Have you heard the song “Baby Shark”? Chances are, if you have a child between the ages of 1 and 6, the answer is (eye roll/pull out hair) yes. Pinkfong’s recording of “Baby Shark” made the Billboard Hot 100 in January 2019. The song became popular because young children (my daughter included) love it, and their parents have tended to play it on repeat (on long car trips, for example, like the one my wife and I took recently with our daughter).
But “Baby Shark” is not a new song. It’s hard to figure out how long the song has been around, but I remember singing it as a campfire song (along with all of its hand motions) at camp in the ’90s. All Pinkfong did was record it with a catchy beat and kids singing. That, along with some clever marketing, made the song go viral. If you listen to the rest of the album (as a break from the “Baby Shark” loop), you find there are more songs like this: free-to-use songs that Pinkfong recorded in catchy new ways.
One of the songs stood out to me, though. The fifth song on the album is called “My Pet, My Buddy.” It is about the happiness of spending time with one’s pet, and it exclaims in the first verse, “I have a doggy, doggy, doggy, doggy. Her name is Dolly. I love my doggy. I love Dolly.”
This, in and of itself, is relatively innocuous. Pets are fun! We had dogs and cats growing up, and many of my friends love their pets. But that’s not what stood out to me. The thing that gnawed at me was that I felt like I had heard the song before, which seemed highly unlikely. I listened to the song again more intently and realized I had heard the song, but with different lyrics. The lyrics I knew were, “I have the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart, down in my heart.” The original goes on to say, “I have the peace that passeth understanding” and “I have the love of Jesus, love of Jesus.”
The song “Joy in My Heart” was written by George William Cooke, a minister associated with the Methodist Church and the Salvation Army in the early 20th century. The song was copyrighted in 1925, but the copyright was not renewed, which is why it can be rewritten and recorded by Pinkfong. It is a simple song of truth that is easily remembered and, therefore, great for children. The song is about the covenant relationship we have with a God who brings deep joy and peace.
“My Pet, My Buddy” is not a bad song, but it is emblematic of the way the enemy strives to strip away at that relationship with God. A song about the deep joy and love of Jesus becomes a peppy song about how happy I feel when I am with my pet. This doesn’t just happen with songs. “David and Goliath” becomes just a story about a little guy beating a big guy (usually in sports), “Noah” is a movie sold for entertainment, and spiritual discourse and longing for social justice in the public forum become merely pleas for votes to get re-elected.
Our relationship with Jesus is based on a covenant in which God came to earth as a man, lived a sinless life, ministered to the sick and the poor, and taught His followers to follow Him. He was arrested, beaten and crucified, and then He was resurrected on the third day. He calls us to receive Him as Savior. In modern pop culture, however, this rich, loving, heart-wrenching, God-of-the-universe-reaching-down-into-His-creation-to-restore-it-to-relationship-with-Him action becomes just a good teacher teaching good things to followers who took it a little too far.
The enemy wants to strip away the truth, because with the truth goes power. Daniel said, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king” (Daniel 2:20–23).
Daniel knew that wisdom and power are found in relationship with God, and we should know that wisdom and power are found in our relationship with Jesus. In truth, Goliath was the little guy — hopelessly outmatched — because the God of Israel stood with David. In truth, Noah was saved, not because he built a great boat, but because God sealed the door. In truth, we have the wisdom and power to step into a broken world and bring with us love, hope, grace and justice, because the wise and powerful God of the universe stepped into a broken world and brought with Him love, hope, grace and justice.
The song “My Pet, My Buddy” is a nice song about loving animals, but it is empty of the power of “Joy in My Heart” because it is empty of God. Too often we choose the empty things in life and forget the truth of our covenant relationship with Jesus and what we are called to in that relationship. So choose the better things, the things of God. Love others even when they do not love you. Have grace on those who hurt you. Have compassion on those who do not and may never have anything to offer back. Step in with reckless hope and dauntless courage, even into the places that seem hopeless to you.
Because we have the joy down in our hearts, the peace that passes understanding down in our hearts, the love of Jesus down in our hearts.
Mark Crawford is Light + Life’s former staff writer and content strategist. He resides in Tucson, Arizona.