The year was 1988 — my freshman year in high school. “Die Hard” was the big summer blockbuster. Roseanne Barr was becoming a household name. George H.W. Bush was elected president.
And there was a song that everybody was singing, whistling and humming. It was called, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin — the first a cappella song to ever reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
Though a feel-good hit, some protested the song’s simple message. If you’ve ever been stressed or depressed, you might understand the problem certain people had with McFerrin’s lyrics.
When you are worried or stressed, it can be frustrating when someone says, “Just don’t worry about it.” When a person is hurting or depressed, simply telling them, “Be happy,” definitely doesn’t help.
But interestingly, that is exactly what the Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he says. “I will say it again: Rejoice,” Philippians 4:4. In other words, “Be happy.” And then just a verse later, he says, “Do not be anxious about anything,” Philippians 4:6. In other words, “Don’t worry.”
Don’t worry, be happy. That is the Apostle Paul’s simple advice to you and me.
The difference is, Paul tells us why. He tells us how. He says, “Don’t worry. Pray.” When you are hurting, when you are depressed, when you are stressed out, take it to God in prayer. He is listening. He can help. He promises to always answer your prayers for your good.
And when you pray, Paul says to do so with “thanksgiving.” Tell God about your pains and problems. Ask him for help, but then look around and say “thank you” for all the good things he has given you. One of the tricks the devil uses when we are down or hurting is to get us to put blinders on so that all we see are our pains and problems.
So, when you pray about your problems, make sure to also look around and say “thank you” for all the good God has given you. If we are honest, the good always and overwhelmingly outweighs the bad. Even in the hardest times, our cups are overflowing with blessings.
That perspective alone will help you as you deal with worry or depression.
But then, also remember that prayer is only a part of our conversation with God. To have a conversation, you need to do two things. You have to speak, and you have to listen. Prayer is us talking to God, but we also need to listen to God speak to us through his word.
Do you struggle with stress? Do you find it difficult to find joy in your life? Go to church. Open up your Bible. Read a Bible-based devotional book. God speaks to us through his promises, giving us strength, courage and peace. He tells us why we don’t have to worry. He tells us how we can choose to be happy.
For those who suffer from anxiety or depression, it is a daily struggle to not worry. It is hard to choose to be happy. To simply tell them to do so does not help. But God doesn’t just tell us, “Don’t worry, be happy.”
He invites us to talk to him in prayer. He reminds us why we don’t need to worry. He gives us the strength and perspective we need to choose joy. And through our conversations with him, he promises that “the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:7.