Music to dream by – Hopeful songs playlist
Ever need a kick in the pants? Or just a hot cup of cocoa on a cold winter’s day? Sometimes it feels like life is stuck in butter-churn mode—lots of work and going nowhere. If you’re like me every once in a while you need a wake-me-up call or a reminder of what life’s all about.
There are a lot of ways to get out of a rut, to keep moving forward. Prayer is essential. Wise counsel is invaluable. But one of the most wonderful gifts God has given us in this regard is music. I’ve written about how I use music for writing, but today I’d like to offer a playlist of hopeful songs that have helped me keep pushing forward when failure or mistakes or flagging resolve have made me want to bury my head in the pillow and sleep through my problems.
So here is my “hopeful songs” playlist. Ten songs to take your eyes off your woes and put them back where they should be. It should be especially meaningful for writers and artists, but it’s for anyone who needs a little bit of extra encouragement.
1. Brave by Sara Bareilles
Okay, so this song is about bullying (I think) and standing up for yourself, but as a writer it has a little extra special meaning. “Say what you want to say and let the words fall out honestly.” Those lyrics are words every writer should be singing. Whatever obstacles you’re facing, whether it be bullies, or editing the 5th draft of your manuscript, we could all use a little bit more “brave” to face down those dragons in our lives.
2. Raging Sea by Michael W. Smith
This song works on so many levels. The melody rises and falls like the waves from the song’s title, but the chorus ends with a peaceful exhale that almost makes you feel like you’ve just been pulled onto a life boat. “So if you’re stumbling through the valley. If you’re tempted to give to give up the fight…” this is the song you need to listen to.
3. Trust in You by Lauren Daigle
Every word of this song. Everything. I love Dangle’s throaty voice, but even more I love the message she sings about here. I could quote the whole song, really, but you should probably just listen to it yourself. Okay, I can’t resist at least sharing the chorus:
When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You.
4. The Silence of God by Andrew Peterson
Andrew Peterson is one of my favorite musicians. There is more comfort to be found in his music than an old afghan warmed by the fire. He’s also a pretty skilled fiction writer. The sheer poetry of his lyrics is amazing. This particular song is a reminder that sometimes Providence is hard. But we are not the first to know pain and frustration. Again, I’m tempted to quote the whole song, but the last line is too beautiful not to at least mention. This song has more truth and majesty per syllable than a hundred sugar-coated ear-ticklers at the top of the charts.
And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
The aching may remain but the breaking does not
In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God
“The holy, lonesome echo…” Ah, it gets me every time I hear it.
5. Need You Now (How Many Times) by Plumb
This song is really more like a prayer with a melody and a beat. The first line is a great reminder, “Everybody’s got a story to tell.” I love the anthemic, big sound of the chorus juxtaposed against the more intimate, introspective verses. It’s sad that so often we don’t cry out to God until we’re hanging off the edge of a cliff. We really should be singing and praying of our need for him even when things are sunny and wonderful.
6. Glorious Unfolding by Stephen Curtis Chapman
I had to listen to this one a few times before it really hit me. But boy did it. A great reminder that our lives are really part of a much larger story. And what a glorious story it will be! Though we can not always see it in the moment. “There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold!” As I writer and fellow wanderer on life’s road, that’s a message I need to hear over and over again.
7. Fight Song by Rachel Patten
I love the imagery and emotion of this song. A small boat on the ocean…A single match that causes an explosion. Again, as a writer, some of the lines in this one really strike a chord, “All those things I didn’t say…Wrecking balls inside my brain,” and “Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep,” but “…there’s a fire burning in my bones.” This song reminds us to keep fighting. Keep following that dream.
8. The Motions by Matthew West
This one has a special place in my life. This was the song I listened to over and over when I was trying to finish my first novel, Into the Vast. “This might hurt. It’s not safe, but I know that I’ve got to make a change.” Fear is definitely a part of most writers’ experience. And finishing that first draft was so hard. But I did it by God’s grace. And he used this song to help me get to that point. Maybe it will help you decide to stop “going through the motions” and live life passionately in pursuit of the vision God has given you.
9. Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson
This song has a story-like quality to it. It is so easy to picture this small town girl torn between pursuing her dreams and the love she has for those who have always been there for her. “Take a chance, make a change, and break away,” this song tells us. But as an author friend of mine is fond of saying, we need to learn to balance reality and dreams and this song admonishes us not to “forget all the ones” that we love in the pursuit of those dreams.
10. Whatever You’re Doing by Sanctus Real
This song is another great mixture of contemplative verse with a rousing, soul-shaking chorus. This one encourages those who hear it to reflect on their lives and make that change, that difficult decision they’ve been putting off.
Time for a milestone
Time to begin again
Revaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow your will
or just climbing aimlessly over these hills?
It is so easy to live life on auto-pilot and forget our true purpose. We’re ultimately not here just to achieve a dream, win friends and admiration, or accumulate mountains of wealth. If our dream isn’t ultimately motivated by the “glorious unfolding” of God’s ultimate, over-arching story then we are struggling in vain. We’re just “climbing aimlessly” over one challenge after another. Yes, in this world we may have difficulty, but we can take heart, knowing that the one who made us has overcome it, and amazingly, unthinkably, we have a part to play in this, the greatest story ever told.
I hope you found this post encouraging. Be sure to let me know if you do because that would be, well, encouraging!
And what about you? Are there any songs here that have spoken to you as well? Any favorites? What music would you add to my “hopeful songs” playlist?