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How to fight anxiety, according to Hillsong

Ben Hastings shares the intimate inspiration for Young and Free’s Peace

Ben Hastings is no stranger to the power of songwriting. One of the younger members of the Hillsong Worship team – the global posse that collaborates on music crafted for singing in churches – Hastings was a chief lyricist on O Praise the Name, So Will I, Crowns and Rescuer. Quite a playlist of music proclaimed by believers around the world.

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But the understated, amiable bloke from Ireland is quietly proud of Peace. Part of Hillsong Young and Free’s latest album, III, Ben’s deeply personal song began life as an intimate dose of comfort and care.

“It’s a big topic and I know it’s one we don’t talk about very often …” – Ben Hastings

“My wife suffers from a few different anxiety disorders,” shares Ben about Jessie, who discussed her struggles this year at Hillsong’s Worship and Creative conference. “For the longest time I’ve wanted to write a song that she could sing when she was having a panic attack.

Ben describes Hillsong Worship as a “shared community of songs” without borders, and his attempt to help Jessie found its ways to Young and Free. “Peace ended up being that song,” he summarises about its eventual form.

From a promising student at Hillsong Bible College in Sydney through positive relationships and the “kind” encouragement of Global Creative pastor Cass Langton, Ben has become an entrenched Hillsong Worship songwriter. While he’s been part of a ministry with enormous influence, he’s still stunned by what Peace can do in the pews. Sorry, seats.

“It’s been amazing watching the song roll out in church, and see the ‘lean in’ from people – and even to see the conversations it’s started around positive mental health at church.”

“It’s a big topic and I know it’s one we don’t talk about very often so I do think it’s really important … if it does trigger something for someone listening, they should go to talk with a medical professional. My wife Jessie and I both go to a therapist to talk about it, to help her through it.”

The film clip for Peace stirred online controversy this year. As Relevant reported, Hillsong pulled the clip from YouTube in March due to negative responses to its imagery and intended message. Some viewers were angered or disturbed by the visual treatment of anxiety; accusations of “anti-Christ” and “satanic” messages were levelled at Peace‘s clip.

In a statement, Hillsong Young and Free explained: “When it came to making this video, we deliberately chose to represent the struggle of anxiety, along with the refuge that is found in God’s peace, in a symbolic way, allowing each young person who watched it to respond to it personally.”

“From our perspective, it would be a total tragedy if those who need the message of God’s peace, instead get caught up in anxiety due to over-analyzing the symbols in the music video.”

“Perhaps it will also give them something to hold to, in those moments.” – Ben Hastings

Without diving further into the clip’s controversy, Ben also clarifies that Peace was not written as if it could cure someone’s mental health issues. Instead, he hopes his song could, at least, help people to “feel understood in a church environment.”

“Perhaps it will also give them something to hold to, in those moments.” What should they be holding on to? “It’s the peace of the Holy Spirit,” explains Ben of Peace’s peace, before he references Philippians 4:7. “It’s the peace that surpasses all understanding, a promise that’s been given to us from God.”

Peace also is not intended to make people feel they should never be anxious. Ben wanted it to be the lyrical equivalent of being on your knees beside someone suffering and reminding them of the assurances of God.

“I know it’s not always that easy for people but peace is a promise, given by God, and I think we can continually step towards that.”

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