Nathaniel Stalling Jr is Pastor of Burning Bush Temple of Christ Church.
Music and Mental Health
As of late, mental illness has been thrust into the forefront of our national conscience. I can’t remember a time when we have talked about it so openly. While mental health advocates have been prodding the country to have meaningful dialogue on this subject for decades the tennis superstar, Naomi Osaka, really pushed the reset button when she stirred the tennis world by withdrawing from the 2021 French Open tournament.
Naomi Osaka tweeted: “The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that.” She goes on to say, “…and anyone that has seen me at the tournaments will notice that I’m often wearing headphones as that helps dull my social anxiety.” There’s healing in that music.
We are learning something that has been known in other parts of the world for millenia. I don’t know what’s on Naomi Osaka’s playlist, but whatever it is obviously soothes her soul. I remember buying my wife a headband that was also wireless headphones. She wore it often to listen to her favorite music. It helped her when she wanted to relax. Music can be quite medicinal.
King Saul of the bible knew the power of music very well. He suffered from bouts of depression so badly that it caused his closest aides to be deeply concerned. How did they handle it? They called for a musician: ‘So Saul said to his servants, “Provide me now a man who can play well, and bring him to me.” 1 Samuel 16:17 NKJV
The therapeutic music was such a big success for the king that the bible says this in verse 23: “And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.” 1 Samuel 16:23 NKJV
There’s even scientific evidence that speaks on behalf of musical therapy. Bayshore HealthCare says on its website: “Researchers have long explored how music affects the mind.” It goes on to say, “The area of the brain associated with musical memory tends to be least affected by dementia.”
As shown above there is biblical precedent to the profound effects music has on our mental state of mind. But the prophet Elisha used music in a different way. He used it to communicate with God; it allowed him to be spiritually and, mentally ushered into the presence of the Most High God: “But now bring me a musician. Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him.” 2 Kings 3:15 NKJV
Song of Deborah
Music is considered a universal language. It is recognized and understood, in some form, everywhere, by everyone. Its tentacles of influence stretch far and wide. There is no language more pervasive and effective in humankind than music. According to the Apostle Paul music was even used in the spreading of the gospel. It prepares our soul to hear and communicate with God and others, as shown through the prophet Elisha. This is what the Apostle Paul said: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Colossians 3:16 NKJV
Then, there is Deborah, the only female judge chosen to lead Israel in the bible. She was so overwhelmed with joy and excitement when she personally witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event. Leaders did what they were chosen to do; lead. And the people did what they were expected to do; willingly follow. Her joy and excitement led her to compose a song that was memorialized for all time: “When leaders lead in Israel, when the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the Lord! Hear, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I, even I, will sing to the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.” Judges 5:2, 3 NKJV
Deborah and Barak sang this song on that day in front of all of Israel, and because of how music stirred the hearts of Deborah and Barak on that day all of Israel was healed and made whole.
I hope this gives us reason to revisit that playlist we have and make sure the music we have on it is something that ministers to and for our well-being.
© 2021 Nathaniel Stalling Jr