Counseling with Music

“Nothing comforts me more in my greatest sufferings, nor seems more fit for me while I wait for death, than singing psalms of praise to God, nor is there any exercise in which I had rather end my life.” – Richard Baxter

Without doubt, music plays a large part in life’s celebrations, but nothing matches its ability to touch the deepest parts of our inner person as it comforts us in the midst of our grief and pain. The above words from the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter remind us of the power of music to soothe our troubled souls and to strengthen us to face the trials of life—even death itself—with God-centered confidence. No doubt the most vivid biblical example of the power of music to minister to the inner man is the effect that David’s music had on King Saul. First Samuel 16:23 testifies, “So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.” Setting aside any discussion regarding the place of demonic influence in Saul’s life, or the role that godly music may have in dispelling the forces of darkness, it serves us well to consider here the fact that it was the music itself that ministered to the king, causing him to “be refreshed and be well.”

Since the Bible, the Word of God, is the revelation of God to man (Ps. 19:7–10), divine truth (John 17:17), and the mind of God in written form (1 Cor. 2:16), it is the chief instrument that the Holy Spirit uses to comfort us. Therefore, there is not a more powerful musical comforter than the spiritual songs and great hymns of the faith that forever wed biblical truths to memorable melodies. What believer has not had emotions spring up within when “It Is Well with My Soul” (Horatio G. Spafford) was sung at his or her deepest moment of sorrow? Who has not been moved to tears when “Face to Face” (Carrie E. Breck) was sung at the memorial service of a devoted follower of Jesus? When the promises of God are conveyed through the beauty of God’s musical creation, profound ministry takes place in the souls of men and women.

There is also great benefit to the use of hymn stories. Often the circumstances in the life of the hymn-writer will mirror those that threaten the faith of hurting believers today. Sharing these stories will bring other empathetic comforters to their aid. Therefore, we should make use of the many excellent hymn-story books that are available. All in all, we are foolish if we do not avail ourselves of the rich hymnody that God has preserved in His church for the purpose of glorifying Himself and comforting His people.

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