“Over my head I hear music in the air, There must be a God somewhere.” –Negro spiritual.
Those words were written and sung during the most difficult of days, a time of great oppression and evil — a time of bondage, of fear, of violence, of economic deprivation, of disrespect, and of despair. Somehow, as they suffered from man’s inhumanity to man, our African American forefathers were able to discover and to express a strong hope in God.
“Over my head . . .” The American slaves had to look beyond themselves to find hope. Their mind and their emotions told them that their situation was hopeless — that their life was nothing but meaningless drudgery, suffering, and injustice. In order to survive, they had to look up, over their head, and get a different perspective. They had to tune their heart to hear “music in the air.”
Although human beings have a sense of the eternal, an awareness that life is more than breathing in and out, many of us get so caught up in our personal pursuit of pleasure that we don’t hear the eternal music. Pain, however, can wake us up to truths that are over our head — beyond our intellect. It can cause us to hear melodies of mystery and meaning that bring insight and understanding.
“There must be a God somewhere.” That revelation gives us Someone to hold on to. And even more, it gives us Someone to hold on to us — a rock, a strength, an unshakable security — even in the midst of our struggles.
The American slaves found deep strength and comfort in the powerful truths of their abusers’ religion. They heard the events of Scripture and discovered that the holy and loving Jesus Christ, Who rescued the Bible people, was still alive in their day and willing to reveal Himself in comfort to the despised and the downtrodden. That’s why they sang. Negro spirituals declare that God will come and help us if we cry out and seek Him with all of our heart.