Concerns about "Beautiful Day"

It's January. That means that once again, it's time for K-Love's 30-Day Challenge – something I have some concerns about. In response to my concerns, today I'm continuing to critically evaluate some of the songs that K-Love regularly plays. Today's focus is Beautiful Day by Jamie Grace. 

One of my concerns about K-Love's 30-Day Challenge is that it seems to invite people to thoughtlessly consume Christian music, without ever thinking critically about the lyrics. This is a dangerous practice because labeling a song “Christian” doesn't guarantee it's lyrics are great, creative, or even theologically sound.

Beautiful Day is, I think, a prime example of this. It's catchiness cannot be denied. It's one of those songs that makes you want to get up and dance.

And while I appreciate it's focus on gratitude and worship, once again, I struggle with some of this song's lyrics. Take, for example, this line from the chorus:

“It's a love so true I can never get enough of You
This feeling can't be wrong I'm about to get my worship on.”

Last week, in my critique of Casting Crown's All You've Ever Wanted we explored how harmful it is for Christians (and the church) to demonize people's feelings.

Unfortunately, in this song, the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction, romanticizing and in some ways even idolizing feelings – something incredibly common in Christianity and in particular, in youth ministries. 

This is a phenomenon my husband and I began wrestling with 13 years ago, when I began my first call in youth ministry.

We'd often talk about “the feeling” - those times in worship, on retreats, or mission trips when God's presence is acutely felt.

Within youth ministry, enabling teens to experience “the feeling” is often viewed as a measure of success. And to be clear, I want – for both myself and the teens I'm a privileged to serve – a faith that integrates my intellect and emotions. In fact, I'm extraordinarily thankful for those times when I feel God's presence acutely. 

The problem, then, is not that we “feel” God. The problem is that too often, people are taught to measure their spirituality based solely on their feelings, something that is simply not sustainable. 

Just ask any teen in the throws of adolescence (or their parents). What teens feel one day is not likely what they'll feel the next day.

So it is with “the feeling”, something that's actually incredibly easy to create. Just take teens away from home for a couple of days, deprive them of their sleep so they're extra emotional, turn off the lights, play some music, and light a few candles. Before long, you'll have kids in tears experiencing “the feeling”.

The problem is - what happens when you turn the lights back on? 

Or more problematic still – what happens when you send teens back home, life returns to normal, and “the feeling” wears off?

That's when you'll begin hearing statements like, “I just don't feel God anymore.” 

For teens taught that the ultimate measure of God's presence is “the feeling”, what they really mean by this is "God's not here anymore. He's abandoned me." 

Rather than be taught to equate "the feeling" with God's presence, what I want teens to understand is that even when they don't feel God, he is there; That God will never abandon them.  

And here's the thing. If God is with us even when we don't feel him, then we need not pretend - as this song does - that “when trouble seems to rain on my dreams, it's not a big, not a big deal.”

Don't get me wrong. Perspective is good. With perspective, we can see that some of our problems are not actually a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

But as Christians, we need not ignore the fact that some problems and situations are just painful and that in the midst of them, God is there. And since God is with us in our suffering (something Jesus demonstrates most vividly on the cross), we need not put on a happy face in the midst of suffering. Instead, we can readily acknowledge our suffering, confident that God is big enough to meet us there.

Still another problematic notion expressed in this song is the idea that “I've got no room for doubt.”

As Christians, doubt is another thing we rather enjoy demonizing.

But here's the thing. Jesus meets Thomas in the middle of his greatest doubt rather than demonizing it. Essentially, he validates rather than ignores doubt.

So why don't we?

After all, when we give people the space to wrestle with their doubts in community with others, far from separating us from Jesus, doubt can actually drive us closer to him.

I'm reminded of the father in Mark 9 whose son is afflicted with a spirit. Jesus tells the father, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.” Immediately, the father cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

So it is with our faith.

Rather than fear doubt, a healthy, robust faith demands that we, like the father in this story, live in the tension of our faith and our doubts; Our knowledge and our uncertainties – trusting that Jesus is big enough to handle both.

One final problem with this song is found in the same line we began with,

“It's a love so true I can never get enough of You
This feeling can't be wrong I'm about to get my worship on.”

Please, oh please, can someone tell me what it means to “get my worship on”?

I mean, if pop Christian music can't be theologically sound, it could at least make sense.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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