Bonita Joyner Shields, Editor, CQ Bible Study Guide

Utterances of the Soul

Lisha and I roomed together our last year in boarding academy and our first year in college. We had some really fun times together—like the time we decided we wanted to get a birds-eye view of the boy’s dorm. We pulled out our binoculars, tried to be as discreet as possible, and took a peak—only to be caught by the guy on the other end! I still can’t figure out how he could see us all the way across campus. Unless, of course, he had his own pair of binoculars.

Lisha and I also had our quibbles. Our main argument involved the Dallas Cowboys. She was an avid fan. No, she was a rabid fan. Unfortunately, my favorite team was anyone who played against the Cowboys. I guess every friendship has their challenges.

But the thing that I remember most about Lisha is that she had a song for everything. It didn’t matter if we were walking to the cafeteria, cleaning the room, talking about boys (which took a lot of our time in those days), whatever, Lisha would break out in song. It was extremely spontaneous. “Okay, Lish, what song is it this time?” And, sure enough, on the spot, she would serenade me with a song.

Lisha and Luke

I think about Lisha when I read Luke 1. What fascinates me about this narrative is that in spite of the different circumstances of Zacharias and Mary, in spite of their different faith reactions to the announcements of God, and in spite of the different reactions from God, they both broke forth singing. They couldn’t hold it in.

Zechariah and Mary. Both people of faith. One’s faith had to be strengthened, one’s faith was strong. But one thing they had in common: they both found a reason to sing. In spite of their different journeys, in spite of their different faith reactions, in spite of God’s reactions, God gave them a song!

What is a song? A technicial definition would be “a melodious utterance.” However, I like the definition someone has given to the songs in scripture: “A treasured and comprehensive summation of the experiences through which we pass.”* A song can be part of who we are. It then is not just a melodious utterance. It then becomes an utterance of the soul.

There have been many times in my life when mere words just didn’t seem to express what my soul longed to express to God. Even though songs are made up of words, just saying the words didn’t express the sentiments. I had to sing them to God. Fortunately, I do a lot of this in the car while I’m by myself! To me, though, they become utterances of the soul.

A Reason to Sing

Whether you consider yourself a person of strong faith or of weak faith, God has given you a reason to sing. I realize that sometimes we don’t feel like singing. The wounds of this life seem to suck the songs right out of our hearts. We can’t see anything for which to be thankful. But the irony is that in the act of singing, we are reminded of all the songs of praise and thanksgiving and gratitude just waiting to burst forth from our souls. There are many songs that I love. But my favorite hymn is, “It Is Well With My Soul.” Even when it’s not well with my soul, the singing of the song helps it to be well.

What’s your song? What is trying to escape from your soul in the midst of the challenges you are facing with school, relationships, finances? I encourage you to dig deep to find that song and to sing it. In the act of uttering it, you will find not only that your challenges seem lighter, but that God is enjoying the serenade.

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The Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 2nd ed., p. 826.