Songs to Soften

Posted by on Sep 27, 2012 in Perspective, The Way I See It | 15 comments

It was 11:07 pm and I was just heading out. My arms were piled high with nearly-due library books and the grocery list was stuffed neatly in my pocket. The wind swirled around me, whipping my hair as I clambered into Darryl’s pick-up. The quiet was a relief from all the day’s activity, a space to come away for a while and reclaim pieces after being parceled out and thinned. I love these late-night runs–they give me time to reflect and replenish. My rusty voice chimed in with the music filling the small space as I bounced and turned down the deserted night roads.


Worship music turns me around, lifts my eyes up and stretches out my hands in desire for Him. It’s a bridge for me. A bridge from earth to the very feet of Jesus. It takes my eyes off myself and my small world to Christ and His kingdom.

I’ve been blessed with a rich heritage of traditional psalm-singing, i.e. psalms sung in very traditional organ/stanza style. But there are times I need just a few words of the Word to roll around the crowded spaces in my heart. Perhaps its the smallness of my mind but I crave simple lines that can saturate every part of my heart with truth. It wipes off the mental and emotion-laded board and sets Christ at the center.

I need these pausing points, these selah moments. So many in the Psalm-singing tradition oppose simple worship songs because they say little and use repetition, I’d argue that if they are based on the Word they are a tremendous gift and needful expression. There are times in the intensity of life that the soul is hard and dry and cracked. Beautiful and eloquent songs can roll by so quickly, verses full of meaning, but instead of sinking in and nourishing, the mouth moves and the mind numbly leads. Sometimes you may be so dry, so broken that your soul can only respond to the deep penetration of one line,  a simple glimpse of Jesus. It moistens the dry soil, softens the hard defenses and seeps down into painful crevices. 

Worship music softens the soul, focuses the mind, and warms affections. It prepares the heart for delving into the word of God and receiving more spiritual food, it returns submission to resistant hearts and and focuses distracted earthly hearts on heavenly things.

I can’t count how many times our family would chase away the darkness in our home, the threat of unbelief by belting out, “Blessed by the name of the Lord, blessed be His Name. He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away.” It would renew our submission to God as a family and would soothe salve on open wounds of unanswered prayers. So many have called songs like these superfluous, lacking in content, and mindless. Is Psalm 136 mindless and repetitive with all of its “for His mercy endureth forever”? Of course not, it encourages meditation and softens the heart to ponder the Lord’s mercy. Sometimes it takes repeated words of truth to penetrate and soften this fallen humanity. They sweeten and soften the heart for greater understanding from the Word, they prepare us to see more of Christ.

If these songs were the meat of our spiritual diet it would be lean and lacking. But worship songs can be a great aid to cold hearts, wounded believers, and distracted followers. After a long day of tiring circumstances and dismal test results my heart was lifted into the heavenly choir with Psalm 100: “Shout to the Lord all the ends of the earth, shout and sing His praises, know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us and we are His.” A simple refrain sung over and over, reaching into the deep crevices of my heart, erasing unbelief and renewing worship and joy once again from this patched-up soul.

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15 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this. Your words sweetly encouraged me today. Singing keeps us awake and confident, I thank God with you for even the simplest songs of trust.

  2. I love this post Kara…
    And it’s crazy how certain songs take me back to that car ride to the hospital, praying for courage to trust Him through whatever we were to find out (listening to Seeds– “Do not fear for I am with you”)…or even now when my heart is hard…Phil Wickham’s “Cannons”…or as you wrote, chasing away the darkness with “Blessed be your name”
    Thank you for this one Kara.
    Love,
    Kara :)

    I Will Praise Him Still
    When the morning falls on the farthest hill,
    I will sing His name, I will praise Him still.
    When dark trials come and my heart is filled
    With the weight of doubt, I will praise Him still.

    For the Lord, our God, He is strong to save
    From the arms of death, from the deepest grave.
    And He gave us life in His perfect will,
    And by His good grace, I will praise Him still.

    • Oooh…that’s one of my favorites. There must be some intimate connection between music and memory because I can remember exact songs too at particular times. We have the Seeds song too..Track 4 (Psalm 100) is our favorite!

  3. We long as we can agree that we can find spiritual joy in all kinds of Christian music, according to how we have been created and raised, I think we’ll be fine. Often, a new and supposedly better style is forced on us by those who think we have to follow the latest fashion or on the cutting edge of spirituality. An insistence on one kind of worship is dividing our churches.

    • It is pretty choppy waters out there isn’t it? So many preferences and styles…my only evaluation is how true the song is to Scripture. That’s the only reliable measuring stick in my book. Styles, traditions, and genres change but the Word of God stands through all.

  4. Yes, yes yes!! Sometimes it seems like we are supposed to feel guilty for not loving Psalm singing exclusively. Worship music is such a blessging. I love the Getty’s music!

    • A lot of us have felt that…I contend that if a song is scriptural and edifying (exalts God!) it is beneficial for the soul. Of course there are definite abuses but we don’t need to “throw the baby out with the water.” Sticking close to the Word (even over tradition) is a good guide in evaluating songs.

    • A hearty amen to the Getty’s!

      • Yes! Not only their music but demeanor on stage.

  5. Amen! Such a wonderful reminder. I am so glad that I have been blessed with a heritage of Christian music that ranges from the traditional hymns, then growing up with Scripture in Song (mostly short worship choruses), and continuing to grow and mature through the wealth of newer worship songs. I love the depth and truth that is so often found in the older hymns, and I love the great music of many of the newer songs (and yes, many of them have great words of truth too). I only wish I was more able to play some of the newer songs (their complicated melodies and rhythms are a great challenge to my musicianship). Enjoy your times of musical worship Kara. Isn’t it so great that we don’t have to be in “church” to worship (and in fact He desires that our whole lives are an act of worship). Thank you Jesus for music. It speaks to my soul so much.

    • Yes, music is a special gift isn’t it? It often releases difficult emotions and brings us back to where we should be, standing on the Solid Rock. I’m glad you’re continuing to play! Even in your practice I hope you are blessed as the melody and words “sink in”.

  6. Thank you for articulating these thoughts so beautifully Kara.

    • Belinda, thanks for stopping by! I’m hoping we can do coffee soon…

  7. Kara, I couldn’t agree with you more. Like you, I am blessed to have had a life filled with the richness of the Psalms, but there are times – either of exhaustion, or of spiritual coldness, when I have been blessed with the simplest of hymns.
    Twice in particular in my Christian life, the simple words of ‘What a friend we have in Jesus, all my sins and griefs to bear… Oh what peace we often forfeit … all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

    Simple words. Blessed to my soul…

    • I’m sure many have been blessed by such hymns! Simple and clear expressions of truth are refreshing!

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