DiM | “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns

Presentation1CCM Edition.

April 17, 2017. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Oh My Soul” by Casting Crowns which currently sits at #12 on 20TheCountdownMagazine.

This song and the heartfelt discussion with Mark Hall are a great example of the limitations of finding assurance inside of yourself when you are the one who has been rocked by trials. Revivalism doesn’t leave anywhere to go except “try harder, hold on longer, lay it all down”. It’s a beautiful song from a real place of hurt and struggle. But it lacks clear answers and solid assurance in the external Word of God. I’ll do my best to bear this out. There are also some statements in the song that I think are unhelpful, biblically speaking. Let’s listen to the song and let Mark Hall explain the story behind it. Then we’ll work through the lyric.

Official Lyric Video

Story Behind the Song with Mark Hall

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

Oh, my soul
Oh, how you worry
Oh, how you’re weary, from fearing you lost control
This was the one thing, you didn’t see coming
And no one would blame you, though
If you cried in private
If you tried to hide it away, so no one knows
No one will see, if you stop believing

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
‘Cause you’re not alone

Here and now
You can be honest
I won’t try to promise that someday it all works out
‘Cause this is the valley
And even now, He is breathing on your dry bones
And there will be dancing
There will be beauty where beauty was ash and stone
This much I know

Oh, my soul
You are not alone
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down

I’m not strong enough, I can’t take anymore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
And my shipwrecked faith will never get me to shore
(You can lay it down, you can lay it down)
Can He find me here
Can He keep me from going under

Oh, my soul
You’re not alone
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know
One more day, He will make a way
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down
‘Cause you’re not alone
Oh, my soul, you’re not alone

Publishing: © 2016 Be Essential Songs (BMI) (adm. at EssentialMusicPublishing.com)/My Refuge Music (BMI) (adm. at CapitolCMGPublishing.com)/Songs of Universal, Inc. (BMI)/G650 Music (BMI)
Writer(s): Mark Hall, Bernie Herms

Discussion

So let us begin our discussion with the video of Mark sharing the story behind the song. Cancer is rough. Cancer is a product of the fall and the curse of sin on all of creation. When I was young, I watched my father battle cancer for 7 years. The LORD showed mercy on our family by healing my dad. The doctors had only given him 1 year to live. This was almost 30 years ago. While this was a truly dark period of my childhood, and a scary time in our lives, and while God did heal my father… our theology as a family did not come out soundly. During this time, we fell into the NAR under Bill Hamon, and my parents are still caught up in this system. That God heals is a wonderful act of grace and mercy upon us, but it isn’t a sign that our theology is right. We know that our theology is right when it lines up with what the Written Word of God teaches. Mark references something King David wrote. Let’s look at Psalms 42 and 43.

Psalm 42 (ESV) | Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.
42 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation 6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Psalm 43 (ESV) | Send Out Your Light and Your Truth

43 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
deliver me!
2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?
3 Send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

So, a minor point here is that this was probably not a Psalm of David; rather, it was by the sons of Korah, who were among those David placed in charge of the service of song at the Tabernacle (1 Chronicles 6:31-48). The 43 Psalm is a conclusion or extended answer to Psalm 42. Read through the struggles and you’ll see that this refrain, “Why are you cast down, O my soul…” is a call to place your trust not in your own strength but to Hope in God. I think Mark Hall gets this mostly right, but there’s still this focus on “what I need to do to endure until God steps in” that I think is missing the point. The goodness, kindness, and mercy of God isn’t contingent upon whether or not He sees fit to heal us (or a loved one) of cancer or rescue us from prison in this temporal life. These Psalms aren’t telling us to somehow realign our faith and “things will get better”. They are telling us to Hope in God who is our Salvation. This is looking long-range, the consolation of Israel and beyond, to the Return of Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 1:3-12 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope

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, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 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. 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, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

As long as we push goal line beyond our temporal horizons and place our trust in God for our eternal salvation, this song bears good encouragement. The problem area in this song is when we try to apply eternal promises to temporal situations. God hasn’t promised temporal healing or prosperity… He has promised these things to His Church in Eternity. Now, let’s look at the lyric of the song.

