980s
pop music charts. The play list on one of my preferred stations recently has
repeated Bobby McFerrin’s anthem for 1988, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” It is
the kind of song that tends to replay over and over again in my mind after I
have heard it a couple of times within a short span on the radio.

While “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is a catchy tune, it rarely has been taken
seriously. The song has become a cultural icon for vapid Pollyanna optimism
that inanely ignores the harsh realities of life. Many people disdain the
too-cheery melody and affected accents employed by McFerrin in the
recording. The lyrics’ oblivious toying with serious issues such as
homelessness, lack of personal responsibility, and pressure to keep up
pretenses of happiness can be disturbing. But recall that the song was
written for the Tom Crews movie, Cocktails – not exactly a profound
sociological examination of late-20th century urban life.

“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” spent several weeks as the nation’s #1
popular song and won the 1988 Grammy for Best Song of the Year. It continues
to strike a positive chord, no matter how much people pretend to dislike the
song. Why is it so catchy? Could there be more to the song than superficial
hearing and analysis would suggest?

I think so! At least the premise of the song, as stated in the
first verse, offers a perspective on life that calls for investigation to
find a solid foundation for such an attitude. In fact, although the lyrics
do not point to a sufficient foundation, the only one I know that can
successfully sustain a “Don’t worry, be happy” philosophy is an active,
Bible-based faith in God.

Compare the important first verse of the song with how the Bible
counsels us to live. Here are Bobby McFerrin’s words for his first verse:

Here’s a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy.
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy.
(Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” 1988)

Now hear what the Bible says that can make such a way of life possible:

If the LORD had not helped me, I would have died in a minute. {18} I said,
“I am about to fall,” but, LORD, your love kept me safe. {19} I was very
worried, but you comforted me and made me happy. (Psalm 94:17-19 NCV)
Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.
(Proverbs 12:25 NLT)
The saying is true: Bad dreams come from too much worrying, and too many
words come from foolish people. (Ecclesiastes 5:3 NCV)
Give your worries to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will never
let good people down. (Psalm 55:22 NCV)

The Bible’s answer is not just to brush off the real difficulties of life
and assume that your own happiness is the highest pursuit. The Bible
recognizes that faith in the God who is Creator and Redeemer of the cosmos,
who is personally interested in leading us to genuine happiness – and has
the power to produce it – is the most secure basis we can find for authentic
freedom from worry that thwarts our true happiness.

Jesus spent a significant part of the Sermon on the Mount
talking about the folly of worrying about what we will eat, or what we will
wear, or even how long we will live to clamor after all the things we
suppose will make us happy. He explained that the path to true happiness is
to put God first, to trust God’s goodness and care. (See Matthew 6:25-34;
Luke 12:22-31.) Jesus concluded that the way to stop worrying and to be
happy is this: “[God] will give you all you need from day to day if you live
for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. {34} So don’t
worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s
trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:33-34 NLT) Paul echoed Jesus’
directions, spelling out some of the steps to such a life and its benefits:
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what
you need, and thank him for all he has done. {7} If you do this, you will
experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can
understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ
Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

Jesus’ first word to the disciples gathered in Jerusalem on the
day of his resurrection was, “Peace.” Easter faith offers the most secure
foundation possible for a bright outlook on life. Jesus is not limited even
by death. By faith in Jesus and through God’s immeasurable grace, a fresh,
new, bright outlook on life can be our eternal prospect.

The secret is to keep the solid foundation of faith in God
firmly supporting all we do. Only by such a living faith can we escape
vexing worry and know genuine happiness. A self-delusional, irresponsible,
“What? Me worry?” false bravado like Alfred E. Newman (Mad Magazine’s
mascot) just won’t do. But faith in God and reveling in God’s beautiful,
bountiful, bodacious good gifts can banish worry and make us really happy.
You might even find yourself so happy that you laugh out loud at yourself
humming the tune to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” With the right
Bible foundation, it’s good theology.

– J. Edward Culpepper