It’s an unfortunate but all too real truth that, at times, the Christian music world tends to present a view of life that is a bit askew from what truly exists. For whatever reason, many CCM songs seem to put on the rose colored glasses and showcase a worldview that seeks to avoid the negative, speaking in generalities of pain or suffering, and always finding the perfectly resonating note and tone to finish up with. And while that formula has certainly worked to sell records, it’s also alienated some that find those moments of sunshine and rainbows overshadowed by the truth of their lives.
Jason Gray’s latest record, Love Will Have the Final Word, is a record that’s written to those people who find themselves more in the valley than on the mountain peaks. Yes, Gray acknowledges the goodness and mercy of God throughout but he also offers plenty of space to engage the human condition, our frailty, and our failures. It’s a powerful combination of tones that Gray plays against one another effortlessly.
Produced by Jason Ingram (Chris Tomlin, Tenth Avenue North) and Cason Cooley (Andrew Peterson, Derek Webb) and boasting songs co-written with the likes of songwriters like Andy Gullahorn, Nichole Nordeman, and Josh Wilson, the album carries itself along sonic templates of singer-songwriter styled pop, fresh and energetic and, dare we say it, radio-friendly, while providing space for Gray’s lyrics to ring loud and clear.
And it’s those lyrics that truly set this album apart.
Perhaps the most poignant track to be found here is the stunning “Not Right Now.” Here Gray tackles the idea of pain and suffering in an intensely honest way, relating the idea that “trouble always draws a crowd,” wanting to “tell me that it’ll be okay.” And while so many default to that position when faced with a grieving friend or loved one, Gray’s song pointedly states, “Don’t tell me when I’m grieving / That this happened for a reason / Maybe one day we’ll talk about the dreams that had to die / For new ones to come alive / But not right now” as the song fades to a note that fails to resolve. Yes, it’s a difficult song to hear but its scars are honest and true and carry great weight.
But Gray doesn’t let his listeners rest in that pain, acknowledging that God is and will use our painful times for his glory on “Even This Will Be Made Beautiful.” Rocking an arrangement that Snow Patrol would be proud of, Gray sings of regrets and inflicted pain, telling his listeners that “No matter what you gave or what you received / If you were left or the one to leave / Even though it’s hard to hope again / This is not the bitter end.” A similar them is found on album closer “As I Am,” Gray borrowing from the Adam and Eve story to explore our feelings and shame and God’s surprising grace and mercy as “You followed me there to prove you’ll never leave / No matter the damage done / Or how far I try to run / When I lose my way, you come to carry me back home.”
And with that gift of grace that God has shown to us and the fact that “Love Will Have the Final Word,” the artist challenges his listeners to then take that truth to the world on tracks like “With Every Act of Love” and “If You Want to Love Someone” where he poetically shares, “If you want to love someone / Search their soul for where it’s broken / Find the cracks and pour your heart in / If you want to love someone.”
Along the way, Gray acknowledges that we’ll falter and fail and assures us that this is okay on “Love’s Not Done With You” and reminds us that we can “Begin Again,” the track soaring with hope and energy. And if you’re feeling lost and unsure even then, Gray offers you this open and honest prayer on “I Don’t Know How,” singing “I have no choice / But to cry out for you / Please help, cause I’m helpless now / You hear my prayer / When my whole world comes unglued / I know you can fix it, but I don’t know how.”
Through it all, Jason Gray communicates a message of fallen humanity, a message we can all identify with, and does so with grace and love. And while our need is highlighted, even more so is the amazing move of God into our lives, meeting us in our darkest places where He reaches in and accepts us, just as we are. And as Gray offers on “Laugh Out Loud,” sometimes all we can do in the light of His amazing grace is to “throw my head back and offer up my thanks!”
Listeners that hear this album will be giving thanks as well.