Confession time: I don’t like most Christian music. I find it trite and disconnected from the challenges of daily life, as if we are not allowed to acknowledge struggles in our songs. I believe it is a symptom of the biggest lie we tell as Christians –we are all okay, all the time.
Every once in a while, I stumble upon a song that captures my experiences as a man who loves Jesus deeply, but just feels like life sucks some days. The Afters have crafted just such a song in their “Broken Hallelujah.”
This song made me realize a powerful truth:
When the holiness and omnipotence of our God crashes against this malfunctioning world, something has to break…but we get to choose what gets busted up.
There are four elements in this collision:
- the world
- our faith
- our praise
God isn’t going to break, because He is steadfast and consistent. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In other words He is not and never will be broken. It won’t be God who breaks.
How about the world? I think it’s too late for the world to break. Imagine a porcelain dish being dropped on Saltillo tile and shattering into hundred of pieces. Now imagine trying to pick up the porcelain dish and breaking it again. It just can’t happen. This is our world. It’s already broken, and it cannot be broken more.
It comes down to us – will we allow our faith to break, or will we offer broken praises?
Destroying our faith is a common choice, because it makes the most sense on some level. If we believe God is good and all-powerful, then terrible things shouldn’t happen in this world. When they do occur, we seem to be within our rights to blame God. It feels appropriate to question His character and His strength.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
If Mr. Burke can question the character of good men who stay uninvolved, how much more ought we wonder about the nature of a silent God?
I know many who have made this choice. Too many wounds given by those who claim the name of Jesus. Too many unanswered prayers. Too much pain, and too little involvement from God. Honestly, I understand the choice. Sometimes, this life just sucks, and it’s hard to believe in a good God in a sucky world.
I come back to John 6:68. After a wild teaching from Jesus caused many to stop following Him, He offered to let His disciples leave as well. Peter’s answer echoes my own, in the face of a life that makes so little sense far too often.
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life.
I have built my life on a foundation of Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the locked door for me to have intimacy with the great good creator God.
If this is wrong, my foundation is shattered utterly and my life is ashambles. I honestly cannot imagine a universe in which there is no God, or this God is not good.
My faith is unshakable. Not only because of my trust in God, but because I cannot imagine a world without Him. So I offer busted praise.
What Do Broken Hallelujahs Look Like?
The Afters sing about raising empty hands to God, but I have a different image for broken hallelujahs. We raise both hands up, but neither is empty.
In one hand, we hold all our thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness to God for His goodness and generosity to us. In the other hand, we hold all our unresolved difficulties – an unloving marriage, unemployment, chronic illness, and death. So we lift both up to God, simultaneously expressing our love and confusion to God, undergirded by a desperate trust that God will come through.
For many of us, this is the only way to offer honest worship to God. To forget the things in our lives that do not represent our God’s character as we worship would be dishonest. To dwell solely on this incongruencies would shatter our tenuous faith.
So we worship the goodness of God as we ask Him for understanding. We extoll His greatness while confessing confusion at our circumstances. We recognize Him as Lord of our days even though our days are filled with pain. We bring our broken hallelujahs.
Chris, this resonates so very deeply with me. Well said. I offer my broken hallelujahs every day, and trust in His grace.
Man, when I listened to this song, something in me just said, “Yes!” It’s like The Afters were living my life. But the phrase broken hallelujahs really captured my heart.
troy mc laughlin
This is good Chris. I’m so glad that He just wants the shattered pile that I offer and to think He just wants to be my friend. That makes me praise Him more. Thanks for the reminder.
It’s too easy to trick ourselves into thinking we have to have it all together before we come to our God. He wants us in our mess, because He loves us as we are.
troy mc laughlin
You’re so right Chris, the truth is we’ll never have it together. The comfort is He always loves us and wants to be with us.
First time I heard that song it broke me. Rarely do you get moved by something like that but it resonated with what I was going through.. thank God for broken hallelujahs in my life. Great post..
I had an emotional moment when I heard the song too. That’s exactly why I wrote this post, because I realized there was more hear than just for me.
Yes, yes yes. Great post Chris.
The music is just mirroring what sadly enough is being preached in many churches.My Aunt calls it Cotton Candy Christianity. The honest truth is there is heart break, there is struggle, and life is hard. And truth is sometimes when you are a Christian it is harder because you aren’t supposed to admit that. I love music and I love it when music is real.
Perfect phrase – Cotton Candy Christianity. Thanks, Joel Osteen, right?
Yep. Glad to say the Pastor of our small town church is real and doesn’t avoid talking about the hard stuff.
