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I was reading a blog I receive through email this morning.  It’s all about worship stuff: song arrangements, opinions/thoughts on leading worship, resources, etc. This morning I saw an article about a new song by Hillsong United called Even When It Hurts. The writer said, “Would you sing this song by Hillsong writer (and Justin Bieber clubbing buddy) Joel Houston in church since it has the lyrics, ahem: ‘even when it hurts like hell…’?”

I was turned off by the tone of what he said and a few thoughts came to mind:

So what if Joel Houston is buddies with Justin Bieber? Isn’t that a good thing since Justin needs good friends who know Jesus? 

I know many wouldn’t feel comfortable singing those lyrics in a worship service, but maybe not every song on their album was intended for congregational worship. To me that song is a very personal one. If you listen to the rest of the song, it speaks of praising God in every season of our lives, in the good times, in the hard times, in the times when it hurts like hell.  Sometimes it does!  I think Job, David and lots of other Bible folks would agree.

The church culture I grew up in was one framed more by legalism than grace and as I am learning more about living in God’s grace I find myself balking at statements that feel judgmental and pious. The writer appears to be questioning whether the members of the Hillsong band have a genuine relationship with Jesus. He doesn’t know them or the stories that song was birthed from.

It’s difficult enough in this world to forge ahead with Jesus amidst criticism and ridicule from those who don’t profess to follow Jesus, do we need to be knocking each other? Our brothers and sisters?

I do believe we can go too far in relating to the culture if we use all the same language as the world or water down the Gospel, but we can also shut the world out completely if we refuse to at least admit that sometimes life hurts. The world won’t be drawn to Jesus much if His people won’t openly acknowledge we deal with pain, we struggle, we are broken and in need of help just like everyone.

I would encourage worship leaders to continue to seek God’s guidance and discernment in the songs they choose for worship, being sensitive to the group of people that will be singing those songs. We probably won’t sing it in our worship services at my church, but it speaks to me personally when I listen. If that song reaches a certain group and helps them relate and consider reaching out to Jesus, sing it!  You can read Hillsong’s explanation of the song at this blog.

Even When It Hurts – Joel Houston

Take this fainted heart

Take these tainted hands

Wash me in Your love

Come like grace again

Even when my strength is lost

I’ll praise You

Even when I have no song

I’ll praise You

Even when it’s hard to find the words

louder then I’ll sing Your praise

I will only sing Your praise

Take this mountain weight

Take these ocean tears

Hold me through the trial

Come like hope again

Even when the fight seems lost

I’ll praise You

Even when it hurts like hell

I’ll praise You

Even when it makes no sense to sing

louder then I’ll sing Your praise

I will only sing Your praise

And my heart burns only for You

You are all, You are all I want

And my soul waits only for You

And I will sing till the miracle comes

Even when the morning comes

I’ll praise You

Even when the fight is won

I’ll praise You

Even when my time on earth is done

louder then I’ll sing Your praise

I will only sing Your praise