When Music Doesn’t Work

Music has always been an integral part of my life. I grew up listening to Majesty Music tapes and cds as well as those of the John Marshall family, among others. On long furlough road trips we kids would practically memorize whole Patch the Pirate albums. Classical music has intrigued me ever since as a child I was given a music box playing Fur Elise, and for years, homework was made interesting by the accompaniment of Bach and Handel in the background. As I grew older and started to experience the pains of being an introvert, music became a sort of oasis—it filled me with a satisfaction others found in people. It lifted me above the prosaic or frightening into a world of beauty and joy where anything was possible. Who couldn’t feel empowered and in awe while listening to Handel’s Messiah, or the Marshall’s rendition of Gentle Shepherd, or Beethoven’s Ode to Joy?

It finally occurred to me why so many people, especially teenagers, are never seen without being connected to earbuds and phone. They are trying to envelope themselves in a world of music to shut out the real world around them. When reality becomes too painful or confusing or wrong, escape can be found in music of all sorts. Even Christian music can be used as an escape by those who can’t seem to win but feel as though they could while their minds are filled with Godly lyrics. It’s a fight to constantly restrain myself from putting in the earbuds and blocking out people around me. Listening to my music is so much less painful than trying to fill in gaps of silence in a conversation, but it’s the conversation that builds relationships and maturity.

Music has been my antidote for times of emotional agony. But this week there came a day when music could not help. On Monday I said goodbye to my parents and three younger siblings as they travelled back to their mission field after a year of furlough. Other farewells have been temporary—when I went to camp or teen conference or to the city to visit the dentist. But this is permanent; this is the door that closes on my past as a missionary kid and leads into my future as an adult on my own. And as I trudged up the stairs to the first room I have ever had to myself, I knew that no music could lift the emotions of that moment. Any song I played would just bring to mind the memories my family had woven around it. Every tune would play on chords still resonating with recent bereavement. It was the quietest afternoon I have had in years.

And I realized something (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?) I can choose to run to music’s numbing arms when suffering, or I can choose to run to God’s strengthening arms. If I hide my turmoil in music all the time, how am I being any different from a lost person who has never received the Comforter and thus must find her own hope elsewhere? Because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, He has given me the Holy Ghost—the Comforter, the One who binds God and me together as Father and child. He has given me His Word the Bible, full of promises and hope.

Hebrews 13:5 “For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Psalm 27:14 “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

We tend to look for escape from painful realities—in music, in drugs, in alcohol, in work, in sports, in relationships, in anger. Jesus does not give an escape from reality, He gives strength to survive and even abound in our reality. When the props we have leaned on crumble, God is the solid Rock and firm Foundation we need to weather any storm. Music won’t always work. Don’t use it as a substitute for God.



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