By: Carissa Lovvorn
For thousands of years, people have used music to teach, encourage, and inspire. One can find deep meaning woven into complicated arrangements written by composers such as Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. Symbolism and analogies are even found in simplistic nursery rhymes and children’s songs.
“This Little Light of Mine” is a popular African American spiritual from the 1920s whose exact origins are unknown. The song was originally published and used as a children’s song. During the 1950s and 1960s, human rights activists transformed it into an official song of the Civil Rights Movement. In more recent years, children’s ministries have taught the song to young children with the addition of coordinating hand movements. The present lyrics include: “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine… All around the neighborhood, I’m going to let it shine…Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m going to let it shine… Don’t let Satan blow it out! I’m going to let it shine… Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.”
Such a simple song, yet what an impact it has made over the last 100 years! Even through various lyric alterations and additions over the years, it has maintained its original message — to let your spiritual light shine before everyone. Scholars suggest that verses from the book of Matthew, are the inspiration behind the song.
“14. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV)
“This Little Light of Mine” serves as a sweet, melodic reminder of our call to action when faced with adversity. Between the illnesses, wars, and political turmoil that have occurred over the past few years, it seems that most people, at one point or another, have exhibited some form of emotional depletion. I know that I have struggled in this area at times. I remember thinking, “Why do I keep pushing for good when I am bombarded by bad at every turn.” But we can find encouragement through the knowledge that God will provide strength even in the midst of trials. Take this verse in John for example, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The past few years have been difficult and future troubles are unknown. Nevertheless, I am determined to rest in the knowledge that God has overcome the world, and I will continue to shine a light from my little corner. I invite everyone to look beyond the negativity, hum this well-known tune, and shine along with me.