Music is powerful. Artistic words carried to the ear by tear-jerking melody, driving beats, or care-free tunes make their way to the deepest parts of the soul and stay there. Music can evoke feelings and emotions in a way that the spoken word never can.
Have you ever thought about why music is so powerful and how it evokes such deep emotion? I believe the most powerful music speaks to one of two things in the heart of the listener: either a deep desire or a personal experience. In other words, we emotionally connect with a song when our heart’s response is "I want that," or "I've felt that." If you turn your radio to the local hit music station, most of the songs you hear will speak to one or both of those messages.
Music unmasks the deepest desires and experiences of the human heart.
That's what makes music incredible. That’s why we identify with certain songs. That’s why you compile your custom playlist on your iPod. After all, if our favorite songs didn’t speak to either of those, we wouldn’t connect with them emotionally.
Music artists, both Christian and secular, are well aware of this. They recognize that their music must speak to the hearts of their audience so as to create a deep emotional connection. This isn’t wrong; it’s what makes music incredible!
So, what happens when an artist who is without Christ and without hope, tries to address the deepest desires and experiences of his/her own heart? We get songs about about sex, thrills, power, wealth, and relationships. They are highlighting their deepest desires in a desperately lost world. If you want to know what the world craves, turn on the radio.
Not only does a music artist sing about deep desires; he sings about personal experiences. He wants his listeners to relive the thrill, the heartbreak, the excitement, or the anger of their own personal experiences when they listen to his music. And one of the most shared personal experiences that lost people have is emptiness.
I remember scanning through the radio channels in my car one day when a certain song started playing that made me stop and listen. It wasn't because it had catchy lyrics or an unforgettable tune, but because it was so incredibly sad--so empty.
I looked up the lyrics online and found out it was a song entitled "Habits (Stay High)" by Tove Lo. She begins with the following:
I eat my dinner in my bathtub
The song continues to speak of sexual exploits and a desperate pursuit of pleasure, all to help her forget the one who broke her heart. Why did this song make it on the radio? Because millions and millions of people listen to her song and say, "yeah, I've felt that." Whether they mean to or not, they admit that they are empty--utterly and hopelessly empty. They're running around from pleasure to pleasure, trying to find something that will bring fulfillment, and it never stops.
The bridge of the song is particularly telling:
Staying in my play pretend
This is life without Christ. This is life without hope. Not all songs are as brutally honest as this one, but if you listen carefully, you hear the emptiness echoing through airwaves as it plays on your radio or iPod. The world’s deepest shared experience (emptiness) pushes them to desperately pursue their deepest shared desire (pleasure).
More than ever before, as I hear these songs being played on the radio or in the mall, I can hear a cry for help--a frantic plea for satisfaction; yet, it's a plea that remains unanswered, so the songs keep coming. Ironically, their deepest desire is the very things that brings emptiness.
This should prompt us to ask ourselves, do we ever identify with that emptiness? What fills your playlist? Is it filled with songs about love and sex because your deepest desire is to be in a fulfilling relationship? Is it filled with songs about anger and betrayal, because you just can’t forgive that person for what he did to you? Is it filled with songs about power and dominance because you’re tired of being ignored by others? Could it be that your playlist is a catalog of your deepest desires and experiences? Do your favorite songs unmask your own emptiness?
Friends, if you’re in Christ, God has filled you. The world may be able to identify with your struggles, but they can’t offer the cure. Is Jesus Christ your deepest desire? Have you experienced his love? Christ invites us to end our empty pursuit for pleasure by resting in him.
He is the one who will heal your pain instead of numb it. He is the one in whose "presence there is fullness of joy" and "pleasures forevermore" (Ps 16:11). He is the one who said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt 11:28-29).
He is the one who says, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). He is the only one who "satisfies the longing soul" (Ps 107:9). If you don’t know Christ, click here to find out what we’re talking about.
You know, some people accuse Christian music of reusing the same themes over and over again, but perhaps it is because we have already found the answer to our deepest desire and have experienced it personally.
Perhaps it is because we've stopped searching. In Christ, we have found fulfillment.
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