Don’t You Worry Child – Heaven’s Got a Plan for You (Swedish House Mafia)
I’ll admit. Musically, I love this song. It has echoes of 90s House music, wonderful keyboard attack and a great melody. Even the lyrics, at first listen, seem warm and reassuring. A boy experiences heartbreak the first time he falls in love. His father comforts him with the words, “Don’t you worry child: heaven’s got a plan for you.” So far, so good.
But beneath the beguiling melody and the reassuring lyrics is a disturbing subtext which reveals a zeitgeist, a spirit-of-the-age, which is distinctly unchristian.
Before I get into this, let me acknowledge that the composers of the song probably never expected it to be subject to this sort of analysis, and didn’t write with it in mind. Point taken. But it does provide a window into the general view of spirituality that pervades certainly much of Europe, and I suspect, increasingly America too.
I have no objection to a father reassuring his son after a heartbreak that good things are ahead, and that this it is not, despite how it feels, the end of the world. It’s what comes next that bothers me. “Heaven’s got a plan for you.” Not God. Not Yahweh. Not even Allah, Krishna or Buddha. But the delightfully non-specific, non-personal “Heaven.” Presumably, for plans to be made for a person, the entity making them must be some sort of sentient, plan-making being. But this is never specified. It is left vague, and for many of us, that’s just the way we like it.
Once you start getting specific, then this “Heaven” becomes a distinctive deity, and the problem with distinctive deities is that they make demands of you. “Heaven” asks nothing of you. It is a concept, warm, fuzzy and reassuring.
If you get specific, it becomes far less warm and fuzzy. The Judeo-Christian deity of the Old and New Testaments does indeed have a plan for you – but it comes with conditions and expectations. This God is not just a benevolent force up above, looking out for you, and gently nudging the universe to provide something good. This God is the God of the 10 Commandments, the God of the prophets, the God of blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience (Deuteronomy 28). This is the God who will punish his people for their idolatry and disobedience by sending them into exile, to be punished by foreign nations until they learn their lesson and return to him. Even in the “kinder, gentler” New Testament, this God is described as a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). This God-in-flesh, this Jesus has definite opinions and demands on how you should live, from the Sermon on the Mount, to extreme requests like “Deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow me.” There’s not much comforting about that.
That’s why this God is unpopular, and the vague notion of a benevolent “heaven” is more attractive. It offers something for nothing, positivity without a price. But this is not the God of the Bible. When the gospel writers refer to God as “heaven,” they do so out of awe and respect, and a devout fear of uttering the holy name. It’s a circumlocution, not an evasion.
Heaven may have plans, if by “heaven” we mean the God of the Bible. There is an oft-quoted verse in Jeremiah that states as much:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
What we forget, or just don’t know, is that this promise was given to the nation of Israel as they were in exile as a result of their disobedience. The return from exile was conditional on obedience, and disobedience is why they were there in the first place.
There is a promise in the New Testament, which is also frequently cited:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
But notice how conditional this promise is. God works for the good of those who love him and who have been called. It’s not a generic blessing, but a conditional one. It requires that we love God. How? With heart, mind, soul and strength (Mark 12:30).
Now, honestly, I do believe that we are called by God not to worry (Matt 6:25-27) – that we can indeed imagine him saying, “Don’t you worry child,” and I also believe that he does have plans for us – plans for us to love Him, and to love one another, to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and so on. The difference is the focal point. It is not me, my life, my worries and my blessing that are the focus. It is His Will, His Purposes, and His Plans for my life that I need to submit myself to, even when it includes self-denial. Even when it includes a cross.
Note: All posts below this one are “classics” from my archive, that I used to get this blog going. I hope you’ll find something worth reading in there.