Seeing God in Music

With the coming of the New Year, renewed fervor and resolution abound!  This is the year we’re going to read those books, run that marathon, learn that skill, defeat that bad habit.  These are all admirable goals which (with the exception of the marathon), I would love to have on my year-end “Did It” list.  But as I think about all that could be accomplished and what I really want for myself and my students, one main thought keeps coming back to me—to see more of God in the world He has created and in all that we study each week.  This goal seems to fit well within the subjects of Bible, history, and logic.  But how does it apply to teaching the fine arts?  To be specific—how can we be God-centered when studying music?
There are many different ways.  First, the glory of God can be seen through the reflection of His character in music.  One of the reasons I love music is because of the order, symmetry, and precision that it innately possesses within its staves.  Like in reading, each note relates directly to the next to form one continuous line or phrase that fits into the larger whole of the piece.  Nuances of color are created by variations in speed (tempo), volume (dynamics), and even how the music is played (articulation). Each of these elements works together to create the masterpiece that was in the mind of the composer when he sat down to pen the notes of his score.  This mirrors our God, who is a God of order and beauty—working all things perfectly together according to His plan and purpose for His people.
Second, the spiritual lives of great composers are cause for consideration.  Men like Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel exemplify lives that were lived to the glory of God—with countless scores composed for use in church and worship settings.  Bach was especially noted for his sincere faith, and he frequently initialed his blank manuscripts with the marking “J.J.” (Jesu Juva—“Help me, Jesus”) and “S.D.G.” (Soli Deo Gloria—“To God alone be the glory”) at the end of his manuscripts. But what about men like Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin, whose spiritual journeys followed a different and often troubled path? In the midst of brokenness, God gives grace and giftedness, so that even though they did not immediately intend for it to, their music still reflects the character of God.  God works redemptively through broken and hurting people to bring forth beauty in their creative endeavors.
Finally, in looking to God within the staves of the music we study, we are reminded that God is the ultimate composer of the symphony of our lives and of the universe.  Sometimes we see His hand at work, providing exactly what we need just when we need it.  At other times, we can’t see His hand as clearly.  Just as there is variance in mood and tone in music, so too our lives are comprised of dissonant and dark tones as well as bright and joyful notes.  All of these are necessary to shape our character and fulfill His eternal plans.  Whatever our circumstances in life, this truth remains—God is on His throne, and He will accomplish His purposes.  Therefore in each day and in whatever we are learning or doing, let us resolve in 2017 to "fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18).