By WCS Headmaster Dr. Roger Erdvig
In our Thanksgiving chapel, I shared a message from Psalm 9:1-2. In this short text, David helps us to grasp the power of gratitude to transform difficult situations into something good. King David’s message to us is consistent with a core truth of the Christian worldview—through our humble acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty (gratitude), hard times are redeemed for Kingdom purposes.
What is perhaps not as familiar to us is the subtitle to Psalm 9. In the intro to the Psalm, we learn that it was addressed to the Director of Music, which means that David intended for this Psalm to be used in worship settings as a song. It’s as if your pastor wrote a brand-new worship song and emailed it to your worship director for use in next Sunday’s service. So far so good…
But in addition to the lyrics, the songster David also included the tune for the new song. In the text notes, we discover that David intended Psalm 9 to be sung to a tune that the Music Director would already know: “The Death of the Son.”
Really??? If I was the Music Director, I’d be shooting off a quick return email to David to make sure he knew what he was doing. Why pair a joyful, victorious song with a gloomy tune that we only use at funerals? While we do not have preserved for us what “The Death of the Son” sounds like, I’m pretty sure it’s not a happy tune.
Singing Psalm 9 to the tune of “The Death of the Son” would be like singing Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” to the tune of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry.” It just wouldn’t be right.
But if you think about what David did here, it’s actually a reminder of a great truth. Sometimes the music of our life is sad, it can sound like the soundtrack to our life is made up of only minor keys, ploddingly slow tempos, and sour notes. But, as David reminds us in Psalm 9, nothing can change the truths about who God is and what he does in and for his people.
So what do we do when our internal music playlist reflects realities that seem to contradict what God says is true?
The first verse in the Psalm provides us with the key. In the ESV, it reads, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.” Just imagine that short phrase set to the music you’re hearing in your life right now. Maybe your soundtrack is ideal for a… pandemic. Or, perhaps the music in your spirit sounds like a funeral dirge. Or maybe, you’re humming a tune that reflects all the disunity of our culture.
David’s point is that no matter the tune being played, truth triumphs over feelings, and the way to resolve such dissonance is being thankful. Acknowledging and retelling all that God has done aligns our spirits with what is really true and helps us to transcend the feelings that the music of our lives can cause.
Even psychological experts recognize this power of gratitude. In a recent edition of the Harvard Health Publishing online newsletter, we are told the story of two researchers who set about to discover the impact of thankfulness on a group of people. Study participants were divided into three groups and were told to journal their experiences for 10 weeks. The first group was instructed simply to write down what happened. Group two was told to write about what annoyed them about their lives. The final group wrote about what they were thankful for. They all did this for 10 weeks.
I’m sure you can guess the outcomes of the study. After practicing gratefulness for 10 weeks, group three was happier and more optimistic about the future than the other groups, and they even had fewer doctor visits during the study period. These results suggest that even in 2020, David’s ancient practice of thankfulness has a way of helping humans to flourish and endure hard times.
(By the way… can you imagine being part of group #2, having to document only all your annoyances for 10 weeks? Talk about a sad, pathetic tune!)
As we enter the 2020 Thanksgiving and Christmas season, the tunes we’re hearing are not always pleasing to the ears. However, as we choose gratefulness in spite of those tunes-- finding ways to acknowledge and confess God’s goodness to us-- we can, like David, transcend the difficulties and see God’s greater, more joyful purposes for us.
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