So, Where Did That Song Come from?
There is hardly a person that has not heard the hit song from the 80’s, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” One feels inspired to sing along with a smirk, embracing and promoting a stress-free approach to life. Bobby McFerrin wrote the a cappella ditty back in 1988 after he kept noticing inspirational cards and posters with the slogan. So, where did the slogan come from?
The “Don’t Worry Be Happy” slogan was coined by Meher Baba (1894-1969), an Indian mystic who believed that he was God in human form – the Avatar. He was silent – as in, he didn’t speak at all! – from 1925 till his death 44 years later, using other means of communication instead. Seems a paradox that the man who coined the slogan would have such a self-exalted view of himself and bring such confusion to his followers about the origin of true joy.
In an interview by Bruce Fessier for USA Weekend magazine in 1988, McFerrin said, “Whenever you see a poster of Meher Baba, it usually says ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ which is a pretty neat philosophy in four words, I think.”
Closely connected to the ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ philosophy is the famous Smiley sticker, the inspiration for many of today’s emojis. Harvey Ball (not Forrest Gump) in 1963 is recognized as the original creator of the famous icon.
I remember growing up in the 1970’s (that’s me with the camera) and buying smiley stickers with my allowance in the Brumunddal Bokhandle. This was a bookstore in the little Norwegian town of Brumunddal where I spent my childhood. So exciting to spread joy and happiness all over my school books or backpack, really anywhere it would stick! 🙂
Don’t Worry, Rejoice Evermore
There is an interesting connection between “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and Philippians 4. Profound actually! It is a biblical command to not be worried and to rejoice in the Lord.
“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)
Unlike trusting in the words of a Hindu mystic, or just bursting out in a self-help mantra, we can engage in anxiety-free joy because God is in control, and He says that if we take the trials He sends us right back to Him on our knees, He will give us help to cope with the difficulty.
Thankful Even Though …
The letter to the Philippians, written from jail, is about joy (odd, eh?) – joy in God, joy in His people, joy because of what He has done for us, and persistent joy even though times are tough. When times are tough, what does this passage say for us to do?
- Rejoice in the Lord, because other things and people disappoint us; because He lives; because He is the blessed controller of all my circumstances; because He is working out an amazing plan even though I can’t see it; because He will take me home; because He is coming back to fix this mess down here on earth; because He will make all things new.
- Let people see you being considerate, because we typically close off and become self-focused when we are hurting; because people will be amazed at the power that causes a suffering person to serve others cheerfully; because when Jesus returns, we should be “caught” serving.
- Don’t worry about anything, because it wastes energy, time, and sleep, and causes me to eat too much; because it poisons my soul and still doesn’t change the circumstances, because it indicts God for messing things up; because it pushes me to “help God” and to be the savior in the situation.
- Pray and ask for specific supplies, because He often sends trials just so that we’ll talk to Him and get used to it; because He alone can do miracles, change hearts, heal bodies, heal relationships, bring job offers and business deals, give us great ideas, reveal the real problem, and do it at the perfect time; because at times He holds back until we call out to Him.
- Make sure you are th(i)nkful, because He designed your trial for you at this time; because He will never leave you nor forsake you; because His Word (especially the Psalms) comes alive during hard times; because He is using the hammer, the rasp, and the furnace to make you into an original masterpiece, the first time in human history Jesus has been manifested in your form, and in your time and place.
One of the keys of not worrying and being happy is being th(i)nkful. As we give thanks, even for our challenges, we obey the exhortation of Philippians 4:6. He promises to fill us with His peace that is supernatural and is the guardian of our emotions and minds.
Our confidence and trust in the One who has everything in control is what enables us to be able to say “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
What about using the bridge of this popular song and the Smiley sticker to transition your conversation today to spiritual things with a nonbeliever with whom you interact?