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Christian Counseling: Don't Worry, Be Happy

In 1988, Bobby McFerrin released this catchy song, having a simple, clear and encouraging message--"Don't Worry, Be Happy." It ends with, "Don't worry, it will soon pass whatever it is. Don't worry, be happy. I'm not worried." All of us wish for a guarantee that no matter what bad things come our way they would pass and always leave the door of happiness wide open and us with a smiley face. In some Christian circles, there are those that posit those kinds of thoughts in a spirit of a guarantee. 


I am referring to unfounded, romantic-sounding statements like: we, as Christians, should always be happy because we are so blessed, or we should never be lonely because we know God and He lives within us, or we don't need to be angry, fearful, insecure, anxious, etc. because Jesus gives us His peace and God is in control, and, lastly, God is in control, so anything that happens is His will. (I'll support my criticism in a moment.)


The truth is we Christians have very much to be happy about (the comforting presence of God, guidance of the Holy Spirit, a hope of a sure future in heaven, forgiveness, grace, the Bible, mercy, and the list could go on and on). But it is another matter to suggest or imply we should only be happy and avoid life's problems and troubles by conjuring up simplistic nonsense that ultimately leads to injury and unresolvable conflict. I write these things because any untruth wounds, leads people astray and opens one up to the possibility of a spiritual crisis of faith, i.e., through disappointment. False beliefs, even ones that make us temporarily feel better, are like quicksand in that they steal the life from us and have the ability to do the same to others who are in earshot of those tempting proclamations. 


Consider the numerous distortions of biblical truth that must precede the belief in those unfounded, romantic-sounding statements: 
1.  All of creation groans (Romans 8:22,23).
2.  The promises and blessings of God do make life easier and happier, but they are not meant to be the absolute antidote to troubled feelings and painful trials.
3.  If we should never be lonely because we have a relationship with God, why did God say to Adam it was not good for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18)? Adam walked with God! The truth is this world is not our home, we are strangers and sojourners on this earth (1 Peter 2:11). Heaven is our only home. Therefore, loneliness is a part of life for all of us.
4. Some like to think Jesus was always cool, calm and collected; that nothing ruffled his feathers. Those people also think if we have God in our lives that nothing should really bother us and if it does, it is only an issue of too little faith or immaturity. Do they forget Jesus was a suffering servant who stormed the temple with a whip, asked how long He had to put up with the disciples, was deeply troubled by the spiritually destructive Pharisees and anxious in the Garden before His arrest (hematidrosis- sweating blood due to severe mental stress)? How about Paul who revealed his fears? Do they forget the Holy Spirit grieves (in the Greek, has pain)? Having perfect peace and love does not mean we don't suffer, sometimes significantly, from anger, fear and other inner turmoil. 
5. If God is in control of everything and nothing happens outside His will, why does Ephesians 4:30 say, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God"? According to the belief, we must see this verse as supporting a troubling thought, that God grieves Himself. Also, we know God is not the author of sin. Sin is never what He wants in this world. It only happens contrary to His will. He is sovereign, but not in control of everything, such as our freewill.


The thought, "Don't worry, be happy," can encourage us to look at the positives in life, especially during difficult times, but as an absolute, it only works in the world where the heavens and earth are restored and God does away with pain (Revelation 22:1-4). The latter is a truth you can depend on. It gives me a smiley face.

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