Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).
November 3, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns which currently sits at #15 on the 20theCountdownMagazine.
I tend to hold bands like Casting Crowns to a higher standard because they are not simply musicians, they are youth pastors. Whatever song they (and other “youth pastor” bands) put out is going to be assumed to carry a Christian message because, for one, the song will play on Christian radio stations, and doubly-so because Mark Hall is a youth pastor (article). The context of these DiM posts remains unchanged, we take each song individually to see if it squares with Scripture. We check the messaging of the song to see if it indeed conveys a Christian message (Law and Gospel) to a recognizable target audience (unbeliever or believer or both). While this song falls short, it is important to remember that Casting Crown still produces themed albums, and the vagueness of this song might be addressed more fully in the remaining songs of the album. Such is outside of our context here.
Casting Crowns Official Lyric Video
Lyrics (via Casting Crowns Website)
Just Be Held
Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on
And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will
And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands
Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, Ill hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go
Publishing: © 2013 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing (BMI) All rights on behalf of Sony/ATV Tree Publishing administered by Sony/ATV. / My Refuge Music (BMI) (adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com) / Songs of Universal, Inc. (BMI) / G650 Music (BMI) / Songs for Emily Music Publishing (ASCAP). All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Writer(s): Mark Hall, Bernie Herms, Matthew West
After listening to this song for the first time, I had some strong concerns over the shallowness of the message. After last week’s DiM post, I wanted to make sure that I was giving each song a fair shake, so I asked my wife to assist me in this review. Now before we discuss the song for ourselves, let us review what Casting Crowns share on their website regarding this song.
“I was out with my students surfing in Florida once and we were just learning how to get up and how to do this thing. I never mastered it, but when I got the closest to getting on the board a wave hit me and I went rolling. I rolled so many times that I realized I didn’t know where up was. I couldn’t figure out where the air was. The light was going everywhere and that was a terrifying feeling of no control (absolutely no control). I think when life’s storm hits us, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for something we can grab onto and steady ourselves…we may even look at our faith that way. I need to grab onto God and steady myself, but what I’m finding even in our recent storm of life with our little girl Hope, and all the things that she’s been through medically, is that I just can’t grab a hold of something. What I’ve got to understand is that God is taking a hold of me. Instead of being the ‘fixer Daddy’ that grabs a hold of whatever I can and makes this work, I’ve got to understand that I’m already in His hands. I’m already being held and I’m already in His control and in His protection, even in the chaos. This song, to me, reminds me that I am being held by Him. As crazy as it is when I look around me, I’ve got to rest in that truth.”
My wife gave the song a listen and after listening to the song, we discussed several points we will be exploring later in this post. Then I asked my wife to read the above description, and her response was, “Well, so the song is a positive secular song with a really moving back-story performed by a professing Christian“. I quite agree.
So, let’s take a look at the lyric of the song. Who is the target audience of this song? Based on the back-story and some context clues in the chorus and in the second verse, I think it is safe to assume this song is intended for believers. While that doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear the Gospel in this song, it merely means that we needn’t make allowances for how this song comes across to an unbeliever. We don’t expect this song to be played for the unbeliever to understand, and that’s okay, as long as we are aware of this.
Verse 1. The general theme of this first verse is that the listener is living his (or her) life as he sees fit, under his own control and that in so doing he is resisting God from taking care of things for him. There is an odd separation between the Christian life and the “life” that supposedly hits us out of nowhere. But life doesn’t come out of nowhere… it’s always right here, in our faces. Sure, we sometimes engage in escapism and choose to ignore life for a season, but we are the ones taking a leave of absence… life continues. More importantly, “life” isn’t some impersonal cosmic force like fate or karma. There is no such thing as “life” separate from God. There is only the Creator, the created, sin, death, grace, forgiveness, and the resurrection for those who Believe. So the song is addressing an errant worldview in the listener, but it isn’t identifying that worldview as errant. Instead, it attempt to provide an answer within the framework of that worldview, that the believer who is struggling to keep “life” under control should instead simply let go of his struggling. While some might argue that the message here is to cast your cares on Christ, that isn’t the language of the turn at the end of this verse. The main problem with this verse, is how it encourages the notion that when things get tough, it’s because of something you did or didn’t do, and the solution is to let go and stop holding on. As a blanket problem & solution statement, it falls flat.
