Darlene Zschech, who's written over 100 Christian worship songs including the popular contemporary hymn “Shout to The Lord,” details in a new book how she's made it through the hardest seasons in her life.
In the book, The Golden Thread: Experiencing God’s Presence in Every Season of Life, Zschech talks about God's faithfulness as she and her family coped with the shocking reality of her cancer diagnosis after they left Hillsong Church to establish a church plant.
The Australian singer and songwriter started her music career with Hillsong Church but left after a successful 25 years to pastor a ministry with her husband, Mark, in New South Wales called Hope Unlimited Church.
Before Zschech was told by her doctor that she had cancer, her family was already processing what the journey ahead would be like for her grandson who had been diagnosed with autism.
Zschech chronicles all the hurdles she faced in a chapter titled "The Wilderness," which she described as being the most difficult part of the book to write.
“Going through the transition of where we’ve been at church (Hillsong) for a long time to where we are now (Hope Unlimited Church), just having to battle people's opinions, the autism journey, and then into the cancer journey, it was the hardest journey to write about," she told The Christian Post. “It's very personal. I'm writing about my family, my children. I'm watching my children suffer and so I talk about that. They’ve all read it and approved it. I didn't say anything that wasn't OK with them. That’s called 'The Wilderness.'
“I think we all have wilderness [moments]," she said, reflecting on the year (2013) she first learned she had cancer. "We all have winters and they're actually necessary. Winter is necessary in the scope of seasons. A lot happens in a winter that can’t happen in a summer. Digging into the beauty of the wilderness — that was a hard chapter,” she added.
In her 30-year career, Zschech also penned the songs “Victor’s Crown,” “In Jesus’ Name,” “Worthy Is The Lamb,” and “At The Cross.” Her songs are regularly sung in churches worldwide.
“Reflecting over my life, as a Christian, I was trying to put a lyric around the presence of God through every season. His kindness, His fatherliness — which sometimes doesn't feel completely like kindness — but His goodness and the magnificence of His presence,” she said.
In The Golden Thread, Zschech says that in the midst of all of life's struggles and heartaches, God has revealed His love to her.
During the process, she told CP she discovered God’s presence was in all areas of her brokenness, like a golden thread. Zschech likened this golden thread to the Japanese art of Kintsugi, a repair method in which gold is used to fill cracks and holes in items that have been weathered.
“Instead of hiding or disguising the damage in the pot, what they do is they repair the vessels with threads of real gold, making the broken pieces more beautiful,” she said. “Just thinking about the presence of God and thinking about His kindness — He doesn't want us to hide who we are and His work in our lives. We're not trying to hide our scars. It’s not a shame, actually, that's the power.”
Zschech received salvation when she was 15, which she said had been another difficult year in her life. At that time she had been suffering from bulimia and identity issues. And after she got saved, Zschech said she didn’t experience God in a supernatural way until much later.
“Almost a year later, I encountered God in a more tangible way than I thought I had and it was this encounter with the Holy Spirit. I didn't know anything. I didn't know what it was called. I didn't know that there was a name to that. I didn't know that some people don't agree with that. I was just a girl seeking more,” she declared.
“What I've discovered in my life is you can have as much of Him as you want. There is as much of God to discover personally as you are willing to dig for.”
Her encounter with the Holy Spirit “illuminated” something inside of her that she described as a lamp that was finally plugged in. Zschech said a light went on in her inner man and even the scriptures were brightened.
“God is with us, whether you feel Him or not. God is still with us, whether you liked the worship songs [in church] or you didn’t. When I was going through cancer, I found Him in an even deeper place in my life. I'm like, ‘How can you be here in the belly of the cancer ward?' But actually, where I am, there you are, you're already there. Oh my gosh, it's literally transforming my life, day-by-day, even more now,” Zschech revealed.
Even though she's now cancer free, the longtime worship leader said her battle with the deadly disease made her confront what she believed.
“I thought I knew what I believed, but actually there were a few things that I didn’t really know. So I had to go digging for what I believe. And I’m thankful for that,” Zschech maintained. “I mean, I don't say ‘Hallelujah, I had cancer,’ I’m not there. But I’m so thankful for some of these amazing things that I had to get out of the word.”
Zschech continues to take medication to help her body combat the disease, and admitted that she still battles through pain on some days and has to go back and “dig deep.”
“I start thanking Him and praising Him, and it's amazing what happens in you when you do that. The glory of God and the Word of God has to take center stage,” she said of her bad days.
Another topic discussed in The Golden Thread is true freedom that's only found in Christ. But the mother and wife emphasized that being a Christian isn't an easy task.
“Being a Christian is not a lifestyle choice. It’s surrendering your heart and your choices, your thought life, your opinions, it’s yielding my will,” she explained.
“People have to understand salvation. Even when people are saying yes to Jesus you have to understand that you are actually saying yes to laying down your life.”
“You're not just given something to live for, it’s something to live and die for.”
The songstress also advises that believers not pick and choose which parts of the Bible they like or don't like or want to adhere to, and encourages people to disciple followers of Christ to follow Jesus and not just follow a church.
“I’m a church builder. Jesus said I'll build my Church and the gates of Hell won't prevail against it. It's a gathering place; it's a place where we come together, we're intentional, we learn the Word together, and we sing together and we declare together, and we see miracles together. We pray, we give, we do all these things but it's all this so that we can go [out],” Zschech said.
She affirmed that believers are called to be the Church out in the world, not just go to church. “I think people get Jesus and church mixed up. At our church, Hope UC, I love being a pastor, but I don't want people to get saved to Hope UC, they’re getting saved unto Christ.”
Zschech also likened church to a gas station where people go to get fueled up and then head out to go and do what Jesus did. “I think that’s where people are a bit disillusioned. The church is behaving like a god,” she concluded.
The Golden Thread: Experiencing God’s Presence in Every Season of Life is now available in bookstores everywhere.
For more information, visit Zschech’s website.