John 14:1: Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.
I don’t know if, like me, you have found moments of worship in unexpected times and places. The Bible is filled with accounts of God appearing in unlikely times and places—the burning bush to Moses, Jacob’s ladder, Elijah’s vision of a “wheel within a wheel” and God in the Temple, the visions of Daniel, Stephen, Paul on the road to Damascus, and John’s vision of “a new heaven and a new earth.” Such moments happen with us as well, and I think most often with songs.
Throughout history, song writers have written secular lyrics which may be interpreted with a religious meaning and have used popular tunes for sacred words. J. S. Bach did this, knowing that his congregation would sing more confidently if they were familiar with the music, most of which were drinking songs. I should add here that bars and taverns in Germany were family-friendly places, where neighbors are and drank and enjoyed each other’s company. This trend has continued up until the present day, with hymn writers fitting religious texts to tunes such as Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the traditional Irish melody “London Derry Air,” the English folk tune “Forest Green,” the traditional English melody, “O Waly, Waly” and “Morning Has Broken,” and a Scottish Gaelic melody named “Bunessan.”
And there are, of course, contemporary examples of secular songs which have religious meanings. We used to listen to a program on WMAL which came on before church on Sunday mornings called “Sound and Sense,” with Father John Gainey, who talked about religious meanings of popular songs. More recently, songs such as “Lean on Me,” “Spirit in the Sky,” “On the Wings of the Angels,” “Believe,” “You Raise Me Up” ( which was originally a religious song which many listeners heard as having a secular meaning), and “Let It Be” by the Beatles.
Recently I was listening to Pandora in the car and heard as if for the first time Dan Fogelberg’s “Believe in Me.” Ostensibly sung to a love interest, it nonetheless may be interpreted as God speaking to his beloved—and that’s us!
Here are the lyrics so you can follow along with the song:
If I could ever say it right
And reach your hostage heart
Despite the doubts you harbor
Then you might
Come to believe in me.
The life I lead is not the kind
That gives a woman peace of mind
I only hope someday you’ll find
That you can believe in me.
Those other loves that
Mean nothing to me anymore
But you can never be quite sure
And will not believe in me.
Too many hearts have been broken
Failing to trust what they feel
But trust isn’t something
And love’s never wrong
When it’s real.
If I could only do one thing
Then I would try to write and sing
A song that ends your questioning
And makes you believe in me.
Oh, you can believe in me.
This song speaks of God singing to us, and I believe God does that, much as we sing to a baby while we rock her. Indeed we are held in the everlasting arms of the one who has the whole world in his hands. All glory and praise to God for his everlasting provision and care for us, the children of the one eternal God!