On Sunday, I had the joy of talking about my favorite song of all time, U2’s 1987 hit, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and how it relates to I John 3:2. But it’s certainly not the only song by the band that touches upon faith matters. In fact, here’s a (too) short list of some other U2 songs that are worth listening to and reflecting upon:
“Gloria”: U2’s second album, “October,” released in 1981, is the band’s most overt evangelical Christian album. The biggest hit on the album was “Gloria,” which is not about a woman named Gloria, but rather a song of praise in Latin. In the chorus, Bono sings, “Gloria / In te domine / Gloria / Exultate / Oh, Lord, if I had anything, anything at all / I’d give it to you.”
“40”: The last song on the 1983 album, “War,” is simply Psalm 40 put to music, with the haunting refrain,“How long to sing this song?” This song became the tune that U2 closed most of its concerts with for many years, typically by leaving the stage one at a time until only drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. was left, keeping the rhythm. On the live album, “Under a Blood Red Sky,” when Mullen departs, the crowd continues to sing the plaintive refrain until finally fading to silence.
“Drowning Man”: Also appearing on the album, “War,” this song sounds like something the Psalmist would have written. If I were drowning in the ocean, these are the words and tune I’d want to have in my ears: “Hold on, and hold on tightly / Rise up, rise up with wings like eagles / You run, you run / You run and not grow weary.”
“Grace”: This beautiful song is found on 2000’s comeback album, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” These lines are priceless: “What once was hurt / What once was friction / What left a mark / No longer stings / Because Grace makes beauty / Out of ugly things.”
“Yahweh”: On 2004’s “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb,” this closing song acts as a kind of one-word answer to the question posed by the album title. It’s also a prayer to Yahweh (the Hebrew name for God), who is asked to “Take this soul / Stranded in some skin and bones … And make it sing.”
“13 (There Is a Light)”: Last December, U2 released “Songs of Experience,” a kind of companion album to “Songs of Innocence,” which came out in 2014. The band meant to release this album earlier, but Bono had a serious motorcycle accident, as well as another separate health scare. These two events put him in a melancholy mood, reexamining his mortality and relationship with God. He wrote brand-new songs for the album, and the result is a God-drenched collection of songs. The last song is “13” (literally the 13th track on the album), and contains a hard-earned hope and trust: “There is a light you can’t always see / If there is a world we can’t always be / If there is a dark that we shouldn’t doubt / And there is a light don’t let it go out.” Light is a major theme on the album, and Bono sounds like John the Gospel-writer as he urges the listener to believe that the light will not be overcome by the darkness: “I know the world is dumb / But you don’t have to be / I’ve got a question for the child in you before it leaves / Are you tough enough to be kind? Do you know your heart has it’s own mind? / Darkness gathers around the light / Hold on, hold on.”
Truth be told, every single one of U2’s songs are informed by a deep, questioning, challenging faith. In case you’re interested in exploring some of these songs, I’ve put together an Apple playlist here.