June 12, 2014

Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord! Psalm 144:15

I’m sure that most of you by now have heard Pharrell Williams’s upbeat song “Happy,” from the movie Despicable Me 2. If you’ve haven’t seen the video, go here. It just may have you snapping, clapping and dancing along!

But what does this tune have to do with the national parks, you may wonder. Pharrell Willams is known for wearing hats, specifically the kind he sports in the clip (he’s the guy at the beginning and other places in the video—you also might spot some celebrities doing the happy dance, too!). And what does his hat look like? Kinda like a national park ranger’s!

The celebrity/entertainment news site TMZ noticed this, too, and at the recent reopening of the Washington Monument, facetiously asked Jonathan Jarvis, head of the National Park Service, about it (he also was queried about the possibility of another face being carved on Mount Rushmore—the TMZ staff had a flippant albeit humerous take on that…).

Mr. Williams’s song really captures the euphoria of happiness, the feeling of utter joy that makes you want to dance and sing. When I imagine happy times, I think of the moment I knew I was in love, the birth of my daughter, acceptance of an article in a major magazine, watching a beautiful sunset—things like that.

But even those really down deep instances of pure joy lasted only a little while. We humans just can’t sustain that kind of intense emotion, as much as we’d like to. Nor can we manufacture them—they’re always spontaneous. And the irony is, every one of those deep, exhilarating flashes of mine were followed by something much more prosaic—making a marriage, parenting a child, putting my nose to the grindstone, hiking down the trail. And as happens with everything in life, while doing that work, I sometimes found—and still find—myself unhappy.

So what does keep us going for the long haul? I believe the answer is not fleeting happiness, but contentment. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” the apostle Paul exhorts. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:6, 8). “Practice these things,” he advises, “and the God of peace will be with you, [and His peace], which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds (vv. 9, 7). Ups and down happen, so he concludes, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am,” (v. 11).

Happiness come and goes. Enjoy the feeling of “a room without a roof” or “a hot air balloon that could go to space,” as Pharrell Williams sings, when it comes. Sure, “happiness is the truth.” But so are sadness, difficulties and bad days. That’s why we need to hang on to the reality of God’s active presence in this world and His support of those who love Him (2 Chronicles 16:9, Hebrew 13:5).

That truth lasts forever!

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