Hillsong United released Empires last week, debuting at #5 on the Billboard 200.
“Christian worship band” notwithstanding, it’s an impressive showing. Though Empires doesn’t resonate with me as much as last year’s Zion, it’s still a solid offering. If nothing else, Hillsong United keeps reinventing itself with every album.
It’s crazy hearing the Hillsong United of today compared with Hillsong of the 90’s. Were they even called “United” back then? Hillsong United — indeed, worship music at large — has journeyed a long way since “Shout to the Lord.”
There’s a song on Empires called “Even When It Hurts (Praise Song),” and I want you to listen to it. Follow the words of this conveniently constructed lyric video as the song unfolds.
Though I should warn you of something sinister about this supposed “worship song” — namely, a word. A most dreadful word. A curse word. Yes, the same beautiful girl who sings “Oceans” also swears h – e – double hockey sticks in a love offering for the dear sweet Baby Jesus.
To be sure, this ain’t no Darlene Zschech singing for Hillsong (United?) anymore.
Before I get any further with this post, I need to drop the satirical shtick. I’ve already been there, done that in the last week. Apparently, not everyone gets satire. Humph.
Indeed, Hillsong United now has a worship song that includes the lyric: hurts like hell.
I’ll admit, the line caught my ears the first time I heard it. Not that it was “wrong” or didn’t belong, but simply that it stood out. To my knowledge, I can’t think of another worship song that includes hell without referencing the literal place and its literal gates.
So, does “hurts like hell” go too far? Does it cross some Christianese worship line like “sloppy wet kiss” did?
Wait, remind me again why we needed to boycott “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss” and replace it with “heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss”? Are we scared of kisses or something?
Sigh. I don’t get Christians sometimes.
I guess opponents of “hurts like hell” would say we’re not taking hell seriously when we use it in a simile? Some would go even further and say it’s a cuss word that should never be uttered under any circumstances. We certainly wouldn’t use the f-word in a worship song, right?
I don’t know what else to say other than life isn’t always peaches and dreams. I wonder if Christians who oppose “hurts like hell” are also people who haven’t experienced much pain or loss.
How else do you describe your parents’ divorce?
How else do you describe your miscarriage or child’s fatal car accident?
How else do you describe entire homes lost in tornadoes and floods? Prolonged joblessness, debt, deformity, addiction?
What words do you use to describe … that? What words are there?
One of my biggest beefs with the Church is the assumption that Jesus makes every tear go away. We no longer struggle with anything anymore because the Holy Spirit inside us absorbs our hurt like a sponge.
Maybe someday that prophecy will come true. Gosh, we hope.
But for today, we brave this world of chaos and devastation. For many of us, it is a world that feels less like heaven and quite like hell.
I myself have been blessed, all things considered. Nine years ago I did lose a dog who was my best friend and not all “just a dog,” and I’ve gotta say those ensuing days hurt like hell. I’d never experienced anything like it. I wrote about Annie in Struggle Central, and losing her when I did the way I did left my heart torn and searing.
But lest anyone forget this worship song’s subtitle amid hellish circumstances — like the Psalms of old, it is a Praise Song.
Even when it hurts like hell —
I’ll praise You.
I hope Christians can get past a four-letter word for the praise of a God not inflicting the struggle but walking us through it. We acknowledge the hurt, and we cry out against this hell of a fallen world.
May we praise Him. May His praise stay my anthem and yours and all of ours.
Even when it hurts like hell.
What do you think about including “hurts like hell” in a worship song? Check out Hillsong Pastor Fergusson’s thoughts on approving the lyric. Oh, and watch out for the comments over there. You know — Christians.