article

What TobyMac’s ‘The Elements’ Has to Say About Weathering the Storm—and Hope

Share:

Have you ever watched a storm approach? There’s nothing like it. I’m alone, sitting on the shore of an alpine lake, many miles from civilization and I can feel the air changing. The sky was blue, the water serene, but now thick dark clouds spill out from beyond the mountains. I can hear thunder rumbling, getting closer. The wind picks up; the grass and tree branches tremble. I pull the hood of my rain jacket over my head. And then, the sky opens up. Water pours from the heavens, the rain churning up the surface of the lake. Lightning slices across the sky, and a few seconds later, I can feel the thunder reverberating in my chest. In this moment, I feel very, very small.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by TobyMac (@tobymac) on


It’s a feeling that everyone is familiar with, even if they haven’t been incredibly stupid like me and sat next to a lake in the middle of a thunderstorm. There are things in our lives, things in our world today, that can make us feel helpless. Life seems to keep throwing storms at us, one after the other: cancer, unemployment, student loans, politics, divorce, temptation, family strain, trauma, disappointment, loss. It’s tough out there, friends. Living takes a toll. I resonate with the psalmist when he cries out, “ Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck” (Psalm 69:1). I’ve been there. Maybe you have, too. Maybe you’re there right now.

RELATED CONTENT: Lauren Daigle Beats Drake, Ariana Grande, Highest Selling Christian Album in 9 Years

In a way, that’s what TobyMac’s new album, “The Elements,” is all about. TobyMac has been one of the biggest names in Christian music for almost three decades, and on October 12, he released his eighth album, “The Elements,” which deals with the storms we’re facing: as individuals, as a country and as the human race. It’s about the “elements” that we have to face every day. TobyMac likens it to someone crossing a desert or climbing Mount Everest. “They are fighting the elements,” he says.“Our lives are much the same. We’re fighting against these things and trying to remain true to who we are called to be.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Story behind the song “The Elements”. Full album release this Friday 10-12.

A post shared by TobyMac (@tobymac) on

The album begins with the sound of wind howling, a sound that conjures images of inhospitable mountain peaks. “I wasn’t made for this kind of cold,” Toby raps in the title track. “The Elements” is full of lines like this, honest acknowledgments of how difficult the human experience can be. Later in the title track, there’s this line: “This world always gotta be stealing my heart/This world always tryin’ to rip my family apart.” And there’s this line, from the song “Scars”: “It doesn’t matter who you are/ This world gonna leave some battle scars.” Toby says that he wrote this song for his son, who recently moved away from home. “For the first time in my life I found myself sending ships out of the harbor,” he says. “The people I love the most are going out there facing all the pain, struggle and temptation this crazy world brings. It’s hard to watch.” And in the song “Starts With Me,” Toby is even more overt with his themes, singing, “ Have we ever been the “United” States/ I wonder. ” If there is a unifying theme to “The Elements,” it’s that the world can be a painful, divisive, difficult place to navigate.

But that’s not the dominant message of “The Elements.” Not by a long shot. No, more than anything, TobyMac’s eighth album is about hope. It’s about holding tight to our eternal constant—God.

In the single “I just need U,” Toby sings, with so much honesty, “ All I know/ Is that You’re my only hope.” That seemingly simple line conveys so much. It doesn’t disregard the difficulty of life, the “elements” that we have to face. In fact, it recognizes how helpless and small we feel so much of the time. But we have a hope. His name is Jesus, and He is bigger than the storm. As the author of Hebrews insists, this hope can be “an anchor for our soul.” Or, as the chorus of “It’s You” states plainly, “It’s You/ Then everything else just falls in line.” Even the song for his son, “Scars,” has a profound message of encouragement: “Lift your head to where your help comes from/ Yeah, you, you’re not alone/ We’ve all been there/ Scars come with living.” For me, this is my favorite song off the album, because it balances the two themes that Toby is exploring in “The Elements.” Life is hard. There is hope in God. Both things are true. There is hope, an eternal, unchanging, timeless constant in the midst of our stormy day-to-day life. “Where does my help come from?” the psalmist writes. “ My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Don’t let em break us down…. New single out wherever you get your music!!!!! #FightTheElements

A post shared by TobyMac (@tobymac) on

In his wonderful book, “A Room Called Remember,” theologian and writer Frederick Buechner writes about hope and observes that, in a big way, hope is rooted in remembrance. We look at the ways that God has shown up throughout our lives and cling to those memories in the present. As Buechner puts it, “ Because that is the past, because we remember, we have this high and holy hope: that what he has done, he will continue to do, that what he has begun in us and our world, he will in unimaginable ways bring to fullness and fruition.” Hope, then, is remembering God’s goodness, even when we face the elements of this difficult life. Scars come with living, yes.

RELATED CONTENT: Avril Lavigne Releases First Song in Five Years—and It’s a Worship Song

Storms will arrive. But we have a “high and holy hope,” with which we can, as TobyMac proclaims, “fight the elements.” We can weather the storm.