Music Discussions

Head Above Water


Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

The Song:  Head Above Water

MAIN POINT:  When the storm is raging, the sky is darkening, and the water is rising, we need to remember that God is the only One who can save us.

Vital Info Before You Get Started:  The following info should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.

  • IMPORTANT NOTE TO PARENTS: We at The Source for Youth Ministry believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce teens to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one. In our experience most teens, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos like this one. Thanks to YouTube,, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away. If you decide to use this, do so by catering it to fit your family’s needs.
  • Avril Lavigne has been turning heads since 1999. The French-Canadian singer, songwriter, actor, and entrepreneur has had her fair share of hits in the music business and impacts on culture as a whole. At the outset of her career she shared the stage with the likes of Shania Twain, but soon thereafter, launched a sole career that was as independent and feisty as it was successful. Known as the Pop Punk Queen, her music often had an edge, and could even be thought-provoking.
  • Her personal life has been just as head-turning. She’s been married, and divorced, twice, to two different musicians. In 2017, cyber security reps revealed that searching for her name carried a high level of risk for malicious websites. But that was the least of her concerns. In 2015, Lavigne had a very public battle with Lyme disease, a condition that arises from exposure to ticks. Head Above Water was largely the result of her ongoing battle against the disease:

“Those were the worst years of my life as I went through both physical and emotional battles. I was able to turn that fight into music I’m really proud of. I wrote songs in my bed and on the couch and recorded there mostly as well. Words and lyrics that were so true to my experience came pouring out of me effortlessly.”

  • Don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.

INTRODUCING THE SONG— YOU SAY THIS: Avril Lavigne has been a music maker for the better part of almost two decades. She’s had a #1 hit and several Top 10 hits on Billboard. However, for the last few years, she’s been battling a long and drawn out fight against Lyme disease, a condition that arises due to an infection from ticks. She’s said that the lyrics for Head Above Water stem directly from her fight against this disease. Keep that in mind as you watch her music video.


I’ve gotta keep the calm before the storm
I don’t want less, I don’t want more
To keep me safe, to keep me warm

Yeah, my life is what I’m fighting for
Can’t part the sea, can’t reach the shore
And my voice becomes the driving force
I won’t let this pull me overboard

God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown, it gets harder
I’ll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees
Don’t let me drown, drown, drown
Don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me drown

So pull me up from down below
’Cause I’m underneath the undertow
Come dry me off and hold me close
I need you now, I need you most

God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown, it gets harder
I’ll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees
Don’t let me drown, drown, drown
Don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me drown
Don’t let me drown, drown, drown
Don’t let me, don’t let me, don’t let me drown (keep my head above water, above water)

And I can’t see in the stormy weather
I can’t seem to keep it all together
And I, I can’t swim the ocean like this forever
And I can’t breathe

God, keep my head above water
I lose my breath at the bottom
Come rescue me, I’ll be waiting
I’m too young to fall asleep

God, keep my head above water
Don’t let me drown, it gets harder
I’ll meet you there at the altar
As I fall down to my knees

Don’t let me drown (don’t let me, don’t let me drown)
Don’t let me drown (don’t let me, don’t let me drown)
Don’t let me drown (don’t let me, don’t let me drown)
Keep my head above water, above water

THE MUSIC VIDEO:  Click the following link for the online music video:

THREE QUESTIONS TO ASK IN THE CAR (with thoughts to dive deeper with your kids):

Q: What was the main point to Avril Lavigne’s song?

A: In the midst of a terrible time in her life that she couldn’t do anything about, she called on God to save her.

Q: Did it sound like she was trusting in God to save her…or was she hoping to save herself? What evidence do you have from the lyrics?

A: This is an important question to ask because millions of people think they can save themselves when they can’t. It seemed pretty clear that Lavigne knew she couldn’t save herself. Throughout the song, she kept talking about all the things she COULDN’T do…and listing all the things she needed God to do.

