Florence + the Machine’s “Hunger” for a “Big God”

“We all have a hunger” - that empty feeling inside us, that loneliness, that weight with which our heads hit the pillow at night, when no one else knows. It’s part of being human, as if we’re born with something missing, something beyond us and beyond this world. Sometimes this heartfelt need is expressed in honest art, when an artist is bold enough to speak out.
Jakob Owens
Luke Greenwood

Luke is the Director of Steiger Europe and International Training. He has been a missionary with Steiger since 2002 and served the mission in many ways in several regions of the world.

Website: steiger.org/about-us/leadership

That’s what Florence Welch has done in her recent album High as Hope, released in June of this year. Florence + the Machine are a British Indie Rock band formed in 2007. Their career achievements include winning a Brit award, being nominated for six Grammy awards, playing at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize concert, and headlining Glastonbury in 2015.

In talking about High as Hope, Florence describes her awareness of a needy love she had been trying to fill - “something outside of me needs to fix this… It’s like, I can date the solution, I can drink or take the solution… this record is a recognition of ‘Oh, you can’t’!”

I thought that love was in the drugs
But the more I took, the more it took away
And I could never get enough
I thought that love was on the stage
You give yourself to strangers
You don't have to be afraid
And then it tries to find a home with people, oh, and I'm alone
Picking it apart and staring at your phone
We all have a hunger
We all have a hunger
We all have a hunger
We all have a hunger
(From “Hunger”, Florence + the Machine)

When asked about this song, Florence explains, “I was thinking about something bigger than romantic love. ...I looked for love in things that were not love… That song came from that idea: what is it I was looking for, that was outside myself?”

What, indeed. This, I believe is the key question we should all be asking. The current predominant mindset tells us there is nothing more, nothing beyond what we see around us. We’ve been brought up to believe that we need nothing beyond ourselves. But if we’re honest, we know Florence is right - we need something bigger.

Like a “part two” of “Hunger”, “Big God” follows the same theme. In another interview, Florence states that the song was “Written about that feeling when someone has not replied to your text, the modern phenomenon of ‘ghosting’, which is one of my favourite words but not my favourite feeling. I was describing it to someone and they said, ‘You need a big god,’ as if the need in me were so cavernous, it would take something enormous to fill it.”

Sometimes I think it's gettin' better
And then it gets much worse
Is it just part of the process?
Well, Jesus Christ, it hurts…
You need a big god
Big enough to hold your love
You need a big god
Big enough to fill you up
(From “Big God”, Florence + the Machine)

I have a deep respect for the authenticity and raw emotions Florence expresses in these songs. But more importantly, I believe she has pinpointed a heart cry of our secular, materialistic culture. What we need more than ever is to engage in this honest search for truth and meaning.

The central theme for Florence is love, and that very human need to be loved. The tragedy is our inability to find or even define what love is. Our consumer culture of instant satisfaction has affected our relationships. We commit as long as a relationship satisfies and fulfills our needs, but the feeling doesn't last, and we move on.

There is a void left deep inside by a worldview that believes there is truth and meaning out there, but that no one knows for sure what it is, or how to find it. We’re left searching for something we have no hope of finding.

But that’s where I believe we’ve got it wrong. The very fact that we have this inner desire for something beyond ourselves is proof that there is more. The author C.S. Lewis puts it like this:

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

I believe that what we are looking for is God. I believe we were created - that we did not come from chance, but that the world around us shows intelligent design and points to a Creator. That inner void Florence describes is another sign pointing to this. St. Augustine once prayed, “We were made for You, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

If this is true, then it’s good news. Our deep-felt need can be satisfied. Our need to be loved can be fulfilled. Jesus once said, “There is no greater love than that of a friend giving his life for another.” And that is what Jesus did - He gave his life for us. That is the love we are looking for.

Love is divine. Florence is right - it comes from something beyond ourselves. Not something vague and undefined, not something we have to search for with no hope of finding. but something clear and defined. Someone absolute and someone who has revealed Himself - in nature, in the Bible and in the person of Jesus. We can find Him, because that is what He wants.

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