Verse 1. Well, it’s honest. As a youth Pastor in American Evangelicalism, he’s supposed to have all of the answers. He is supposed to have it all figured out. Sure, we want him to admit he has “struggles, trials, doubts” because that’s how we want our church leaders to present themselves, but they are supposed to be living the triumphant Christian life. That’s why they can teach about “5 steps to overcoming {insert bad habit}” or “One thing you can do to hear God’s voice” or “how to know when God is opening that door”, etc. Youth Pastors don’t teach what the Word of God says, they are expected to teach the youth how to apply God’s Word to their every day lives. At least, that’s how the evangelical industrial complex and those who push these “leadership training” conferences at mega churches would lead us to think is expected of dynamic youth leaders. In that system or paradigm of “doing church”, it is indeed understandable for someone to consider hiding the fact that such a terrible calamity has fallen upon you, the youth leader, and it has completely rocked your world and plummeted you into despair. Or let’s kick it up a notch, and say that instead of a seemingly random calamity of cancer, instead the leader realizes he’s caught up in grave sin. Maybe it’s that DUI, drug or alcohol addiction, or maybe it’s that one-night-stand, or homosexual temptation, or maybe it’s a secret sexual relationship suddenly comes to light or produces a pregnancy? These are all major problems currently wrecking havoc on the visible church here in the west (Perry Noble, Clayton Jennings, and Tullian Tchvidjian). Why am I including these problems when Mark Hall was only writing about his battle with despair over his diagnosis of cancer? The lyric of the song is general and doesn’t specify the source of the singer’s sorrow. In that vagueness, which is intended to cover a variety of situations similar to what the writer is thinking about, there is a lot of room for sloppy application of this song to comfort folks without confronting their sin.

Chorus. There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know. It sounds profound. What happens when the God you know isn’t really the God of the Scriptures, but is the product of revivalism and false promises pushed by folks on TBN or presented by Joel Osteen? While there is room for inner monologue, a sense of reminding ourselves to look to God for our salvation for He is our salvation, it’s not enough to keep looking within for that encouragement. When it is our very soul that is downcast, what good is it to look within our soul for the God we know to lay down our fear? It’s the equivalent of telling someone else to “snap out of it” when they are legitimately stricken with grief. That sort of thing only works with a person who is foolishly grieving. Genuine grief isn’t so easily shaken. They need hope, they need the Gospel preached to them from an external source, something that isn’t contingent upon their internal struggling, they need to hear it from the Written Word of God. Where God has placed His promises. One more day, He will make a way. I think this is my least favorite line in this song. It’s an empty promise fueled by a misunderstanding of the Gospel. Firstly, there’s no guarantee that God’s way isn’t to let the person die. Secondly, the hope of the Gospel isn’t to “hold on for one more day”, it’s to know right now, today, I’m forgiven of my sin in Jesus’ Name. It is the Biblical assurance of my salvation through Faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the Cross that grants me the strength to die in peace, or hold on for one more day, or one more decade, whatever the LORD has ordained for me in this temporal life. This thought is somewhat addressed in the next verse with the line, “I won’t try to promise that someday it all works out” but it ends up feeling like double-speak. What is being expressed is a “just hold out for one more day” motivation. He’s trying not to promise that anything good will happen in that next day while simultaneously pushing for a motivation to hold on one more day. Just preach the Gospel, encourage the listener to keep their faith firmly planted and rooted in the Promise of eternity.

Verse 2. The song continues with the honesty thing of sharing doubts and reservations. We already acknowledged the attempt to caveat the promise of temporal resolution to whatever circumstance. Very tired of these revivalist artists continuing to eisegete Ezekiel 37.  God clearly provided the interpretation of that vision in that chapter. Please read it. If you are a believer, it is only because God has raised you from the dead state of sin you were in. He did that already by His Grace and Mercy, granting you saving faith.

Bridge. The point here is to turn from the honesty of having doubt to an anthem of encouragement, to pick yourself back up and be motivated to shake off the despair of the soul. The reference to the shipwrecked faith here isn’t good. Within the revivalism of the modern church, he’s talking about faith as the will do do what is good. That’s not really the Biblical definition of Faith, and when the Bible talks about shipwrecked faith, Paul is writing concerning those who’ve been led astray by false teachers (1 Tim 1). A shipwrecked faith needs the clear preaching of Law and Gospel and the work of the Holy Spirit to bring such a person to contrition and faith.

James 5:19-20 (ESV) My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Conclusion

It’s a beautiful song, and my heart goes out to Mark Hall and his family. Cancer is scary for everyone involved. I pray that LORD continue to show grace and mercy to him and his family. I can genuinely appreciate the honesty in this song, and CCM could use more honest writing concerning real doubts and fears we face in this fallen world. However, that alone doesn’t make it a great song for Christian edification as there is no clear pointing to the Gospel. The listener is pointed to his own efforts to submit his fear to his faith in the God he knows. The song falls in that “hang in there” vein. I think the song also lacks clarity in distinguishing the anguish of the soul that results from conviction of unrepentant sin or false teaching from the anguish of earthly trials and struggles such as cancer. The listener has to do a lot of work to keep the song within Biblical limits. It can be done. For the listener who regularly hears the preached Word of God rightly divided (both Law and Gospel), this song can bring encouragement in times of struggle.

Jude 24-25 (ESV) Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

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