“Good news, good news, good news
That's all they wanna hear
No, they don't like it when I'm down”
Why are weary souls so often asked to pretend? There’s almost nothing more disheartening for burdened people to hear than the pressure to act as if all is well. “Good News,” the lead single from Mac Miller’s posthumous album, Circles, speaks to this pressure and the voices around us that call us to downplay our burdens and project a veneer of happiness, even when life is bleak. The song prods me to wonder: What does the Good News of Jesus have to say to those pressured to put on the front of good news?
“Good News” features Miller laying bare his deep burdens and melancholy (“so tired of being so tired”), outlining his sense of shame and default coping mechanism (“A lot of things I regret, but I just say I forget”), and detailing his depression (“Wake up to the moon, haven't seen the sun in a while”). It’s the sort of brutally honest vulnerability that many artists avoid, but which Miller rose to stardom by sharing.
The soul-baring verses contrast with the chorus, in which Miller describes the response to his burdened emotional state: “Good news, good news, good news / That's all they wanna hear / No, they don't like it when I'm down.” Whereas the first two verses of “Good News” detail Miller’s existential burdens, the chorus relates an external pressure he feels from the proverbial “they” to downplay his weariness and put on the front of “good news.” Yet the pressure to pretend things are good is not good news at all—it’s simply another burden to bear. The musical production reflects the conflict at the heart of the lyrics. While Miller’s wearied crooning in the first verse is backed only by a sparse, melancholy guitar, the chorus itself consists of an upbeat, synthesized, happy-go-lucky bounce. The difference between what Miller does—unburdening and confessing—and what the chorus’ “they” want—pretending and projecting—is stark.
The pressure to pretend things are good is not good news at all—it’s simply another burden to bear.
We can all easily recall external voices—social media feeds, friends, spouses, peers, inspirational gurus—that urge us to embrace and project a tritely positive, happy-go-lucky view of ourselves, our problems, our sins. It’s safe to say the call to positive pretending implied in the chorus of “Good News” is not unique to Miller’s experience. It’s universal. The tendency to perform and project good news—to hide our burdens in a pretense of positivity as a true solution for our burdens—has been with us since the beginning and it’s not disappearing anytime soon.
When the ancient prophets of Israel embraced this good news pretense and declared to the nation news of peace when their circumstances were actually dire, God rebuked their deceitfulness: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.” Similarly, when the first humans rebelled against God, they chose to cover their shame in self-made fig leaves, opting to hide rather than face the full, ugly truth of their circumstance. We are bent in the same direction: we often favor hiding over confessing, fronting instead of honesty, silencing our burdens rather than voicing them. Human nature, under sin, is adept at performative pretense, which makes Miller’s first two verses all the more instructive. As Miller rejects the temptation to project a manufactured good news, listeners are reminded to do likewise.
Instead of putting on the pretense of positivity implied in the chorus, Miller ponders and laments the burden of his human frailty and brokenness, asking "Why I gotta build something beautiful just to go set it on fire?” This rejection of pretense provides a picture of the honesty necessary to receive the true and wonderful Good News of Jesus. The call to pretend things are good is not good news at all. It’s good news in name only, for its substance is actually a denial that’s false and demeaning. To deny our burdens is to deny the reality of our human experience. More than that, this denial runs against the grain of how we receive the Good News of Jesus: through the honest confession of our burdens, sin, guilt, and shame. Miller deserves attention and acclaim for his refusal to deny his experience of human brokenness and for the way he reveals our need for good news that is received in truth, not proclaimed in pretense.
Rather than denying our burdens in the name of good news, the Good News of Christianity is our full invitation to voice our most paralyzing burdens and shame and to bring them to Jesus Christ, who can redeem us, bear our burdens, and shepherd us in the midst of them. Christ is not calling humanity to posture and speak good news to him, hiding our deepest angst and burdens. Instead, he has come, lived, died, and risen to speak good news to us. Because of God’s great love, good news is not something we must project or speak into existence. It’s a gift we receive through confession, repentance, and faith, through unburdening our souls and trusting in the finished work of Christ.
Jesus discourages us from hiding and pretending in the name of positivity. He eagerly welcomes the totality of our burdens and the fullness of our frailty. For all of us who are “so tired of being so tired,” Christ calls to us with Good News that we can hear and receive no matter how great our burdens: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”