Q: What does God want us to do in those stormy moments? How do you know?

A: He definitely wants us to depend on Him! All throughout Scripture, there are plenty of times God encourages His followers and children to trust Him for their rescue and salvation.

WHERE TO TAKE IT FROM HERE: Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There is a guide just after that paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged – the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.

FOR DEEPER DISCUSSION:  (If your kids seem into diving in deeper and looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)

Want help getting your teenager engaged in conversation? CLICK HERE for a helpful article from our “Parenting Help” page providing you with 3 Essentials to Talking with Today’s Teens.

TRANSITIONAL STATEMENT:  The song includes some graphic lines about suffering and fear and danger. She does a great job of pulling your into her situation by describing it in drastic terms. Throughout the song, she kept echoing one thing over and over: God keep my head above water. Like Avril Lavigne, we need to remember that when the storm is raging, the sky is darkening, and the water is rising, God is the only One who can save us.


  • HAVE EVERY FAMILY MEMBER ANSWER: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our favorite song at the moment.
  • ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What were some of the lines from the song that captured your attention? Why?
  • ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In the song, what was she repeatedly asking God to do for her?
  • ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Have you ever been in a situation like Avril Lavigne described in this song? If so, can you briefly share?
  • ASK A FEW: How did God fit into that situation or circumstance?

Read the following passage:

Psalm 40:1-5 (NLT)

For the choir director: A psalm of David.

I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.  2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD.  4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud, or in those who worship idols.  5 O LORD my God, you have done many miracles for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.

  • ASK A FEWFAMILY MEMBERS: What were a few of the ways David described his situation in these verses?
  • ASK A FEWFAMILY MEMBERS: Can you list everything God did for David?
  • ASK A FEWFAMILY MEMBERS: What similarities does this psalm have with the song we heard? (Parents – It’s quite interesting. Both involve someone in a dangerous and life-threatening situation. Both include a cry to God for help, trusting that He will act. Both show how God saves the person in trouble. Both talk about how a song is born out of the experience.)
  • ASK A FEWFAMILY MEMBERS: What do you think would have happened to David if he had tried to save himself? For that matter, what would have happened to Avril if she would have tried to save herself? (Parents – Both of the situations they describe were bigger than they were. They were facing life and death situations…and knew they didn’t match up with the obstacles. They could not save themselves. If God didn’t save them, they would have died.)
  • ASK A FEW: Why should we turn to God in those times?
  • HAVE EVERY FAMILY MEMBER ANSWER: Can you name one specific way you’re going to put your hope and trust in God this week?

WRAP UP:  So, we just looked at two songs. The first was a stirring tune by Avril Lavigne that walked listeners through a very tough time in her life. She painted the picture in catastrophic terms: storms, rising water, fear, helplessness, and so on. But in the end, it was her trust in God and His ability to help that saved her.    

The second song came from a difficult time in David’s life. He was equally graphic in his song. You could feel the walls closing in on him and the mud rising beneath him. Again, it was his trust in God that brought him through.

In the end, both of the people rescued, Avril and David, wrote a song about God’s goodness and ability to save.

I want to read you one quick story as we wrap up. This one comes from one night in the life of Jesus. Take a listen to Mark 4:35-41.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”

I love how Jesus isn’t afraid of the things that terrify us. He isn’t bothered by storms…because He can quiet them with His voice. I also like how the disciples’ hearts were challenged by what they’d just witnessed and experienced.

I want you to know that no matter what kind of storm you are facing in life, you don’t have to face it alone. We love you…and Jesus, God’s Son, is just a prayer away. If you’re going through something tough, if you’re going through something bigger than you, then we should spend a few moments in prayer doing what Avril and David and those disciples did: getting God’s help!

Why wouldn’t Jesus help you? He loved you enough to die on a cross for you! If He can eradicate our sin, then He can certainly overcome an addiction, a fear, a question, and everything else.


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David R. Smith

David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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