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Pain can be a good teacher.

Jon Micah Sumrall, front man for the rock band Kutless, learned that lesson after a skiing injury.

"I had two operations on my shoulder over the past couple of years and was kind of down and out and in a lot of pain and kind of asking God: ‘Why does this keeping happening to be me,’ " Sumrall said. "… As I thought about it, I realized that sometimes, first of all, God needs to get our attention. Sometimes, things like this cause us to look to him."

Such ideas provided the background for songs on Kutless’ fifth studio project, "To Know That You’re Alive." The album — which debuted at No. 12 on the iTunes download chart — provides a solid mix of driving rock and rich ballads that will please longtime fans.

The first big hit has been "The Feeling," a rousing rocker that saw more than 22,000 downloads when it was offered for free on the Web in May.

Sumrall calls it "just a kind of fun rock ‘n’ roll song."

"It’s about being in a show, rockin’ out, having a good time. But ultimately, in the middle of all that, we’re there for something more than having fun and rockin’ out. We’re there to glorify our creator and that’s why we do what we do," he said

Sumrall’s favorite on the album is "I Do Not Belong," an earnest look at a troubled present and hope-filled future.

"The days that we live in right now are so tumultuous," he said. "… As I thought about that, I was like: You know, this isn’t where we’re meant to be forever. We’re not here forever and we’re moving on to a better place."

One of the most haunting songs on the album is "Promise You," which focuses on an abusive relationship.

"We come in contact with lots and lots of people as we travel across the country and it’s really sad because we see over and over people who are in abusive situations," Sumrall said.

Many Christians are given mixed messages about how to deal with abuse, he said.

"Too often, with Christians, we feel that we need to turn the other cheek. We say, ‘What would Jesus do? He would turn the other cheek,’ " he said. "That’s true to a point, but I don’t think that Jesus would ever want us to be taken advantage of. We’re supposed to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us but that doesn’t mean we should stick around and let them hurt us, either."

Sumrall said escape isn’t the only necessary step.

"You need to take care of yourself and say goodbye. … but the next step is to forgive and try to move on. I believe that if you’re trying to be Christlike, you don’t necessarily need to be taken advantage of, but I do believe that we’re called to forgive."

Of course, Kutless isn’t the first band to sing about pain and suffering. Mainstream music is filled with dark and destructive images that flow from inner anguish. Sumrall blames this on being out of touch with God.

"If there’s nothing more than this life, now, where we’re at, we just living for how we feel right now," he said. "But if you have a relationship with Christ, if you’re a Christian, it changes your entire focus on life. You realize that you have hope. There’s something bigger than just yourself out there and ultimately you not living just for this life, you’re living for eternity in heaven."


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