Inside us all is a song. Every one of us can tell a story and this is perhaps how some of the most well-known of Christian songs or hymns began.
Christian music is expressive, the songs and hymns can be full of praise, can be a prayer or can tell a story. No matter what format the song or hymn may take the end result is to glorify and honour God and that is perhaps what sets Christian music above all else.
Many Christian songs, going back to the Psalms of David begin with something personal, a feeling, something that has happened, something that is wanted and from here the lyrics can flow and because the act is often personal the lyrics flow well. With something personal it becomes easy for another person to resonate with the song and the feeling because what may have happened to the writer may well have happened to the singer or the congregation and this gives the song meaning and power and life.
The Psalms are deeply personal; they are the thoughts and prayers of a man in conversation with God. The Psalms tell a story in many ways and use Old Testament scriptures as reference and despite not knowing actually predicted some of what was to come in the New Testament. The use of scripture and verse to define what needs to be said is often vital in a Christian song, although not always essential.
Christian songwriters today can learn a lot form the Psalmists and conveying the messages of hope, asking the questions of fear and shouting out the message of praise is clearly demonstrated. Perhaps one of the best known Psalms in Psalm 23, it tells a message of hope, of assurance and praise when in the end the “Cup overflows”. The Psalm has been so well crafted and its translation has become the foundation or even the template for many well Christian songs today.
But often it is something that has happened in the life of a person that inspires the song and lyrics. One of the most famous is that of Horatio Spafford, man who at first glance would been seen as having it all as wealthy Chicago lawyer in the 1800’s. He did indeed have it all, a beautiful wife and five wonderful children, a son and four daughters. He was a devout Christian and was at the prime of his career and then things began to turn for the worse.
Just as things were going well he suffered the loss of his son and then in the great Chicago fire he lost his business. To escape from this he decided to move his family to Europe and put his wife and four remaining daughters on ship while he settled things in Chicago and he was due to follow shortly. It was a few days after his wife and daughters left that he received the news that the ship they were on had been involved in a collision and only his wife had survived the tragedy.
He must have been a broken man and indeed inside he was but his Faith held him strong. Horatio boarded a ship to join his grieving and equally broken wife and it was at this lowest point he penned some of the most famous “lyrics” ever written “When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul…” these lyrics and the story of the Horatio so impressed the composer Philip Bliss that he wrote some music to accompany the full words that Horatio wrote and today pretty much every Christian knows the words and the tune by heart.
Christian music is very true, very real and is written from the heart and Mark Hall of Casting Crowns explains how one of his more powerful songs came about through circumstances not a million miles from Horation Spafford. Mark explains that “Praise you in this storm” was written for a friend who had a daughter with cancer and how this friend was praising God despite the storm blowing around him. He also knew that Praising God in the Storms of life is difficult and knows so many also struggle in the same storms and thus the song was written to not only comfort and support a friend in storm but also support anyone else in a storm of their own.
Over the centuries, even the millennia if you consider the Psalms of ancient times the source of lyrics for songs has pretty much remained the same. Personal experience, the world around you and expressing feelings in either praise or prayer are at the core of Christian music writing today and those who write should not be afraid to do so, because you are never alone in what you are feeling and your words that you have the ability to write may just help someone else a million miles away.
Guest Post by Author Matt Newnham. Matt is a Christian and a writer living in Cape Town, South Africa. His motivational and inspirational writing has been published globally.