When Repetition is a Good Thing

There are many contemporary Christian worship songs that, when used during Sunday service, are put on repeat to the end that they are simply mind-numbing. There is no substance, only emotion. The mind is not being used. It is thrown out the window in the name of an “experience.”

Is it inherently wrong to have the same phrase in a song an exorbitant amount of times? I think the fair answer would be it depends. It depends on the song, setting, and context. But there are no doubt many songs that are focused less on directing your mindful gaze to the Lord of glory and more focused and helping you feel good.

I have a song that, by every indication, many people would put under the mindless repetition category. I understand why, but I disagree with the conclusion. That song is “How He Loves” by David Crowder. Why do I love this song so much? Because I need to reminded, over and over again, that God loves me.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard head. And on top of that, sometimes I need to read or listen to something more than once for my thick skull to cooperate. Whether there are too many distractions or my mind is elsewhere, the repetition helps me. And I think it helps others, too.

There is a dramatic difference between mindless repetition and mindful repetition. The former we should avoid, the latter we should embrace.

When we engage in mindful repetition, we admit to God that sometimes—many times—our brains do not remember His grace or often neglect it. The words we repeatedly sing helps us reorient our minds around who God is and what He’s done for us.

Psalm 136 repeats the phrase “For his steadfast love endures forever” twenty-five times. Put that phrase in a popular, contemporary worship song and we may balk with sarcasm. There’s no substance to the song, we may say. It’s way too repetitive.

Again, there are assuredly songs that are mindlessly repetitive. They are less focused on helping you meditate and worship God in spirit and truth and more focused on being catchy.

However, we must not push all songs away that repeat the same phrase several times over. Friends, our hearts grow numb very quickly because of sin. We need repetition. We need to repeat truths of God over and over and over.

We need to remember to remember. Dwelling on a simple and weighty truth for an extended period of time will, at times, be the only way to break through spiritual forgetfulness.

Nick Roen, “A God Worth Repeating in Worship

Just like we may need to read the same passage or word a thousand times over to help it stick, we often need to sing the same phrase again and again until our hearts truly believe it. We all go through “spiritual forgetfulness” and seasons of dryness. To be sure, this is why we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily—because we forget it daily.

Most every time “How He Loves” begins playing on my phone I immediately worship because I know that I will be reminded of God’s amazing love for me. Not because I’m me. Not because I’m so worth it. Not because I have it all together—no. But because of who He is. He decided to love me.

And that’s something worth repeating.

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