The new national anthem of the moment is “Happy”, by Pharrell Williams. Just saying the name of the song probably has made it march relentlessly across your cerebral cortex (and it will keep going for the rest of the night, I assure you), but for those of you living under a rock (presumably one without WiFi, because you’re reading this) here’s the song again:
Overall, it’s not a bad song. What’s not to like about a song about being happy? I’m glad for a song and a music video I can play in front of my kids. The simplistic, repetitive nature of the music might wear on some people faster than others (I’m done after hearing it about 4 times — and I’ve heard it many more times than that), but a lot of people like it a lot. I know for a fact many people start every day, at least for the foreseeable future, listening to this song in the car on the way to work or school, or while getting ready. It’s catchy, it’s positive, it’s fun.
So what’s the problem?
My beef with this song is the line, “Clap your hands if you feel that happiness is the truth”. One line out of one song, but that line just gets under my skin like glass splinters. In a single sentence, Pharrell has managed to capture a huge part of what’s wrong with America today, wrong with the Church today — wrong with us today.
Too often we think happiness is the truth — that if something makes me happy, it must be right, true, and good. We act and live as if our own personal happiness, at every single moment, is the most vital and pressing thing for the people around us, not just ourselves. And woe betide the poor soul that stands in the way of our happiness! Better for that chump if he had never been born! We make that person pay, because if we can’t be happy, then by golly nobody can! My rights are being abused! Isn’t that in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence, or something — that I’m guaranteed happiness?
Pause for a moment and contemplate the wreckage that an idea such as “happiness is the truth” leaves in its wake. Broken homes. Addictions. Shattered relationships. Wasted money, time, energy, and emotional capital. An endless, curved-in spiral of selfishness and solipsism that can’t see past the end of its sinful nose, with no way out possible or in sight. Even — the biggest, saddest irony — a life of perpetual unhappiness.
Let me introduce you to the truth: Jesus Christ. He Himself says, “I am the way, the Truth, and the life”. He is the true God, and there is no lie in Him. When He promises that you will die in your sins if you do not repent — your self-engendered, self-centered, self-serving sins — He means it. You don’t need to wonder, because He cannot lie. When He says, “Whoever believes in Me has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the Last Day,” you don’t need to doubt Him, to double-check Him (although He certainly invites it! See how patient He is with all people, in His Word!), to debate and dither if He’ll come through. He will. Who else can tell us about heaven, but the One who came down from heaven? Who else can assure us that death one day will die, except the One who defeated death and hell for us? Who else can promise that our guilt and shame truly are gone — and have it become true! — except the Lamb of God, whose blood pays for the sins of the world? Recall Pontius Pilate’s overly casual attempt at an offhand question, “What is truth?” It shows both his inner disquiet at the situation on Good Friday and his profound ignorance. Truth stood right before his eyes, wearing a crown of thorns and a purple robe…for those with eyes to see.
You know how you can be sure — absolutely sure, 110%, rock-bottom, iron-clad sure, that Jesus is the Truth? He rose from the dead. Just like He said He would. He told the truth, and He always tells the truth. He is the Truth — the ultimate ground for all reality. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” He sustains all things with His powerful Word, the Word of truth, and that same Word forgives our sins, drives out doubt, kindles faith, and delivers us to eternal life, where sin will be gone, the lies of the devil will cease and melt away, and the truth of all God has done for us will be seen with crystal clarity for all eternity.
How’s that for the truth? Ephemeral ditties have nothing on eternal verities. Do yourself a favor — do something eternity-changing. Pick up His Word of truth. Open it. Read it. Believe what it tells you, because He is the Truth.
Sanctify us by the truth; Your Word is Truth. Amen.