Atlanta-based Casting Crowns has consistently delivered music that points believers back to what truly matters, and the band does so yet again with the album Thrive. The project has 12 tracks, including the hit songs "All You've Ever Wanted," "Thrive," "Just Be Held" and "Broken Together," that connect to lead singer Mark Hall's devotional book of the same title, which is divided into sections exploring the themes of digging deep and reaching out. Their latest release, A Live Worship Experience, was recorded live during summer 2015 at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church, which is Casting Crowns' home church where front man Mark Hall has remained a full-time youth pastor for more than 20 years.
A Live Worship Experience features a combination of favorites from Casting Crowns as well as worship songs currently being sung in churches across the globe. Top worship songs included are "Great Are You Lord," "Good Good Father," "Here's My Heart," "Called Me Higher" and "No Not One." Casting Crowns' tracks include "Thrive," "You Are the Only One," and "Just Be Held." I had the chance to speak with Mark Hall about "Just Be Held."
Please tell me the personal story behind this song.
All of the songs that I write come from what I've been teaching and pouring into the teenagers in my youth group. I've been a youth pastor for half my life, for the past 20 years, and I was a youth pastor before I started writing songs. I've wanted to teach them well with these songs, because they would listen. Since Casting Crowns started, I've always had a Bible study and an experience that the song was based on. Every song I've ever written was not only a Bible study I've taught, but also a situation I've lived. If we write a song about a girl, it's a song about a girl. That's where we are Sundays through Wednesdays. I'm headed to the church right now.
There's one song on the album that doesn't have a story, this one, "Just Be Held." The story behind "Praise You in this Storm" was based on a family who lost their little girl to cancer. I saw what worship really looks like in going through that storm with that family. Even though today is bad, God is still good. That's easy to say, but hard to live. That's what I saw and what I learned in walking with that family through that storm. I wanted to write the other half of "Praise You in this Storm" on this album, about God singing back to me.
I had just studied Philippians with my students, and I told them that Philippians is called the Book of joy, and the ironic thing about that is how it was written from prison. Apparently, according to God's Word, joy is deeper than happy. It's more of an anchor, not in a calm sea, but an anchor in a stormy sea. I talked about that with them, and Matthew West and I wrote this song together based on that.
I went on the road, sang this song on the entire "Thrive" tour, and then went home and the doctor told me I had cancer on my right kidney and it needed to come out. That really rocked me. I wasn't ready for that. Being a youth pastor, I'm the guy who helps other people get through their stuff. I'm the guy who encourages others, and I don't have my own stuff. That really stopped me in my tracks.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
Matthew 11:28(NIV): "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Zephaniah 3:17(VOICE): "The Eternal your God is standing right here among you, and He is the champion who will rescue you. He will joyfully celebrate over you; He will rest in His love for you; He will joyfully sing because of you like a new husband."
Philippians 4:6(VOICE): Don't be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come.
What is the takeaway message?
I always wondered what I would think if I ever got cancer. I didn't go through the "I'm mad at God" phase, but the first thing that went through my mind is "How am I going to tell my kids and get them through this?" Suddenly, all of the weight of my family was on my shoulders. In church as a youth pastor and on the road, I've always been the guy who wants to show his scars and share our weaknesses with others, because when you show transparency, it reaches people. I've been open with my story of being dyslexic, having ADD, and being the biggest dork in Heaven, and I've always been out there with my story. With this, it was different. My children are in my youth group. My daughters are 12 and 15, and my son is 17. Suddenly I was picturing myself standing in front of my youth group and telling them how scared I was. I thought I can't do that.
I was talking with my 15-year-old daughter and she said, "You're okay, so I guess I'm okay." I decided I needed to be strong, and make sure they didn't get scared. I didn't want to be the hurting guy. It was really just pride. I joke about how the Lord spoke to me through my wife. She told me the church is who is going to pray for us. We had 3 concerts left on the tour before the surgery, and I hadn't made it public. I was singing all of these songs, punching myself in my face with my own songs: "Who Am I," "Voice of Truth," "Praise You in this Storm," all these songs saying it's going to be okay and to trust God.
The very first night, I came to the song "Just Be Held," and the first line is "hold it all together, everybody needs you strong." At that moment, I realized that I was the story for this song. I don't see signs in things normally. I did see how God gave me this song a year and a half before I got cancer because He knew I was going to need it. It was a cool moment for me. The song connects to Philippians 4:6, which says when you're anxious about something, pray with thanksgiving. How do I do that? God showed me how to do it. I prayed, "God, thank You that You aren't anxious. I know I'm anxious, but just because I don't see where this is going, You do. I'm thankful that I can rest in what You know instead of what I know."
Every night when I tell this story at concerts, I have cancer survivors stand up, and they are applauded, and they look at me with a connection and fellowship of suffering. They understand what I share because they've been there. Sometimes I can't start singing the song. I see in the room, in their response, how God really is who He says He is.
Lyrics: 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 world's not falling apart, it's 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, I'll hold your heart
I'll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won't let go
The Christian walk entails both knowing God's Word and being the hands and feet of Jesus, which is what Casting Crowns has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to singing songs about. I've always greatly respected their music ministry and have come to cherish that focus. Every song encourages Christians to have a faith grounded in the Truth of the Bible and to live out the words of James 4:17 (NKJV): "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."
As Christians, our daily walk is about knowing Jesus and making Him known. We are all the hands and feet of Jesus, and we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Lead singer Mark Hall writes and sings some of the best lyrics in the business. Often, he sings about not being content with where we are, but getting to be where we should be. That theme continues with this song, sung from God's perspective, as expressed in Zephaniah 3:17. We can all know that when we bring our heavy hearts to God in sincere prayer, He hears us and sings back to us. He wants a relationship with us, and He is rejoicing over us with singing, which blows me away every time I think about it.
"Just Be Held" connects to the biblical Truth found in Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." God loves you so much. Lean on Him, and He'll give you strength. If you are a follower of Jesus, you can know for certain that God is singing these words over you: "Come to Me, find your rest, In the arms of the God who won't let go." Amen to that!
Watch the lyric video below.
NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.
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