Granger Smith reveals what he's learned about theology of suffering 5 years after son's death

Granger Smith
Granger Smith | Wikimedia Commons/Notdost

Nearly five years after his 3-year-old son River died in a tragic drowning accident, Granger Smith is confident of one thing: suffering has a way of drawing people closer to God. 

"For reasons that we don't fully know, God's plan will always involve suffering in this present world; pain and suffering draw us nearer to God, and God uses that for many purposes," the 44-year-old "Backroad Song" singer told The Christian Post. 

"As a father, I wouldn't want my children to grow up in a perfect utopia. I want to introduce suffering that I know they can handle so that it produces in them a greater good. Suffering has a way of doing that in all things. It's not just people; this is how metals are refined, with heat and pressure."

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

"So, why wouldn't a Heavenly Father, who is far superior to anything I could ever imagine as far as planning, nurturing, caring and providing, also introduce suffering into our lives for the greater good or His greater glory? We see this epitomize itself at the cross when Jesus enters humanity in the flesh to involve Himself in suffering. We have a God who is near to the brokenhearted."

Today, Smith said he and his wife, Amber, and their four children are doing "great. "

"It almost feels unfair to even say that because we've been through so much," he said. "But it is only by God's grace that we are doing well. The kids are doing well. Amber and I are doing well. The sun really is shining upon our family right now. We're in a beautiful season right now. That doesn't mean that it's without sadness or without grief, but it does mean that it can coexist with joy."

In April 2023, Smith announced that his "Like A River" tour would mark the end of his country music career and that he would be entering the ministry full-time to serve the local church.

Currently a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the former country star said he wants to be "equipped" to speak about current issues from a biblical worldview. 

"There's a lot of really wise people, by God's grace, that have been pouring into me a lot," he said. "My goal is to be able to speak that language in a way that whatever audience I'm in front of can understand. I don't want to come in with all this book knowledge; I want to be able to discern what's the right thing to say in the moment that's based on the Bible. I want to speak from what the Bible says, and then in light of my feelings, instead of my feelings dictating what the Bible says."

"There's a lot of bad theology out there based on feelings and how we're reacting to the world around us, and we're reacting and creating theologies without even knowing it. It's really, really dangerous," he said. 

Last year, Smith released Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward after Loss and Heartache, in which he candidly discussed his path through grief.

This month, he released his follow-up book geared for kids ages 4-8, Up Toward the Light, which seeks to help kids and parents navigate grief and loss. 

In the book, Smith tells the story of a little boy talking to a special tree as he struggles to move forward after the loss of his grandfather. He shared with CP how a real-life, therapeutic conversation with a tree in the woods served as a profound moment of introspection and eventually compelled him to write the book.

He hopes Up Toward the Light serves as a catalyst for meaningful dialogues among families, caregivers, and educators.

"This is just a conversation starter; it's a way to kind of grease the wheels in a conversation because so many times you wonder, 'Where do we start?'" he said. 

"Sometimes a children's book is a great illustration because it's just so simple and we can start with just the fundamentals," Smith said. "If the tree spent its life looking down at the ones that it loves, and the things that it's been nourished, if it only focused down all the time, it would lose its main purpose, which is to grow up toward the light. We cannot lose that in ourselves. What is the light? The light is God. If we focus on God's gifts more than we focus on the gift giver, we will quickly lose our purpose, and then we're in a really bad spot. I hope this book opens up a deeper conversation from a very simple scenario."

When asked about his future aspirations, including the possibility of leading a church, Smith emphasized the importance of discernment and communal affirmation.

"I do feel like the Great Commission will be fulfilled through the Church. And pastoring the church, I think, is really the pinnacle of that," he said. 

"I don't just come out of music and heartache and go, 'I'm going to be a pastor.' That is something that wise people around me need to test for and witness what's going on in my life and be able to say, 'We've walked with Granger, we have stood next to our brother, and we can all affirm that he needs to lead a church one day.' That's a decision that I would leave to my local church."

He said a "leadership role at a church is a great thing to want and desire," but he "needs to be accompanied by other people around me who affirm that so that I'm not being deceived, and so ultimately, I don't deceive anyone."

Whatever the future holds, Smith said he'll continue to be "obedient" to the calling God has placed on his life and use his story of grief and healing to point others to the hope found in Christ. 

"We could speculate on what the great plan is of suffering is, but God intends it to happen," he said. "It's not an accident, whim, or something that He didn't want to happen. For whatever reason, He ordains it and enters it, is pained by it, is grieved by it, and suffers with us, alongside us. There is great hope because, in a biblical worldview, we have an answer to suffering, evil and pain. We say, 'Yes, this world does have suffering, and we have a God that knows that and suffers alongside us and is redeeming it and will restore it for His glory.' We can stand firm in that truth. While we have these momentary afflictions, they are preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More Articles