#484 - "Broken Hallelujah" by The Afters
Lead singer Josh Havens talks about how tragedies in his and others' lives inspired this worship song.

The book of James has many inspirational words about trials. I find comfort in James 1:2-4 (NKJV): "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

Alternative rock band The Afters' song, "Broken Hallelujah," is a moving ballad from their latest project, Life is Beautiful. One of the main themes of this most recent album fits right in with the passage from James: taking what God has given you, and offering it back to God as a sacrifice of praise, knowing that God "works all things together for good." Lead singer Josh Havens talked with me about "Broken Hallelujah."

Please tell me the personal story behind writing this song.

During the time we were writing this song there were all kinds of crazy things going on. It was during a period of time when I was in and out of the hospital with my son. He had complications at birth that were totally unexpected. We had been on tour with Casting Crowns and I had to leave the tour and there were a couple of dates we didn't play while my son was in the neo-natal intensive care unit. 

Although the sonograms were perfect and everything looked normal, when he was born, he was completely blue and they had to rush him away. Being there in the hospital I saw other parents with children who were even worse off than our son. We saw parents who had children they knew they would never bring home. I started to pray something there that I still pray through every struggle. I prayed that God would use those types of experiences as reminders to help others facing the same thing. A lot of times we don't know those things exist. I still pray for families in the hospital and who have children in intensive care units. 

The second thing I started praying was that God would turn my trials into testimonies. I really believe He does that. We have an awesome testimony from this experience. After a lot of ups and downs in the hospital, and a lot of days that went by where we didn't have our questions answered by the doctors and we didn't know what would happen, there was much uncertainty. After many sleepless nights, our son improved to the point that we could bring him home. 

He's now 2 years old, and he's a little bundle of energy. He couldn't be healthier now, and we feel so blessed. When we brought him home we started receiving bills. We found out that our insurance is terrible and wouldn't cover our bills. We had these really high amounts that we owed. My wife and I had no idea how we'd ever pay them. Ultimately we gave it to God. Our prayer was that no matter what the outcome that we'd keep our eyes focused on God. No matter what happened that our hearts wouldn't change and we'd stay faithful. 

My wife called the hospital to see if we could pay our bills in increments and thought it would take 500 years to pay our bills. Somehow the billing guy at the hospital said that our account showed in the system as paid in full. He closed our account right then and there. My wife hung up and called me. We felt so blessed. I'll be the first to say that God doesn't always answer our prayers the way we want Him to, but from having been to the valley enough time in my life and having been in pain and in isolation, I can definitely speak to the fact that God is present in every moment. 

It can be hard to see God in those times, because so often our vision is clouded by the hurt. Every single time, on the other side of those experiences I can see God's fingerprints all over the situations, and I know that He was present. This song came out of that experience.

Any Bible verses connect to the message of the song?

Job 1:20-22 (NKJV):
"Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: 'Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.' In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong."

Romans 8:28 (NIV): "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."

What is the takeaway message?

When we thought about these experiences, we thought about the story of Job and what he had gone through. As a band we studied the book of Job together. We talked about if we had lost everything, how would that affect us? In that book of the Bible, Job loses more than many of us can ever comprehend losing and in his pain and in the midst of all of that loss, he drops to his knees and worships God. We all were challenged to think that's the type of men of faith that we want to be. Those are the times when we get angry with God and cry out to Him. 

While working on the song, we received a phone call from a friend of mine who is a worship leader in Colorado Springs. He told me that over 200 families had lost their homes in the fires. It was devastating. It connected to this song as well. While we were writing the song, we were all in tears. This song came out of all of that pain, and it is a song about praising God in any circumstance. Never cease to praise and know that God can make beautiful things even from the darkest of situations. He can make beauty from our ashes. 

I can barely stand right now.
Everything is crashing down,
And I wonder where You are.
I try to find the words to pray.
I don't always know what to say,
But You're the one that can hear my heart.

Even though I don't know what your plan is,
I know You're making beauty from these ashes.

I've seen joy and I've seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here's my broken hallelujah.
With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

You know the things that have brought me here.
You know the story of every tear.
‘Cause You've been here from the very start.

Even though I don't know what your plan is,
I know You're making beauty from these ashes.

I've seen joy and I've seen pain.
On my knees, I call Your name.
Here's my broken hallelujah.
With nothing left to hold onto,
I raise these empty hands to You.
Here's my broken hallelujah.

When all is taken away, don't let my heart be changed.
Let me always sing Hallelujah
When I feel afraid, don't let my hope be erased
Let me always sing Hallelujah.
Let me always sing Hallelujah.

I will always sing
I will always sing
Here's my broken hallelujah.

I think God included the book of Job as a reminder of how He wants us to handle trials. In that Scripture, Satan is testing God's servant, Job, to see if he can cause him to lose his faith by causing him pain and suffering. Job's friends counsel him that he must have un-repented sins that are causing him the calamities of losing his family and his health. 

That's our challenge when we lift our hands in praise and offer God our own "broken Hallelujahs." Do we have the faith to recognize that God uses trials in our lives to refine us and remind us of our need for Him or are we forsaking God in those times?

Rather than wallow in self-pity and misery, we need to live each day knowing that despite circumstances, God has a plan for "those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). We really bring nothing to the table. 

There's a lyric in the song: "I raise these empty hands to You." That's the bottom line. We have nothing to bring. When we are on our knees before Him, like Job, raising our empty hands, we are closest to God. That's a gift God wants all of His children to have. What a gift and promise to know that He makes beauty out of our ashes. That's worthy of all our praise. Have a great New Year!

(Watch the lyric video here.)

NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.

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