In the late 1980s, Bobby McFerrin introduced the catchy tune “Don’t worry, be happy”. One verse “In every life, we have some trouble, but when you worry you make it double” was similar to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 6:25-34.
The 1980s had its fair share of troubles: starvation in Ethiopia, Chernobyl reactor explosion, Aids and Mad Cow disease, Tiananmen Square civil unrest, assassinations (Indira Gandhi), personal money problem and homelessness. The song was a message to the people of that decade to somehow overcome their situation by not worrying about it.
Today we have very similar problems of political turmoil, civil unrest, pandemics and viruses, broken relationships, financial problems, homelessness, and so on. Some go to social media and proclaim, “I just want to be happy” and some well-intended Christians have replied, “God is not concerned about your happiness, He is concerned about your holiness”. God is concerned about our holiness after all we are called to be holy people “Be holy as I am holy” (Peter 1:16 and Leviticus 11:45). However, the above sentiment has been shared in the context as if we must choose between holy and happy; that is a false dichotomy.
JOY in both the Hebrew and Greek scripture is closely related to gladness and happiness. It is described as more of a state of being than an emotion. It is the result of choice. Fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal 5:22–23) and having joy is part of the experience of being a Christian.
In this day and age, there is so much trouble in the world that there has to be another message that we bring, and it is the message of the fullness of joy. This is a solidly biblical principle, not some squishy fuzzy non-biblical idea. Joy is in the bible and the bible is packed full of Joy.
Psalm 31:7 – I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!
Life is not easy. Life has its hardships, difficulties and its struggles. And so you might think the message of joy is a denial of hard reality; like putting our head in the sand and pretending all is Ok? But the bible speaks about the hardships of life. It doesn’t deny the hard reality but faces the hard reality with joy. There are numerous verses in the bible. Here are two:
James 1:2-3 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sister whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
1 Peter 1:6 – “ In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”.
We all have emotions for a reason. These emotions are like the oil light dashboard on the car. When the oil light flashes we don’t get mad at it and say, “I should have bought a car that didn’t have that light”. No, we know the light means we need to look underneath the hood and see what is going on. So if there is sadness or anger or anxiety that comes to us – we shouldn’t try to shove that away and pretend that isn’t there and just say I’m in the joy of the Lord. No, we look under the hood and face those things and try to understand what is going on.
We can start with the words “Lord give me joy in this situation – help me understand this so I can learn from this and grow in this and then Lord give me Your joy so that the joy is full within me that I can FIGHT BACK with joy. If we fight back with joy that means we are saying there is a greater reality beyond the depressing reality. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” ” (Nehemiah 8:10b). It is our weapon.