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Make a joyful noise

By Roger Cook, Topeka Presbyterian Manor chaplain

As the coronavirus lingers, we can find emotional, spiritual and mental benefits from listening to music and by lifting our voices in song. For many, these days can be depressing and disheartening. We can find joy and lift our minds above the heaviness of this time through musical expression.

In the Bible, there are more than 1,000 references to music. Have you ever wondered why music plays such a prominent place in the scriptures and such an essential role in the world today? Consider just a few benefits of music.

I have discovered that Christian music cuts through the cares in our minds, and ushers us into God’s presence. For example, as we sing a hymn such as “In the Garden,” our hearts can be warmed, our thoughts quieted, and our hearts directed to Christ to enjoy His presence at the start of our day.

Along with spiritual benefits, research has revealed that your brain gets a mental workout when you listen to or play music. Not only can music help you feel more alert, but it can also boost your memory and mood. One reason is that there’s a math to music, and your brain has to work to make sense of this structure. According to one doctor from Johns Hopkins, “If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.”

Music can be considered medicine for your mind. Other health benefits associated with music include stress relief, motivation and even decreased pain from chronic illness. Research has revealed that music can heighten positive emotion in the reward centers of a person’s brain. When this happens, a person will often feel a sense of elation and a reduction of stress and anxiety.

A fantastic study in 2013 revealed yet another benefit associated with music. A group of 60 people diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a disease characterized by severe pain, was randomly assigned to listen to music once a day for four weeks. Compared to the control group, the people that listened to music reported a significant reduction in pain and fewer depressive symptoms.

When it comes to musical expression, it’s good to remember the Bible doesn’t say, “sing with a beautiful voice” or even “sing on key.” Scripture says to “make a joyful noise” to the Lord (Psalm 98:4). God wants us to open our mouth and sing to Him not as a routine or ritual, but with our hearts. No matter how we sound, when we sing to Him, God is happy and joy fills our lives.

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