Sympathetic resonance and human heart strings

piano“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 ESV).

“Sympathetic resonance or sympathetic vibration is a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness.” – Wikipedia

I have been a lifelong student of two pursuits: music and theology. In the case of the first, I have come to realize that I have more passion than ability. While in the case of the second, I have found my talents and passions are more aligned. So, I have spent the last 25 years or more focusing more on the study of God’s Word and less on musical pursuits. Yet, my love of music often colors my understanding of theology. I feel that I’m in good company on this. After all, David was an accomplished harpist and song writer before becoming king of Israel.

It was David who wrote, and no doubt sang, about “delighting” in God and finding his heart’s “desires” met in Him. This alignment between God’s heart and David’s is described by God Himself  when He said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22 ESV).

David’s heart strings were in tune with the Lord’s. He desired what God desired. Not perfectly. Not wholly. He was still a sinner. But David’s heart was sensitive to the beat of God’s. There was a kind of “sympathetic resonance” between their hearts.

Now, “sympathetic resonance” is not a theological term. It is a musical one. When I play the guitar or piano, I am aware of this phenomenon, so I deaden the unplayed string(s) that I don’t want to ring. On the guitar this is done with the hand. On the piano, there are dampers on each string that deaden the string unless its key is depressed or the piano’s sustain pedal is used.

As I’ve been studying the desires and motivations of the human heart as taught in Scripture over this past week, I kept seeing the unbelieving heart being referred to as “dead, hardened, veiled, blind,” and other such descriptions. Reading this over and over an image of human heart strings came to mind. These strings are dead to the heart of God. They have been “dampened” by sin, so that they only ring when plucked by the fallen desires of the flesh, the world, and the temptations of Satan. They are in disharmony with the heart of God. Their desires are not God’s.

But when we believe in Christ and confess Him as Lord, we receive a heart transplant. We get a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). The sin that once “dampened” our heart’s strings is removed. Now, when the heart of God booms with love and passion, the believer’s heart-strings ring in “sympathetic resonance” with God’s. Our hearts are tuned to His. We love what He loves and hate what He hates.

It is our heart, our affections, that motivate us to action. When our hearts are dead to God, they resonate with desires and pursuits from this fallen world. We struggle and strive for things that are light and temporary. But when are hearts are made alive to God, they are moved to action for the weighty and eternal things of God.

Jonathan Edwards called the affections of the human heart “the spring of all motion” (Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections). He said a world without these “affections” would be “motionless and dead.” It is the condition of the human heart and its affections that determine its pursuits, be they good or evil.

The Bible teaches us that God loves the lost and the least of these. He loves mercy and justice. His heart is for the fatherless, the widow and the sojourner. He has compassion for the poor, the sick, the homeless, and those in chains. As we read Scripture we learn more and more about what God loves and what He hates. As we study these, we may become aware of a stirring in our hearts for certain themes.

God has made each of us unique. When our hearts are made new, they are tuned to a certain pitch. All of God’s loves and hates will affect ours, but because He has made us for a specific purpose, certain of His affections will really make our hearts sing. For instance, to one God may give the spiritual gift of evangelism and along with that gift, a heart for the lost, especially those who have never heard. This person will burn for missions. They will care for other ministries, but their zeal will be for the mission field. To another, God may give the same gift of evangelism, but a passion for the fatherless. This person’s passion will point and energize their gift towards another target. They will do evangelism, but it will be focused on children, specifically those without fathers.

God is at work in our world. His heart beats with righteous passion. How does the beating of His heart cause yours to vibrate with passion and zeal? Find out. Because He wants our heart strings to ring in sympathetic resonance with His.

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