The Sweetening of All Our Songs

Have you stopped and listened to a Christian hymn or worship song recently? Did it sound any different? Richer? Fuller? Sweeter?

As we all look into an uncertain future together, wise Christians will keep turning to truth-filled music to vent our fears and strengthen our faith and renew our hearts with the faithfulness of God.

As we do, we’re going to keep finding that we’ve been given a great gift: the sweetening of all our songs.

The Psalms sound best in the dark because they were written in the dark. There are many that dance, to be sure, but most of the Bible’s songbook is tinged if not filled with lament. In other words, God gave us a soundtrack for the world we live in, not the one we wish for or even the one he’s promised for the future.

That’s why the Psalms feel so right when we’re struggling, and why good Christian music feels like a map dropped into the maze.

After Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, local Christians began realizing how much of our hymnody, whether old or new, was saturated with water and flood and storm imagery. Storms and seas and wind and waves, oceans and sailing and sinking and standing, tempests and anchors and journeys and shores. These themes comforted us, because they told us we weren’t alone. Many had endured such things before us, many would after us, and God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Just as normal Christian living is inundated with trials, it’s infected with hardship, all due to sin’s curse. While believers have already been cleansed from sin through Christ, we still await the ultimate cure that only God’s new creation will bring.

That’s why our songs sound so good during hardship. Just as the Psalms aren’t made for the harbor but for the storm, our songs aren’t just made for times of health and peace but times of sickness and pain.

If you’re struggling with worry or frustration or fatigue during these uncertain times, just choose a favorite Christian hymn or worship song. As long as it’s biblically true, you’ll hear something new: the words and promises, the imagery and poetry, the verses and choruses and bridges will resonate or even soar with new meaning.

You’ll sing about things you need, like peace, or things you miss, like presence, or things you forgot, like the steadfast love of the Lord. You’ll see truths more clearly and sense them more deeply because you need them more desperately. More importantly, you’ll see God more clearly and sense him more deeply because you need him more desperately.

One of the greatest gifts we receive from suffering is the sweetening of all our songs. Like a life jacket, the deeper we sink, the more buoyant our songs become, and the more God uses them to grip us tight and raise us up—from panic to peace, from the hissing questions of doubt to the gentle confidence of faith, from the selfish concerns that overtake us in times of trial to the neighbor-love that Christ calls us to practice especially in the darkest seasons.

These are hard times but good times for the church of Jesus Christ. God is even now unveiling gifts worth their weight in gold, with more to come. And if we’ll listen to the truths that fill the songs we already know, our faith won’t just survive but thrive, and the joy of the Lord will be our strength.