Pharell Williams’ hit “Happy” reached a record total audience of 3.3 billion in just the first six months of 2014. It went on to become the most successful song of that year with 13.9 million sales and equivalent streams worldwide!
Between Williams’ runaway success, urban India’s frequent job switches for “job satisfaction” and the World Happiness Report (yes, your country has a global happiness ranking!), we can pretty much conclude that most of us believe happiness is important for a healthy life.
It’s almost like we have told ourselves we have a human right to get whatever it takes to stay happy. The ubiquitous line we hear & say in colleges, workplaces (and churches?) is – “in the end, whatever you do, you should be happy”.
But what about poor old sadness?
In my last post, we discussed how the character Sadness had a key role to play in the movie “Inside Out“. Now, if you try telling your friends that sadness is good for them, they will probably ensure you become sad enough to disprove that statement.
But what about your church?
What if your pastor announced one Sunday that for the church’s growth, the singing team will do at least 4 sad Christian songs each Sunday? How would you react?
Why Do We Rush to Happiness?
In most churches & Christian events that I’ve been to, there’s an emphasis on starting with songs that help the people become “happiness”. Have you wondered- “why”?
First, & often, there’s a healthy concern that people don’t realise our God is the real Joy-giver. This is good. Churches like ours can develop an unspoken aversion to extra-joyful expressions as God’s children! We don’t get too “Undignified”, do we? 🙂
But the Bible shows Jesus is not just worth preaching about, but worth loudly praising about too! (Luke 19:37,39,40, Ps. 98:4, Ps. 100:1).
The second probable reason is that, as Christians, we want outsiders to view us as “happier” people.
We try too much to avoid the “formal, stiff Christian” image. We have become insecure about the fact that non-Christians won’t be interested in church & Jesus unless we show them “joy”, so we definitely need to “display” our happiness. I have observed this tendency in many a Christian’s songs, words & public prayers (mine included).
But did Jesus or the first church in the Bible harp on such a preference?
Thirdly, churches might feel awkward or ‘guilty’ about being sad in public – what kind of inspiration is that, you know? So we try a quick-fix attempt at becoming “happy”, by bypassing a genuinely sad moment that the Lord could use.
Why do people have to be “warmed up” to “worship” God with only happy songs?
Now, I don’t mind starting with a happy song. Sometimes I just need to be jarred out of my self-pity and focus on my Joy-giver, Christ! But whatever we do as churches must honor Jesus and build up His body’s members (1 Cor. 14:26). Have church leaders thought of the benefits of singing “God is good” to a man who has entered the church building, calloused by enslaving, addictive sin or to a woman who has been gossiped against?
What songs would Jesus sing with fearful, defenceless, people? Or, with self-obsessed people? Or, with people seeking justice? We should learn to judge the pulse of our spiritual family – happy songs are not always the answer!
Do we really imagine chirpy Christian songs help Christians who have gathered collectively dejected? If yes, why does the Bible ask us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep”?? (Romans 12:15)
The Example of Psalms
The book of Psalms is a great example of how songs for a congregation can have both happy and sad songs – to be sung as a spiritual family, together!
See how the Lord leaves room for us to grieve before Him over our sins (Psalm 51)! Has God allowed us to bring to Him our troubles in private, but banned us from coming to Him in sorrow in public? No wonder then, some people find church congregations fake! We have taken after the world’s pursuit of showing & claiming “happiness”.
We Christians should fear moments when we fake our emotions in public. Does not our God truly see & recognize “sanctified fakers”?
Have we Christians become superheroes who would rather not reveal our identities before God & his people?
Back to “Inside Out”
In the movie “Inside Out”, you’ll remember the character Joy was out of touch with the reality of a corrupted, broken world where Sadness is, literally, almost always present. Like Joy, we really are awkward around Sadness. We don’t really know how to deal with her. But according to the Bible, sadness can be a blessing in disguise.
In fact, sorrow can be a Biblical command (James 4:9).
Our Heavenly Father is always using instances of grief to point us to the true joy-giver, Jesus Christ. This act of His is kindness, so we don’t run after fake joy-givers.
In fact, here’s why sadness & pain exist and why this world even has evil – to point us back to Jesus, our only Rescuer. True joy can come only in the context of the worst kind of sadness – spiritual sadness due to one’s own sin or other’s sins or just general cruelty that’s part of today morning’s news. The best kind of happiness comes when you’ve realised the true guilt of your sin & have sought justification in Jesus’ death on your behalf. This restores us to God the Father and the Bible teaches that such sorrow makes us hate sin & leaves no regret (2 Cor. 7:9,10,11).
God sent His only Son that He might be offered up, a sacrifice to take up our spiritual punishment so we can find eternal joy instead of fleeting happiness, in Him. Such joy then propels us to obey our Lord, even if that brings more sadness.
Maybe your church should take a leaf from Joy in “Inside Out” and give Godly Sadness a chance!
Marg should select songs like “Man of Sorrows” more frequently based on real-life problems, events and seasons of life. I have personally found that certain songs about the Cross and the precious death of Christ have a wonderful effect in awakening my heart to the incredible Good News of Jesus, more than some rocking WOW hits & concert videos could ever achieve.
Maybe sad Christian songs can be taught to be used as tools to help sorrowing neighbours. Maybe these songs can be instrumental only as we learn to speak the truth with our neighbours in our church families (Eph 4:14,15,25). If you’re faking it, how can anyone realise you need truth & love?
Have you been blessed by sad Christian songs? How? Please share your comments below.
Read why this church sings songs of lament – even when they’re not sad!.
The cross of Jesus is the God’s choice place for you to experience the worst kind of sadness turn into the best kind of joy.