"Music is God's gift to man, the only art of Heaven given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven."
Walter Savage Landor
Easy, Walt. I wouldn’t go that far. But when someone tells me that they have been in a spiritual/emotional funk, mired in a case of the “blahs,” one of the first remedies I suggest (in concert with the classic spiritual disciplines) is a heavy dose of music. The reason I do this is that the “blahs” are often the result of a mundane sense of the world, when life has lost its color. Music, when used well, is a reality enhancer. It tears the drab veil off a world that is full of power and meaning.
Your sense of emotional intensity, left unchecked, seems to erode over time. When this happens, the resulting malaise can seem inescapable. Your lens is grey, so the world is grey, and anything that is communicated to you is grey. The day’s tasks seem purposeless; news of another’s salvation is just okay; eating is perfunctory; your response to a kind “How are you?” is an absent “Fine.” Even the words of eternal life that the Bible offers feel like just that: words.
This is where music comes in. It seems to have the power to get behind the lens, evoking emotions that were otherwise locked up. It attaches itself to people, to words, to pictures, and it connects us to their true meaning. Music is, in that sense, a heavenly language. The sense of weight that comes to us through it is unparalleled, drawing us to a more heavenly understanding of life.
Don’t get me wrong-- like anything else(movies, novels, etc.), music can be mishandled, used as a means of escape from present circumstances. It can be a means to turn off the world by turning up the volume. Escapism is an idolatrous aim and not what I have in mind here.
We also ought not equate beautiful music to the presence of the Holy Spirit. I have been in many a corporate worship setting where the singer-worshipers are captivated, even entranced, by a particularly lovely or powerful worship song. And they hear the worship leader say, “The Spirit is with us tonight, is He not?” This may very well be true, but it isn’t a function of a series of guitar chords played cleanly and with a bit of soothing reverb.
I am simply highlighting God’s gift of music as an underused means to the enjoyment of Himself and His creation. In The Warden and the Wolf King, the third book of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather series, it is the sweet music of a little girl’s “whistleharp” that rouses the spirits of downtrodden people again and again. Here is the scene as they battle a monstrous enemy:
“At the sight of the monster, they might have cowered, might have cast themselves upon Gnag’s mercy or fled, but with the melody surging through the air and earth, piercing their hearts with its great beauty, wounds were forgotten, strength was replenished, and fear only served to renew their fury.”
Isn’t this just a dramatic example of how music might aid our daily resolve? Every time I am preparing to teach students, I am listening to powerful melodies while studying the truth, and my heart is often, if not always, full. I always mourn the fact that I can’t bring the music with me when I teach. It brings passion to my heart, and I know it would bring depth of meaning to the hearers.
So when you’re feeling numb, open your Bible. Find the great truth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Then put on a little epic soundtrack music, maybe some Enya or Sigur Ros, and let those deeply emotional truths sink in the way they ought to.