Music is useful in helping us understand and express parts of ourselves we may not otherwise be able to put into words. This article is meant to dig deeper into analyzing a song by applying spiritual concepts to it. We understand that music, like other forms of art, is open to interpretation and may impact each listener differently. This article is coming from the writer’s interpretation of the song and what they got out of it.
In order to have a dynamic relationship with God that isn’t stale or stagnant, we have to constantly go through spiritual changes.
My times with God – where I read my Bible and pray (what many call a “quiet time”) – can easily become routine or ritual when I don’t acknowledge the areas I need to grow and change.
J. Cole talks about his spiritual changes in his song “Change.”
It is helpful for me to listen to this song in order to set my mind right for my quiet time, reminding myself how incredible of an opportunity I have to have a relationship with God, and reminding me of what God wants for me:
“Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”Matthew 25:21 CEV
According to this scripture, God wants us to share in his happiness, and I believe this is what a quiet time should do for us.
Spending time with God is meant to bring us happiness, freeing us from whatever is bringing us down. Spiritual change is meant to bring us closer to the happiness and freedom God wants for us, and this is what J. Cole touches on in his song.
God gives us hope
This song is track 6 of Cole’s fourth studio album,4 Your Eyez Only. The whole album is a story, and the song starts off with an upbeat tone, something the album hasn’t seen yet. After feeling hopeless, angry, afraid, forgotten, Cole begins the song with these lines:
My intuition is telling me there’ll be better days, yeah. My intuition is telling me there’ll be better days. I like this toneJ. Cole, “Change”
Despite the pain Cole experienced in previous tracks, there is something inside him that tells him there will be better days, that gives him a reason to keep moving forward. Cole calls this intuition, but the Bible calls it hope.
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:13 NLT
This scripture tells us that God is the source of hope. So when we spend time with him, we are able to overflow with confident hope no matter what circumstances we may face.
If we aren’t leaving our times with God feeling more hopeful, joyful, and at peace, then we need to evaluate what is stopping us from seeing God for who he really is.
Pause and reflect
- Do you leave your times with God more hopeful, or more afraid? More joyful, or more guilty? More at peace, or more stressed?
- What needs to change in how you spend time with God that will help you see him as the source of hope?
It’s important to reflect
I sit in silence and find whenever I meditate, My fears alleviate, my tears evaporate, My faith don’t deviate, ideas don’t have a dateJ. Cole, “Change”
Cole recognizes the need to be willing to sit in silence and reflect or meditate.
Meditation is simply removing all distracting thoughts and listening to God. This is an important aspect of our times with God that can be hard to remember to do.
“Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”Psalm 77:8-9,11-12,19-20 NIV
In this scripture, the Psalmist has a lot of fears, emotions, and thoughts swirling around in his head, but decides to slow down and meditate on who God is.
Choosing to not listen to the fears and thoughts that dominate our hearts and instead pay attention to God is how we, as Cole says, alleviate fears, evaporate tears, and let our faith stand strong, not deviating.
Pause and reflect
- What fears, thoughts, and emotions are distracting you from listening to God?
- What can you do today to get yourself to a place where you can “sit in silence” and meditate/reflect on what God is trying to tell you?
God helps us look forward
But see I’m growing and getting stronger with every breath, Bringing me closer to Heaven’s doors with every stepJ. Cole, “Change”
Cole is talking about how even though life can be hard and challenging, he can come out on the other side stronger. The only way we can rejoice when problems come is by knowing that God is going to help us grow.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.Romans 5:3-4 NLT
We are able to endure the hardships when we look forward, because we see who God is shaping us to become.
As we speak I’m at peace, no longer scared to die, Most [people] don’t believe in God and so they terrified, It’s either that or they be fearing they gon’ go to HellJ. Cole, “Change”
Cole sees how these hardships are shaping his character, making him stronger, and seeing that is building his faith and, as Romans 5 says, his “confident hope of salvation.” He’s at peace and “no longer scared to die” because he can see what’s ahead.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.Philippians 3:12-14 NLT
When we focus too much on the past – whether regretting past mistakes or fixating on past achievements – we prevent ourselves from being able to move forward.
Our times with God are not just meant to give us hope and allow us to reflect on who God is, but are also meant to shape how we think about who we are and what we’re focused on. If all we think about is what could or should have been, we miss out on God showing us what can be.
Pause and reflect
- What focus do your times with God have? What’s behind or what’s ahead?
- What is God trying to show you is possible?
Change starts inside
I know you desperate for a change let the pen glide But the only real change come from inside, In cemeteries or in chains I see men cry, But the only real change come from insideJ. Cole, “Change”
This is one of my favorite choruses. It helps me out a lot because it is easy to think that changing my behavior will change who I am.
I think that if I just force myself to have a quiet time, serve, be open, I will be close to God, have a loving heart, and be humble. But that’s not how it works. We need to change our hearts before our behavior changes, otherwise the change doesn’t last.
Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.Romans 12:2 VOICE
When we only try to change our behavior, we end up being molded by the world, without having any of our own convictions or beliefs. We are simply a copy of whatever is around us (this scripture in the NLT says “Don’t copy the behaviors of the world”). J. Cole is an incredible artist, but his songs aren’t going to change anybody. It takes us doing our own work to let our times with God transform us into who he knows we can be, because the only real change comes from inside.
Pause and reflect
- How do you focus on behavior over your heart?
- What can you change in your time with God today to make it a transformational experience?