Hurt

On Wednesday, September 10, 2003, I was part of a worship planning meeting where I viewed for the first time a video of Johnny Cash’s cover to the Nine Inch Nails song, “Hurt”. Cash had recently lost his beloved wife, and knowing about his lifelong struggle with addiction, the lyrics were especially poignant.

I never would have remembered that particular planning meeting except for the fact that the Friday before that sermon introduction video was played in church, Johnny Cashed passed away, just four months after his wife:

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember, everything

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know,
goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Fast forward nine years. Jeff Hogan, the creative arts pastor with whom I viewed that video is now the senior pastor of a church which had its first service in my living room. (We’ve since outgrown meeting here.) Saturday evening, he and his wife Tamara sat with my husband and I around our kitchen table making hotel and airline reservations for a church planting conference we’ll be attending later this year.

Just as they were about to head home, my son came into the kitchen and announced that Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room. My initial shock and disbelief settled into sadness of a life too short and an amazing voice silenced. The likes of which we may never hear again.

The following Sunday morning after sound check and set up, I picked up a worship guide and read the title of the sermon:

What to do when life hurts

Jeff did not play the Hurt video, but he did talk about Cash singing that song, about how painfully honest those words were coming from him, about how worship needs to be honest. Even if, and perhaps especially if, life just hurts right now. He talked about Psalm 88. About how the Sons of Korah didn’t hold back:

3 I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death…

The Bible says “in this life you will have trouble”. Not if you have trouble, or just in case you have trouble, but you WILL have trouble. Towards the end of the sermon, Jeff told us he didn’t know why he felt compelled to preach this sermon. That as late as Saturday morning he tried to come up with an alternative one but that this one just wouldn’t let go. I later shared with him that he many never know the purpose of that sermon, but that it was most assuredly for a reason. Someone needed to hear it. Maybe someone who happens to read this blog. Which is why I’m sharing it. Houston’s death on Saturday made the last words to “Hurt” that much more clear:

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

The way is not my own. Or yours, either:

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” – Matthew 16:25-26

RIP Whitney Houston. I believe she’s in a much better place now.

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10 Responses to “Hurt”

  1. James Williams February 13, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Great post. In Dec 2000, I found myself in the strange position of preaching a funeral for my dad, who I barely knew. The words God gave me were clearly straight from Him. It was neat, in hindsight, seeing how it all came together. One of the many observations I made when putting that message together is that the adage “Time heals all wounds” is a lie. God heals wounds, and when we don’t allow Him to come in an do some healing, then we stay hurt. Decades later, time has done its work, but the hurt hasn’t changed.

    Because Whitney’s mother is a Christian and has that foundation, I trust that she’s seeking healing from the Healer today. I pray she, and Whitney’s daughter and other loved ones, find it.

  2. Simply Darlene February 13, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

    Empires of dirt. That’s really all they amount to, huh?

    That video is the first time I’ve looked at Johnny Cash as a really aged man. I grew up listening to him and still have records tucked away, but I never wanted to see him as old. But to see him as redeemed, now that’s a whole different tune.

    Thanks for your heart in this.

    Blessings.

  3. Wendy Paine Miller February 13, 2012 at 6:29 pm #

    Crying.

    Thanks for writing this.

  4. Louise G February 13, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    You have a powerful voice.

  5. Joseph Baran February 14, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    We all hurt at times as you say. And time doesn’t heal the pain as James says. We can let the pain eat us up and destroy us or we can turn things around and do good out of the bad that made us who we are. At least we can try.

  6. Brina February 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    If I could start again
    A million miles away
    I would keep myself
    I would find a way

    These particular lines reminded me of 2 scriptures. Romans 1:25, we are always trading the truth about God for a lie. We trade serving an awesome and faithful God for our little patch of dirt over which we can become king. The second scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:17, we become new creations. Essentially, every day IS an opportunity to start again. Every day we DO have the opportunity the choose the One True Way. Life is hard; it hurts, but there is not only a better way, there exists the Best Way.

  7. Nowhere Man February 14, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Life does indeed hurt.. it hurts like hell. Farewell Whitney. You will be missed.

  8. Monica Sharman February 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

    Whitney Houston’s voice filled a large part of my junior high mind.

    I just wrote an acrostic poem on PAIN in which I compare the internal pain I sometimes feel to the physical pain of neuralgia which I also get now and then. (Neuralgia is the feeling of burning in the nerve paths.) So when I saw you wrote about “Hurt” it really caught my attention.

  9. floyd February 15, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I’m reminded that this life is indeed the blink of an eye. If we are called home today, will we have more than an empire of dirt? Excellent post.

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