Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
These past few days, there has been a lot of talk in my world about music. Music as one way to worship God. Music we miss hearing on the radio. How we all like different types and styles of music.
People also talk about how they use music to set their mood for whatever activity they are doing, so if they need a power hour at work, maybe they use energetic and upbeat music to keep their energy up and moving at a quick pace. Or if they are reading quietly, they might have soft piano music playing in the background.
But we can also use music when we are in seasons of hurt. In fact, when I was in college, I created a CD with a set of songs I would listen to when I was struggling. I started with ones that would help me to lean into the hurt—I’ll explain why here in a bit—and then I moved on to those that helped me lean into the truth. It was a journey, of sorts, from acknowledging the way I was feeling, yet choosing to place my faith and trust in Jesus.
And—side note—as I was preparing for this episode, I was also reminded of another CD I made while I had access to the recording equipment for my radio class, and on this CD, I read devotionals over background music… I was already learning some skills back then that I would need for my audio devotionals and podcasting today. Isn’t that amazing, how God works through things like that?
So back to music… Today, we are going to dive into the power of music and the role it can play when we are going through difficult times—whether we are grieving, struggling with depression, caring for someone else, parenting littles, having problems in our marriage, dealing with anxiety or fear, or any host of things. I’ll also walk you through some things when it comes to creating your own playlist of songs to listen to when you are hurting.
Why Music is So Powerful
I want to start by exploring why music is so powerful. How can it touch us in so many different ways? Why can it move us when our emotions or hearts seem numb?
There’s an article from the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute that identifies six ways that music can help with grief—and I would argue, any difficult season. I’ll link to that article in the show notes below, but let me run through them here:
- Music provides a safe space to feel the emotions of loss.
- Music gives us a way to express our big emotions.
- Music calms the body and mind.
- Music helps us remember who we are.
- Music connects us with other people.
- Music helps us honor the memory of our loved ones.
Be sure to check out the article because it gives some specific ways you can try these things out, okay?
We also see in the Bible how music was used not only to praise God and worship Him, but also to soothe those who were struggling. For example, David often played his harp for King Saul. When his men were trying to find a way to help him, they said, “Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again” (1 Samuel 16:16 NLT). So they found David to play for him, and it says, “And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away” (1 Samuel 16:23 NLT).
There is no doubt in my mind of how powerful music can be, especially when we are going through a difficult season like grief or anxiety.
Why the Order of the Songs is Important
When it comes to creating your own playlist, I want to emphasize that you do want to be intentional about the order of the songs. Because your playlist will take you on a journey.
If you are weaving back and forth between songs that express doubt and those that express faith, your soul isn’t going to know where to settle down at. But if you start with those songs that express the hardships and doubts and fears, and then you move your way into the ones about healing and faith and trust, you take your soul on a bit of a journey.
The article I mentioned above talks about this, too, how it not only helps you process all those big emotions you’re feeling, but you can start with songs that validate your emotional state and then move toward songs that soothe your soul and steady your racing thoughts.
For me, I started with the songs that helped me lean into the hurt. They helped me put words to what I was experiencing. And honestly, sometimes they helped me cry. Because sometimes, I grew numb, and I needed help releasing what was going on inside of me.
Choosing Your Songs
When it comes to choosing your songs, you’ll want to consider the style of music that you like, the message the song shares, and the way the song makes you feel.
You can start just by making a giant list of songs that are connecting with you right now. If you hear it on the radio or another music platform, and it resonates with you or makes you cry or calms your soul, then take note of the song title and who sings it.
There are some songs that multiple people sing, so if you like the song but not by the original artist, find another version that speaks to you. I tend to lean toward acoustic versions. I really like that style. Makes it a little more personal for me.
Once you create a list of songs, you can choose to cross some out, if you decide they don’t really work well for this. And then you can start arranging them in the order that makes sense for you.
You also want to keep in mind how long the entire playlist will be. If you create an hour’s worth of music, but rarely have the opportunity to sit down for an hour and listen to it, it’s not really going to do you as much good. You’ll have to stop partway through the journey, maybe on a song that’s helping you feel the loss, and not be able to move through that as easily.
So if you only have 10 or 15 minutes, choose only 3 or 4 songs. Maybe create multiple playlists of different lengths or different occasions. Do this however it works for you.
Now, when I created my playlist back in college, I burned all the tracks onto a CD. But today, you can buy the digital version of the song and usually create your playlist in whatever music platform you use. Again, pick the one you use the most and have access to. You don’t want to have to take 10 minutes just to get your playlist ready. You want to be able to just turn it on when you need it, wherever you’re at. At least, as much as possible.
Okay, so that CD I created back in college, about 15-20 years ago… I had 17 songs on there. That sounds like a lot! Here are some of the songs I included:
- “Much Afraid,” by Jars of Clay
- “Give Me Jesus,” by Fernando Ortego
- “Psalm 63,” by Jami Smith
- “No One Else Knows,” by Building 429
- “Come to the River,” by Ronnie Freeman
- “Voice of Truth,” by Casting Crowns
- “Trust in You,” by Jeremy Camp
- “In You,” by Mercy Me
If I were to create another playlist today, these are a couple of songs I would include:
One would be “Worn,” by Tenth Avenue North, because it expresses so well the weariness we can experience when we are struggling. It starts out, “I’m tired, I’m worn, my heart is heavy from the work it takes to keep on breathing.” I mean, anyone who has struggled with depression can probably understand the effort it takes to do basic everyday things, because depression can zap your energy, your drive, your desire to do anything at all.
Another song would be “Oh My Soul,” by Rebekah Dawn. I mentioned this on another episode, a bonus episode from August 2021. I love this song because, while she is struggling, she is talking to her soul, reminding herself of who God is and what He has done.
Here are some lines from that song: “Oh my soul, where is your faith? Where is your hope? Why are you troubled? Why are you worried and anxiously trying to figure out all that’s to come?… Has He ever failed you? Has He ever left you? Has He ever spoken a promise and not made it good? He never has, He never will, He never would.”
Speak of reminding yourself of the truth. You guys, I love this song, and there are times when I so desperately need it. Those moments when I am so worried about something that I can’t focus or sleep, or when I’m trying to figure out what decision to make… and I just need to pause and remind myself that God has never failed me and He will walk with me through this, no matter what happens.
And one more song would be “Goodness of God,” as sang by We the Kingdom. I enjoy their style of the song more, but there’s also a version available with some spontaneous worship, and that just speaks volumes to me. It also gives me a chance to spend those moments with God and express my own thoughts and prayers to Him.
One More Example of How to Use Music When You Are Grieving
Now today, we’re talked about creating your own playlist to help you process your emotions, but I do want to quickly share another way that I’ve seen this work. And that is, after my grandpa was killed in a car accident, his cousin created a CD for those of us in the family that included my grandpa’s favorite songs on it. So it not only helped us remember him and honor him, but it helped us connect together as a family, and it was also something incredibly meaningful for us.
So if you’ve lost someone recently, or you’re just especially missing them, putting together a playlist of their favorite songs might be a powerful way to remember them.
Okay, that’s all for today, my friends. I hope and pray that this was a helpful and practical episode for you. Until next time…
- Article: Six Ways Story Helps with Grief (from the Huntsman Cancer Institute)
- Bonus Episode: Talking to Your Soul
QUOTES AND BIBLE VERSES:
- “Let us find a good musician to play the harp whenever the tormenting spirit troubles you. He will play soothing music, and you will soon be well again…. And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away (1 Samuel 16:16, 23 NLT)
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