Joy, enjoyment and singing

In my article on singing the other day, I talked about the importance of enjoyment and joy when we are singing.  I wanted to expand on a little footnote I included in the article.  There I commented that:

Incidentally, when I talk about joy and enjoyment here, I don’t think that means we are meant to be always singing bouncy happy songs.  Rather, I would suggest that enjoyment, properly speaking means that our emotions are fully satiated and given voice to.”

It would be wrong to assume that every song had to be happy and encourage dancing, clapping and cheering. That’s obvious from Scripture where the full range of emotions come across in the Psalms. Yes, there are songs of praise but there are also laments. The Psalms even express anger at evil.  I would expect our songs and our church singing today to seek to cover the same breadth.

But there is a kind of enjoyment in this. It’s not that we are happy when we sing a lament. Rather, it is that there is an emotion in my heart that needs to be spoken out.  Singing should bring a fulfilment to it.  There’s a goodness and beauty to the song. That’s why you can talk about a good funeral service because such a service through the liturgy, songs, eulogies, prayers and sermon has given voice to our emotions and enabled us in our grief to turn to God, to trust in him and glorify him. 

It may be helpful to think at this point about how Piper talks not just about us enjoying God but God enjoying himself as the highest and most worthy being.  Put that together with another great truth and remember that God is simple so that he is not made up of parts.  Therefore,  it might not be helpful to think in terms of God having lots of different emotions (and that’s before we get into the doctrine of impassibility).  Rather, we think of God as expressing his one, undivided will.  Where we use particular emotions to describe that we are in effect giving multiple perspectives on the one thing.

So if we are to enjoy God in our sung worship, then it should allow for that range of emotions. It’s not just about whether or not I like a particular style of music. It’s also about where I and the church are at a particular moment.  Once again, this places responsibilities on those singing and those choosing/leading the songs.  When we are leading worship, it’s important that we think about the context we are going into. This will be shaped both by the circumstances of the church (where people are) and what God is saying today through his word (where we want them to end up).  We need to choose appropriate songs and music for that.

When we are singing as part of the congregation, we need to be alert to the fact that we may be in a very different place emotionally to the congregation.  We may be feeling happy or sad and everyone else may be feeling the opposite. However, this is about a corporate response from the whole body. So, it’s important that we learn to align our emotions with the wider church body.

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