The messenger matters.
Have you ever found yourself more closed to hearing something difficult from one person and more open to hearing it from another person? When I was working in one of my first jobs, our boss had a blind spot which was really making our work difficult. A few of us had identified it, but we didn’t know who would be the best person to deliver the news. Ultimately, we landed on one person who the boss really liked and we trusted them to share a hard message (which was received well). Our boss made some changes and we were so glad we not only shared the message, but picked the best messenger.
In the same way that we often hear a message differently because of who shares it, we often hears songs differently because of the person singing it. Danny Gokey’s song, "Stay Strong," offers comfort and encouragement to listeners in the middle of adversity.
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However, what makes the song even more powerful are the details of his story. Danny’s career began as a contestant on American Idol. He finished third in the final votes and landed a record deal as a result. Danny’s music has evolved over the years from writing country music to now sharing some beloved worship songs on Air1 Radio.
However, as Danny was being publicly introduced to the nation through American Idol, he was privately grieving the sudden death of his wife, Sophia. She had been recovering from routine heart surgery when she developed complications and died. Sophia encouraged Danny to pursue his musical dreams and audition for American Idol, so Danny pressed on and the rest is history.
When I listened to "Stay Strong" recently, I heard the lyrics thinking, “this is a man who knows deep pain and loss. He knows what it means to be weak and in need of real strength.” When Danny starts the song, he does so from an honest place.
“I've been waitin' for breakthrough, I've been prayin' for change
I know You'll work it all for good but how long will it take?
I've been asking for healing and I'm not gonna lie
I'm ready for the miracle, God, let it be this time”
In the church, all too often, we hear testimonies from people who are on the other side of a breakthrough or after seeing God answer a prayer miraculously. But most of our lives are lived in the valley, not on the mountain. Danny's song can be sung while waiting, not while celebrating.
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In an interview with Air1 Radio, Gokey remarked, “It’s one thing to know that God is going to come through. It’s another to endure in the midst of the struggle.”
Again, Gokey speaks of enduring in the midst of the struggle and we know he’s endured death, grief and loneliness (all coming into his life in a shocking moment). So when the chorus begins, we’re being invited by a friend who has stood in the valley to sing these powerful words together.
“But if I never see the promise on this side of the grave
My hope might be shaken but my faith will never break
Because I know the day is coming when You'll right all of the wrong
So I'll praise You in the waiting and my faith will stay strong”
Those inspiring words are rooted in a yielded and surrendered spirit which trusts that we serve a God who wastes nothing. The prophets of the Old Testament shared a metaphor for how people related to God. In this image, God functioned as the potter and people as the clay, being fashioned and formed by the hand of God.
In Isaiah 64:8, Isaiah wrote, “And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” As God is fashioning us like a potter would clay, we can struggle with resisting God’s hand or not understanding the purpose for which God is forming us. Being formed by God is not easy or comfortable.
Every great potter, however, redeems and reuses clay. Unless a piece has gone to the fire of the oven, it is not wasted. That’s how God works. Even the things in our past and present which seem to be throwaways and worthless are not perceived that way by God.
It’s this kind of mindset which Danny Gokey brings to “Stay Strong,” where he sings,
“I'll count it joy when I am tested
'Cause You bring beauty from my pain, it's never wasted”
Gokey has stated, “No matter where you are today, and even if you never see the answer you want, this song is a reminder to stay strong, to hold onto your faith, and to never stop believing that God will work everything out for good!”
Gokey’s story is still being written. Several years later, he remarried and is now the father of four children. He started a foundation in honor of his late wife called Sophia’s Heart, which works to “mend and heal the hearts of children and families who have been touched by poverty, sickness, disease, broken homes and broken dreams.”
Whether you are reeling from grief, feeling stuck in the middle of a valley or on the other side of a crisis like Gokey endured, may the words of “Stay Strong” encourage you to turn to our Savior who is “acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53) and who encourages us to “take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16)
Scott Savage is a pastor and a writer with the best last name in the world. Scott’s writing helps you laugh, challenges you to think, and invites you to grow. He leads Cornerstone Church in Prescott, Arizona. Scott is married to Dani, an award-winning attorney, and they are the parents of three growing savages. You can learn more about Scott’s newest resource, The Start-Over Guide, at scottsavagelive.com.