I love music. I always have. I sing whenever I have a chance and have my headphones on for most of the day. I turn to it when I’m sad, happy, mad, or things turn sour.
Basically, I use music to cope.
Is that a bad thing? No, but it becomes a problem when I use it to avoid my emotions and rely on it instead of God.
I have come to the conclusion that I’m using music to drown out my emotions, what’s going on around me, and things I don’t want to hear. If I’m mad, guess what? Out come the headphones. If I’m sad, guess what? I most likely have my headphones on.
Avoiding my emotions.
The Lord has brought this issue to my attention and I started to wonder, “Am I the only one who does this?”
I think not.
Music is an integral part of our culture. Movies have music, schools offer music, and there is a whole industry dedicated to keeping our eardrums happy. My eardrums are happy… but at what cost?
My eardrums are happy, but is my heart happy?
My eardrums are happy, but am I missing out on things people say?
My eardrums are happy, but am I using music (something we are meant to appreciate) as a way to escape reality and lose myself in the beat?
My eardrums are happy, but am I leaning on music more than I am on God?
Most of us use music to cope without even realizing it. Streaming services such as Spotify are well aware of this, and offer their subscribers playlists with titles ranging from “Anthems of Angst” to “Running Thru a Field of Smiles”.
Music therapy is now a sanctioned form of health-care with clinical and quantitive research to back it up. Music therapy has been used on a variety of issues from mood confused adolescents to depressed adults. One tool music therapist use–as well as actively playing or composing music–is guiding patients through the music listening experience, helping them process their emotions and feelings.
We do the same thing essentially when we put on our headphones (except for us it’s a self-guided version).
It’s fine to put on an upbeat, God-honoring song to lift your spirits, but when does it become a problem for our mental health?
Emily Carlson, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of music at the University of Jyväskylä in Norway explored this issue in a study she conducted during her time there. In this study, she took 123 people and asked them to complete a survey about their music listening habits using a scale developed by the studies co-author. The scale assessed how many people tended to use the seven different mood-listening strategies based on their agreement with statements such as, “When I’m angry with someone, I listen to music that expresses my anger.”
Emily’s three particular interest in this study were the top three strategies people used music to handle negative emotions. The three being: Diversion, where music is used as a distraction from negative emotions and or feelings; Solace, where music is used in search of comfort, understanding when feeling sad or confused, and acceptance; and Discharge, where anger or sadness is released through the music (think in terms of a big mush pot).
In her findings, Emily found that people use music to more or less avoid their feelings, with the highest scoring division being Diversion.
Whether you are using music as a distraction or a release, this just goes to show that music plays a huge part in our mentality.
Now, we all listen to music for different reasons. I found that I was using it in a negative way (and maybe you are too), because I listened to escape my emotions, not to work through or release them. I was just using music as a Band-aid, to avoid looking at the emotion, thought, or feeling that was bothering me.
The point I’m trying to make is, when we turn the music off on our phone, Kindle, and or iPad, the emotions will still be there. Still raw, still bleeding, and still painful.
Music is only a temporary solution to your problem(s) and only God can heal your heart.Music is only a temporary solution to your problems, and only God can heal your heart. Click To Tweet
Only God can take away the pain you’re trying to mask. He says in Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
When your heart is hurt, instead of running to music, run to God. Run to his outstretched arms, and let the loving words from his tongue heal your chafed and bleeding heart.
Let him in. Let him see all your wounds. Let him begin the process of healing. Burying your emotions won’t help in the long run, because guess what? They will still be there, lurking in the shadows of your heart, creating silent havoc.
God doesn’t tell us to take our feelings and run far. He asks us to take our feelings and cast them on him, to see them for what they are and throw them–up.
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalms 55:22
Emotions, thoughts, and feelings are not bad. They just need to be dealt with and released in a healthy way and tended to with love by the master Shepherd. Let your emotions live, but let God live near them.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Dear reader, do not hide behind the beat reverberating in your ears. Instead, turn your music off and seek to hear the voice of God as he helps you work through whatever trial you may be walking through. You may want to avoid certain feelings, but sometimes he calls us to walk through instead of doing everything we can to avoid the path that he is leading us down.
Just like a train in a dark tunnel, when the passengers fear that the light will never shine again, the conductor knows that there is an end. While you travel through your own tunnel, turn to God and seek comfort and strength.
“Come to me, dear one and find rest from the load you carry.”
He wants you, he yearns for you to come to him. He longs to wipe away your tears and fears. Let him….don’t hide, and just be in his awe-striking presence.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)