“As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.”
Considering how I was born and “raised” in Tennessee, I know a little about country music. Believe it or not, I have written a country song (to prove I could), played and recorded music in Nashville, and even toured Brenda Lee‘s house when I was a kid (I helped her daughters with a lemonade stand).
Country music (at least the stuff before Kid Rock) was earthy, blue-collar music that spoke of real life, or at least what was left of it after one spent too much time hunting, fishing, or drinking in a bar. The lyrics were usually sad, depressing, and great reasons to stay drunk. For example…
I came home late from hunting deer / My wife drank all my favorite beer / And then before the night was even done / My fishing poles were broke in two / And as she said, “I’m gone – we’re through / She took my dog, my truck, and my gun!
So I’ll walk down to the bar / I can stumble along that far / A country boy don’t need a cheetn’ girl / I’ll drink away my pain / Till my dog comes home again / Then we’ll both go out together…huntin’ dear.
– by Anthony Baker (just now)
The reason why country music is so loved is the same reason the blues are so popular: heavy, broken hearts. Some say it’s impossible to really play the blues if you’ve never been heartbroken. I believe it.
I don’t know what version of country or blues Solomon had playing in his chariot, but he evidently understood that people with broken or heavy hearts hate to hear happy songs. He implied that playing cheerful music for a heavy heart is about as smart as taking one’s coat off in cold weather, or pouring vinegar on soda.
It’s Like This…
Imagine the feeling of already being chilled, but then having your coat taken away. It’s like going from bad to worse. When a person is down and depressed the last thing he really wants to hear at the moment is, “I am happy; you can be too!” Saying (or singing) that just makes the cold even colder.
The word nitre comes from the Hebrew word נֶתֶר (nether), which is what we would recognize, today, as carbonate of soda. Have you ever seen what happens when you pour vinegar on baking soda? Not only does the soda become worthless for cleaning, but it will explode! That’s what can happen when a sad person hears a happy song.
In reality, besides listening to country music or the blues, the one with a heavy heart needs someone to listen, to nod a head, and be a friend. Singing a happy song to a hurting friend, although well-meaning, may seem like you don’t care, or worse, like you haven’t heard.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities…” – Hebrews 4:15
Sometimes the best encouragement for a hurting friend or loved one is to cry along with them. That’s one reason why Jesus came.