My pastor gets it too. He know that some days, life is just too hard to understand. He encourages us to trust God even when He seems too far or too small or too silent.
This is just the kind of faith post that touches my soul. This is my broken hallelujah right now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5oY2oYKHFY#aid=P-cC2WPg7Pc
Wow. Thanks for sharing these thoughts! I love them.
I appreciate this post and I totally agree. I also find Christian music trite. It makes those who struggle feel even worse. Like they will never measure up. I believe when we are hurting and we praise God it is the sacrifice of praise He talked about. For praising Him when things go well is easy. But when your heart is broken and everything is going wrong, and yet you praise God. Well that shows you are praising Him for who He is, not for what He can do for you.
Good post Chris. Worship is not about songs or about words sometime, it’s just an attitude. It’s just our broken heart before God. Silently waiting. A small seed of faith is enough for HIM. Many songs today are written by people that have not been broken yet and even if they are called to this “worship ministry” they still worship with their strong soul. Sometime even our spirit is broken but JESUS told us that God expects worship in spirit and truth. Truth is important. No performance, no pretending, no pride. Do our songs lead us to Jesus, do they show us God’s caracter and nature : his love and his holiness. Do they help us to refocus on JESUs’s sacrifice for us. YES we are loved and forgiven… Reading psaulms is a good way to refocus on Worship. Allow your heart to sing “spiritual hymns”, not perfect melodies but what comes from the deepest of your heart. Though worship, God will not always change circumstances but he will allow us to go through in a way that will rejoice his heart and make us stronger. With love Chris from France. Blessings
Wow, didn’t know I had an international appeal 🙂
Great thoughts here Annie on what makes worship songs resonate with our hearts. Thanks for sharing that
Oh Linda, this has been one of my favorites for a long time. Because we are not alright
Thanks for stopping by Erika, and for the encouragement. Hope you are dong well. We haven’t talked much lately.
My pastor this past Sunday led an interactive experience through Psalm 23, and something he said really connected with me. That psalm says we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Not around it. Not over it. Not tunnelng under it. But through. And it is through that valley that we know His presence and His comfort. Good stuff, and very reminiscent of what I wrote about here.
I like that Chris and I’ve heard it before. Through the valley. Unfortunately people are not excited about walking through the valley with someone. The same thing Jesus found as he was in the garden. And yet, when we go through it and we sense His presence we experience something so beautiful in something so difficult.
I know! It’s been a while. My “real job” has been absorbing me somewhat lately. 🙁 However, I’m still showing up to read every once in a while. 🙂 Keep up the good work!
If only we would lose the masks of being all right that we often expect of ourselves and others in the body of Christ. It has always been when others have seen the brokenness in me that they have also seen the Jesus in me that as one women put it, fills up all the empty places — her words, not mine.
What would the world see if as Christians we openly confessed this and let the Lord show who “fills up the empty places”?
Wow.. a powerful song and a power-packed post! Chris, you hit home to me and no doubt to many who are struggling right now with life and faith issues. I cling hard to the hope of seeing beauty rise from ashes. I wake weary and wary as each new day starts. Sometimes we feel too bruised to escape the covers. Hunkering down and disappearing seem preferable.
Then God opens eyes and heart to His Presence, His love, mercy and grace. And we rise hopeful again. Maybe this day… healing will come, energy will be supplied for the battle, grace will gift us with some manna to beak off to share, life will seem full of potential instead of problems.
In your own way, via words and song, you have provided us with a safe harbour, a welcome place for the wounded, an arena to air our own anxieties and fears and the overcoming of them. May we all seek to thrive instead of simply surviving. Light will shine and strength will seep into our souls as we surrender all to Him, especially the mess and mayhem we are trying to make sense of. Thank you.
Beautiful song. (And for one terrible moment I was afraid it was going to be that overplayed Leonard Cohen song.) I love the Afters. This song is like a Psalm.
No, that song is forever associated with Shrek in my mind. And therefore not worth contemplating on my blog 🙂
This song really inspired some wonderful thoughts and encouragement in me, far beyond the snippet I shared in this blog post. Truly life affirming
I have been feeling emotionally weary and wary lately. I think that’s why this song connected with me on such a deep level. I needed to be reminded that it’s okay to bring busted praise.
You spoke right smack to my heart~ exactly what my heart has been pondering this week. I have praised when fear thoughts swirl in my mind and my heart feels broken. In the giving, God always gives back more, rearranging our hearts and giving us a greater confidence in Him. I am tired of saying :I’m good! when someone asks me how I am ~ I say, I am blessed and highly favored because I know that to be Truth.
Glad to hear this encouraged you. I hear what you are saying about blessed and highly favored as well.