When Michael W. Smith was first made aware of the devastation occurring in Ukraine, he was horrified.
“I just can't comprehend how somebody can just go in and just start killing people,” the 64-year-old Grammy Award-winning artist told The Christian Post.
“It just blows my mind … you see the pictures, you know what's going on, and it just moves me. And a lot of times, I don't know what to say, I end up crying.”
So the artist did what he does best: He put his fingers on a piano and penned a song to provide hope in the midst of crisis. The result was “Cry For Hope,” a new instrumental single recorded with the Nashville Recording Orchestra.
“It’s really different than anything I think I've ever written and inspired by John Williams, probably like 'Schindler's List' a little bit,” he said. “I don't think I've ever written a melody that haunting and it has a little hope in it.”
A portion of the proceeds from “Cry For Hope” will be distributed to Ukraine aid — and, as Smith stressed, “the more money this song makes, we can just give it all away.”
“I don't care about making any money on this,” he emphasized, adding that his team is also supporting Samaritan’s Purse, a humanitarian organization led by Franklin Graham that is providing medical care and aid to refugees in Poland.
“The supplies that they're sending over are just enormous. It's just incredible,” he said. “This need is going to be great for a very, very long time. Can you just imagine just your family and all your memories, and you're forced to leave everything you've known your whole life, and you're sleeping on a cot at some refugee camp overnight? Try to imagine that happening to us, as Americans. We can't comprehend that. And that's what's happened to those people.”
“Cry For Hope” has already been distributed to troops on the ground in Ukraine, Smith said, and he’s been moved by the overwhelming reception it’s seen.
“I'm grateful that music is a healer,” he contended. “You know, it always has been. I'm just praying that this song will give these people some hope. And that they'll be able to come back stronger than ever, and that this war will end.”
The “Above All” singer stressed that those in Ukraine need to see a “tsunami of unity” and expressed appreciation for the nearly unanimous display of support seen from some world leaders.
“If we don't stand up, this guy is going to continue to do what he does; we have to stand up to it. I know it's complicated; there are a lot of complicated issues, nobody wants a World War III and all that political stuff. But there’s got to be a day that you just go, ‘We're not going to stand for it. And we're going to stand up for these people.’ And I think that's what we’re beginning to see all around the world, and that's a good thing.”
Smith, who’s won three Grammy Awards, 45 Dove Awards, one American Music Award and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, often uses his platform and resources to help those in need.
He’s raised funds to battle AIDS in Africa, started Rocketown, a safe haven for young people in Tennessee to meet and find hope, and has helped more than 70,000 children through Compassion International among other ventures.
Helping others, Smith emphasized, is something he feels he’s “called to do.”
“You're either going to be a rock star or you're going to be a servant,” he shared. “I have the ability, we all have the ability, to alleviate somebody's pain, we all do. As my friend from England says, ‘Everybody wants to be 'the man.’ It’s this whole ego thing is everyone wants to be number one, everyone wants to make the most money. So many of us are driven by the wrong things.”
“Some of the most miserable people I know are people who have a lot of things,” Smith continued. “And, some of the happiest people I know are people who give their lives away. I can always do better; I don't do enough. It’s always a challenge for me, too. I don't want to run myself in the ground, feeling guilty. But I can always do more. And that’s what I think the Body of Christ, especially believers, that's what we're called to do.”
Looking after the poor and widowed, the worship artist posited, is what “resonates with the heart of God.”
“If we're not about those kinds of things, then we're missing the mark,” he said.
Smith, who has remained one of the most popular Christian artists since the 1980s, admitted that as a young man, he was “driven by the wrong things,” from penning chart-topping hits to raking in money. But as he’s gotten older and grown in his faith, Smith said he’s learned to redefine success and the calling on his life.
“Hopefully, as you get older, you get wiser. And then you start to kind of figure out that this is not about me.”
“There's nothing wrong with being successful, and I've enjoyed this amazing ride,” he added. “But the platform is the beautiful thing, it’s what the platform allows you to do. We all have a platform. I happen to have this platform where I've got these people all around the world listening to music, it's just mind-boggling to me. But you know, I have the ability and the capacity to be able to share with people sort of what brings the most happiness in someone's life.”
“Being successful — if that's what drives you constantly, the rest of your life, selling a million records is not enough. Next time you've got to sell 2 million, next time you’ve got sell 5 million, and it’s just a never-ending cycle that just will bury you. I know, because I tried that, and it didn't fulfill. It doesn't fulfill that sort of gap, that emptiness, and serving people does. … You don't do it to make yourself feel good; you do it because it's the right thing to do.”
Smith, who is gearing up for his next tour — where he’s going to perform “songs I haven’t sung in decades” — challenged the Body of Christ to stand up for those marginalized.
“You’ve got to be strong, courageous, I think you just got to stand up and speak out,” he said. “I'm not saying you have to go protest … but you’ve got to stand up and be a voice. I think that's the best thing to do and not be silent; being silent says a lot. We’ve got to stand up and support.”
“And,” he added, “I think the best thing we can do is pray. Pray for a rescue.”
Smith acknowledged that prayer can be “complicated,” especially when God doesn’t answer in an urgent manner. He added that throughout the Psalms, David often asks, “God, where are you?"
“[God’s] got a plan,” the artist said. “He hears the cries of his people. And maybe if there's just the onslaught of prayer that goes all around the world, something might really shift. And that's what I'm praying for.”
Listen to “Cry For Hope” here.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org