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What’s in a song?

by Seren Barker

“Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:18b-20

I am often asked the questions ‘What sort of music do you listen to?’ or ‘Who is your favourite artist?’ and frequently don’t know how to respond. It was only recently that I realised the reason for this. The only playlists I have are of Christian worship songs and hymns, and although I enjoy other music, I never go out of my way to listen to anything else. I hadn’t been open in sharing this with my friends, as I knew it wasn’t the answer they were looking for. This was a real challenge to me as I recognised, I had been passing up an incredible opportunity to share my faith.

Music is a universal language; an expression that so many can enjoy. Being able to tell a friend about my favourite song, which has lyrics that tell of my Lord and Saviour, is one of the easiest ways for me to tell them what I believe.

Some of my earliest memories are of singing. I was blessed to be able to go to a Christian primary school where the books of the Bible, the fruit of the spirit, and many Bible stories were all taught through song. Many of them I can still remember and often find the tunes popping into my head at incredibly apt moments. The human brain has an incredible capacity to learn music and uses both types of memory to do so. When a song is learnt, the memories relate to how you felt at the time and are connected with other contextual features as well. All of this adds to the ease of recalling it and often why we get earworms when something associated with the song triggers the memory.

When we sing in Church, I wonder how much do we really pay attention to the words? Familiarity with music can mean that we stop appreciating it and if learning new songs, we tend to focus on getting the correct melody rather than the words. In both cases, we can forget what we are singing about altogether, and the words can lose their meaning. The songs we sing contain incredible Bible truths and greater than this, many contain direct scriptural quotes.

A few weeks ago, Tim said in his sermon: “For me, what makes living a consistent and fruitful Christian life so hard is forgetfulness” and “the antidote to forgetfulness is remembering.” This really resonated with me and made me think how music could play its part in being the antidote to my forgetfulness. One of my favourite verses is 2 Corinthians 12:9 and there are many songs based on this verse which have enormously helped me to remember it. When things get overwhelming, I find the line ‘My comfort, my shelter, tower of refuge and strength’ from the song Shout to the Lord, so encouraging and a reminder to lean on God and continue in His strength.

I encourage you to let the power of the Holy Spirit speak to you through the songs you sing and listen to. Perhaps you could dig a little deeper and find out what scriptures your favourite songs and hymns are based on? Most importantly, continue to “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord”.

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