How Joyful Singing Affects and Forms Us

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Written by: Matt Hodges 

Matt Hodges (MA, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the teaching pastor at Risen Church in northwest Houston. He is the author of A Living Hope: Examining History’s Most Important Event and What It Means for the World. You can follow him on Twitter.

This following content was originally published on Acts 29’s website, linked HERE.


Cheering for your favorite team at the game, shouting “Surprise!” to an unsuspecting friend on their birthday, expressing the thrill of a roller coaster—we tend to make noise in response to joy and excitement. 

It’s no accident either. God designed us this way. He created us with vocal cords, and he wants us to use them. In fact, the Bible is full of commands to use our voices and to use them at a high decibel level. God’s people are again and again told to shout, cheer, and sing. One place we see this is Psalm 100.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
     Come into his presence with singing!” (Ps. 100:1).

“Joyful noise” is a rather tempered translation. The word used there most often means “cry out,” “shout in triumph,” or even “raise a war cry.” The common denominator is the noise expected to be made is not merely joyful—it’s loud. In Psalm 100, God is asking us not just to sing, but to give ourselves over to singing. He wants us to take the governor off. And there is good reason for this. 

Singing Affects Us Physiologically 

Jesus came into the world, and left this world, with a physical body. As the perfect human, he shows us that what we do with our bodies matters. Our bodies aren’t just the vehicle for our true existence; they are an integral part of it. Being embodied and wonderfully made and knit together by God means all the body’s systems—hormonal, chemical, neurological, etc.—are there by design. So when God gives us instructions about what to do with our bodies, it’s for good reason.The reason God asks us to sing is because it’s a means of grace, used to turn our gaze back to him and mold our hearts into his image.CLICK TO TWEET

Scientists are continually discovering the psychological and physiological effects of singing, and the benefits are myriad. Singing triggers the release of endorphins, and lowers the amount of stress hormones, like cortisol. It allows the brain to process and move through emotions that spoken words alone are unable to accomplish. Singing with others has been shown as one of the best ways to cultivate a sense of belonging and community. 

When we use our vocal cords the way God asks us to, it forms us, heals us, and gives us tangible grace as we seek to honor and follow him.  

Singing Forms Us Spiritually 

Just as we are embodied, we are also spiritual, and singing has a role to play in that realm. Our minds and our hearts are battlefields on which we go to war against the Enemy and is one of the best weapons we have in our arsenal with which to fight back. 

The other day, I was stressed about something, and while in the car with my family, the stress was palpable. My daughter asked me why I wasn’t singing along with everyone else to the Shane and Shane song that was at full volume. The truth was, I didn’t feel like it. My mind was focused on the wrong things; I was caught up in a knot of resentment. My spirit was troubled, and I felt stuck. As six-year-olds tend to do, she remained persistent and wasn’t going to let me off the hook. So, I joined in. At first, sheepishly, and then began to really sing these praises to God. And unsurprisingly, my bitterness melted away. My spirit felt more at peace. It seemed impossible to be singing God’s praises at full volume while simultaneously harboring all the Enemy wanted me to be focused on.When we use our vocal cords the way God asks us to, it forms us, heals us, and gives us tangible grace as we seek to honor and follow him.CLICK TO TWEET

Ultimately, the reason God asks us to sing is because it’s a means of grace, used to turn our gaze back to him and mold our hearts into his image. He uses our songs as tools to move us from one degree of glory to another. That’s really the true blessing of Psalm 100. It’s not only in the reminder to sing but also in the reminder of why.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, 
     and his faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:4–5, emphasis added). 

See, we tend to think about singing and praise as something that flows out of our circumstances and our emotions. But it’s the other way around. Singing is something we do regardless of our circumstances and is meant to lead our emotions.

The psalmist grounds our reason to sing in something objective and constant: God’s goodness and love. Whatever circumstances I find myself in, whatever else is going on in my life, my mind, my heart, I have reason enough to lift my voice as loud as it will go. Because God is never any less good or any less loving.

When we trust God enough to sing, even when we don’t feel like it, he does a work in us. As parents, we ask our kids to eat their vegetables, whether they’re in the mood or not. Why? Because their mood doesn’t determine whether or not the vegetables are good for them. The same is true with singing. We sing not because we’re in the mood to sing; we sing because even when we’re not in the mood, God is still good. And through the physical, emotional, and spiritual power of song, we lead our hearts back to the truth of his goodness—a truth we functionally forget all the time. In other words, we don’t follow our hearts into song; we lead our hearts with song.

Make A Loud, Joyful Noise

One arena (and the most important one) we can practice this discipline of singing is in corporate worship. If you’re a pastor, let me encourage you to boldly echo the psalmist’s call here in Psalm 100. Consider what it looks like to lovingly spur your people to crank the volume up on their singing. Show them, from Psalm 100 and elsewhere, that God desires all our voices can give—not because we care about performing for God or our neighbor, but because God designed us to do it and will use it as a means of grace.When we trust God enough to sing, even when we don’t feel like it, he does a work in us.CLICK TO TWEET

If you are a congregant, consider what it would look like to engage with the singing in corporate worship. It’s not incidental that we gather as bodies when we gather as the body of Christ. Use the vocal cords God has given you with reckless abandon. He asks for it. 

When the church gathers to sing, we are joining with the angels and the saints in the heavenly places, and we are rehearsing for the day when we will sing side-by-side with them. Let us sing in a manner that honors that incredible privilege.

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