Sad Songs (Say So Much)

Have you noticed how strong of an aversion we Christians have to expressing sadness? The same thing can be said for doubt, fear, and anger (well, certain groups of Christians seem to thrive on anger, so maybe that one deserves an asterisk). I think we feel that it’s wrong to express negative emotions, because what kind of message will that send about God’s children? We don’t want to discourage one another, and we don’t want to have a bad testimony in the world.

But we’re meant to feel. We’re meant to be affected by the things around us.

Jesus wept.

Pete Scazzero, in his Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, points out that “Two-thirds of the psalms are laments, complaints to God”(p.143). Yet when I look at the songs that I have written for my church group (we write our own songs), I find that most of mine express the same tone. They’re not all that way, mind you. I wrote a couple that are prayerful and meditative. A couple are grandiose and declarative. A couple are just plain fun.

But what about the sad songs?

As Elton John once said, “Sad songs, they say so much.”

Indeed they do. Our lives with the Lord sometimes take us into the valley of the shadow of death. And when they do, He is there, too. We need songs that express that, because someday you’ll be back there again, and when that time comes it will be of tremendous help to you to have put expression to what you experienced the first time.

King David seems downright bipolar sometimes. Just read a Psalm. His emotions ranged the whole gamut of feelings from elation and exaltation to sorrow, grief, guilt, and despair. And yet those songs became the hymnody of a nation. Wow. Apparently nations need sad songs, too. Sad songs that take you through that valley and show you that there is life and light on the other side. Or maybe those songs just need to be there when you get there so that you won’t feel so alone. Maybe the Lord inhabits those songs in those moments when you need His presence most. Maybe in those dark hours, He will come to you in a song. A sad song.

So go on and write sad songs. Put words and music to every emotion that the Lord takes us through…we need them all. They’re all a part of His work in us, and we should treat them as such. Don’t hide your weakness, your failing, your sorrows. Hiding them is often an act of pride. We don’t want to appear like we don’t have it all together.

In a dark time in my life, I once wrote a song to the tune of “Uninvited,” a song in minor key by Alanis Morissette. I never sang it in a meeting. But maybe I should have. Maybe I’ll pull it out again someday. Maybe not 😉


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