By Rachel Coleman, FaithCounts.com Contributor
Do you have a favorite song? One that gets you drumming your steering wheel and singing out loud, even on a bad day?
How about a song that inspires reverence for the beauty of mother nature? Or quiets your mind enough to allow a drop of peace to sink into your heart — even in the middle of a hectic day?
Life can be hard. At some point we all experience the devastating decrescendos of grief, disappointment, loss, despair, anger, and bitterness. And even if we’re not dealing with profound tragedies, the stress of day-to-day living can make it hard to connect to our faith and keep our hearts open to the inspiration we seek.
“Music,” Maria Augusta von Trapp said, “acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.” Something to keep in mind if you’re feeling a little disconnected or uninspired.
You’ve probably experienced that same transformative power of music before. Maybe your wounded spirit has been soothed by a classical piece from Chopin or Beethoven. Music can promote healing. Maybe your grieving heart was jump-started by the high energy of a rock concert. Music can lift your mood…and your heart rate. Or maybe you’ve been motivated to show greater love and kindness by a sacred hymn. Music can inspire us to be better human beings than we were before.
“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Music has that kind of power. The power to strengthen our faith, to strengthen us.
Music, unlike the spoken or written word, has the ability to transcend religious, cultural, political, age, and gender boundaries. When we hear music, sound waves are literally traveling inside of our bodies, vibrating tiny bones in our ears and firing synapses in our brains. We all hear it the same way. In our mind—and in our heart.
In her landmark book The Power of Music about the science of music, author Elena Mannes describes research done with a remote African tribe in Cameroon. A researcher asked the tribe members to describe the emotions they felt when they listened to Western music they’d never heard of. And guess what? The tribe members identified the same emotions that Westerners did.
Music is a universal language. It speaks to our spirits on a deeper level than words alone can.
“Where words fail, music speaks.” ― Hans Christian Andersen
So, the next time you reach for your headphones or that volume knob think about the kind of energy you’re inviting into your life with your music choices. Pick a rhythm that motivates, a tempo that inspires, and a melody that whispers peace.
 Mannes, Elena. The Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries in the New Science of Song. New York: Walker Publishing, 2011. p. xvi