Every church is full of sufferers. No matter the size of your congregation, someone is probably suffering from illness, relational dysfunction, financial distress, loss, addiction, or any number of hardships. Thankfully, there are worship songs that speak about our pain and give us words to say to God in difficult times.
Here are our top 5 songs for sufferers. We will be posting a more extensive analysis of each of these songs over the next two weeks.
Released in 2013 by Hillsong, this song captures the full weight of the pain and agony that Jesus went through to bring us salvation. The fact that our God has suffered brings much solace when we suffer. The title and theme of the song is drawn from Isaiah 53, one of the most famous scripture passages in the Bible, which prophesies of Christ’s suffering on our behalf. This is not the first time Isaiah 53 has inspired a hymn. Phillip Bliss, a music teacher and hymn writer, wrote “Man of Sorrows, What a Name” (also called “Hallelujah, What a Savior”) directly from Isaiah 53 as well.
Matt Redman wrote this song with his wife Beth in response to the tragedy of the September 11th attacks in the United States. They also noticed a lack of songs to help address grief. For those who have suffered loss, it is a supernatural work of the Spirit that enables them to open their hearts to God and say “You give and take away. Still my heart will choose to say, ‘Blessed be Your Name.’”
3. It Is Well
Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman who suffered tremendous loss in his life. Not only did he lose his business in the great Chicago fire, but he and his wife lost their son to scarlet fever and then later lost all four daughters to shipwreck in the Atlantic. Shortly after the wreck, Spafford journeyed to England through the very waters where his daughters perished. It was on that journey that he penned the lyrics to “It Is Well.”
This song began as a spontaneous meditation during worship. As songwriter Chris McClarney recounts:
One night at church, I began spontaneously singing this line during worship: “All things work together for my good. You make all things work together for my good.” For more than an hour it continued. Not so much because I felt God needed to hear it repeated, but because I needed to convince myself that no matter what my circumstances might be right now, however big or small, and no matter how unresponsive He might seem, God is still in control. In fact, He will work everything out for my good. There is something very effective about proclaiming truth out loud until you believe what you’re saying.
5. Never Once
This is another powerful song about suffering from writer Matt Redman. Matt wrote this when visiting a church he helped plant but later moved away from. The song remembers God’s faithfulness and presence with us through victories and pain. The chorus is an anthem of God’s continual nearness and involvement in every moment of our lives.
Again, we will be posting more extensive reflections on each of these songs over the next couple weeks. For a bonus sixth song—not necessarily ideal for congregational singing—check out Shane and Shane’s “Though You Slay Me.”