James 1:2-4 (ESV) | Testing of Your Faith
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Steadfastness isn’t really the same as let go and stop holding on. It’s more of a hold on and stand firm idea. There is also the phrase, “there is freedom in surrender”… not found in Scripture. But it does seem to be a popular charismatic theme… the idea of “surrendering to the spirit” is central to New Age Presence theology. For most, the idea of discerning the spirits runs contrary to this finding freedom in surrender to the spirit. On a practical level… just what is the listener supposed to do with the notion of “surrendering or letting go”? Sound theology tells us to confess sin, repent, and place our faith in Christ Jesus. In his closing remarks to his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (ESV)
Chorus. The chorus doesn’t help provide any clarity, really. Sure, the listener is on his knees (either in prayer or in worship), but looking for answers? We look to the scriptures for answers, we pray for strength, forgiveness, mercy, and grace… but prayer is a one-way street. We pray to God, and trust in Him to provide for our needs according to His Will and for His Glory. But when we take this line of the chorus and flip it, what do we get? We get an assumption that spending time on our knees in prayer should produce answers. Do we worship God to get answers or do we worship Him because He is God? No, don’t look to Victoria Osteen for the answer, she’s way off-base. We pray to God because He is God. We make our petitions known to Him, we confess our sins and ask forgiveness, and we worship and trust Him because of Who He Is.
The line in the chorus that really stands out as problematic for me and doubly-so for my wife, is Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place. Presumptuous blanket assertion. Dear Christian, the world is falling apart. It’s going to be utterly destroyed. Your world isn’t yours… and while there are times when things will be better and make sense in this life, that isn’t always the case… because this world is not our home.
1 John 2:15-17 (ESV) | Do Not Love the World
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
If the goal is to rescue the messaging of this song, then I say focus entirely on letting go of Your World. Let go of your dreams, aspirations, self-proclaimed destinies. In this way, we can at least save 2 lines of the song, for God is on His throne. When you hear “just let go” instead think, “do not be anxious for anything”. Our hope is not in our selves, or in our circumstances, our hope is in the Lord.
1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Peter wasn’t puffing up his readers with false hope in everyone’s world “falling into place” in this life. Peter was pointing them to the Resurrection, to the Kingdom of Heaven. We should do likewise in our speech, prayer, and songs.
In the end, we get the call to just be held. Well, that’s great… I’m sure this is quite the comfort for the believer enduring real trials and tribulations in this life. This is where we need the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters in the household of faith. To encourage us in the Word, to extend grace and good works for the up-building of the body of Christ.
James 2:14-17 (ESV) | Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
So, while the song directs the listener inwardly or surrendering in a mystical sense, God’s word urges us to love one another in Christ Jesus. Modern Evangelicalism is drowning in self-focused emotional mysticism… some of it even taking on a sensual note (thankfully, not in this song).
Verse 2. The second verse is better than what we’ve seen thus far in the song. However, there is still the subtle conditional statements that seem to hinge knowledge of the truth upon what the listener does. IF your eyes are on the storm you’ll doubt…, but IF your eyes are on the cross you’ll know… The target audience of this song is already suffering from thinking they need to do something to merit favor… and the song has given the listener empty commands to “just let go” and “stop holding on” and “just be held”… when the listener needs to hear, “your sins are Forgiven you, You are Mine, no one can take you out of My Hand, I am coming back soon, this world is not your home, I’ve gone to prepare a place for you, etc” the real Promises of God to His Bride, to His Body, to His Children. My point being that the truth is the truth even if your eyes are fixated on the storm. Tell me the truth to get my eyes off of the lie, don’t place the truth behind a contingency of me first getting my eyes off of what I’m fearing. That’s too much like “seek God and then the Gospel will set you free”… which is backward.
Bridge/Close. The best line in the entire song is Come to Me, Find your rest. I have a feeling that this was the intended message of the entire song… but it faltered in its execution. Trying to comfort a believer who is burdened by a false worldview without correcting that worldview is an exercise in futility. It’s like trying to treat an infected wound without removing the foreign object. When it comes to finding rest in Christ Jesus, I think the best place to look is Hebrews 4.
Hebrews 4 (ESV)
4 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,
“As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest,’”
although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Jesus the Great High Priest
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Amen. This rest doesn’t come by striving, or by escaping, or by lying to yourself (so-called “positive thinking”); rather, this rest comes by Grace through Faith in Christ Jesus.
If the best line in the song could have been made more clear earlier in the song, I probably wouldn’t have disapproved of it. In fact, I’m still somewhat torn on the disposition of this song on the list, but the errors in the song are significant. We can’t just allow such a sloppy worldview to persist while seeking to encourage a struggling brother/sister in Christ. In the end, the problems outweigh the marginal benefits of vague appeals to churchy sayings like “let go and let God” or “find freedom in surrender” or other such nonsense. As Stewards of God’s Grace and His Written Word, we can do better than that. We must do better than that… Preach the Word, both in season and out of season.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (ESV)
16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
In Christ Jesus,