Award-winning Christian singer Matthew West is on a mission to encourage Christians to open up about the “broken chapters” of their life, offering the reminder that Satan “wants” to keep believers isolated.
West, who writes much of his music based on fan-submitted revelations, confessions, and declarations of hope, recently shared that when he’s encouraging others, he’s not focusing on his own problems — “and it does wonders” for his happiness and perspective.
“When we become a character in somebody else's story, that's when our life gets more fulfilling and that's when we find happiness,” he said on “The Crazy Happy Podcast,” a new show from Daniel Fusco and the Edifi Podcast Network.
The “More” singer said that the more stories he hears, the more he notices that “we are all connected by this one thing” — and that’s the fact that “all of our stories have some broken chapters” and they’re “in need of healing.”
“There's some common ground in that,” he said. “A lot of times we don't like the broken chapters in our story, we don't like the abuse that happened in our background, we don't like the addiction that we struggle with, we don't like the character flaws that we deal with, we don't like the circumstances in our world, we don't like those chapters of our stories, and so we try to hide them away.”
But when Christians refuse to share the broken parts of their stories, everyone begins to think they’re the “only one” struggling — “and that's exactly what Satan wants, because where that shame is, no happiness can survive in that environment,” West stressed.
“We're all in the same boat with some broken chapters,” he said. “How good would it feel if we knew we weren't alone in that?”
“We all have weaknesses,” he said, “and actually, I feel like God wants to use those weaknesses to show other people how to be stronger through our experiences. So I think we have to be authentic.”
Being honest and vulnerable doesn’t mean “airing your dirty laundry for all the world to hear,” West clarified. Rather, it’s about acknowledging "that you're a sinner in need of God's grace, and then being willing for God to use even the rough around the edges parts of your story.”
The husband and father-of-two also shared how he came to discover "beautiful gifts" amid the chaos and uncertainty of the past year. While things like touring have been “taken away” amid the pandemic, West expressed gratitude that he’s been able to spend time with his wife and children and appreciate the small things in life.
“I've struggled with a lot of guilt in my life for the amount of time I've spent away from my family,” he confessed. “And so, in some ways, 2020, I found happiness in the grace of restored time, almost like I've been able to have some of that time given back to me with my daughters.”
West told listeners that “perfection is not a realistic destination that we can hope to arrive at,” and advised them to show themselves grace.
“I may one day be the shining example of an authentic life ... and then the next day, just be a royal epic screw up who blows it and has to beg for forgiveness,” he said. “That itself is the human condition. And that in itself is where we hope to discover the power and the freedom of a second chance and of a God who never gives up on us.”
Numerous pastors and Christian leaders have urged believers to cultivate true friendships and seek community in the wake of COVID-19, warning that isolation is one of Satan’s “greatest tactics” to discourage God’s people.
Pastors are not exempt from this reality. Statistics show that 50% of pastors feel unable to meet the needs of the job; 90% feel inadequately trained to deal with ministry demands; 45.5% of pastors say they have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry; and 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend.
Scott Sauls, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, recently said that oftentimes, pastors feel “lonely” within their own communities.”
“Case in point, 2020,” he said. “You've got this dynamic where reality is 70% of pastors right now around America are looking for another job.”
Because of the pandemic, many pastors feel “ghosted” by their congregations, the pastor said.
“Our people feel like they're still with us because they see us and hear us from their living rooms, and yet, we just have this complete void of relationship,” he explained. “Oftentimes, people treat the church as a consumer good, [but pastors] see the church as our family ... so the dynamic of loneliness and isolation is amplified in a time like this.”
The current “negativity of environment” is often “taken out” on caregivers like pastors and therapists, Sauls contended.
“It really is the perfect emotional storm right now for pastors,” he said. “Fighting against isolation is utterly essential.”