By Granger Smith
Is there a purpose behind your losses? How do we find the faith and strength to move forward after heartache? Granger Smith reflects on the verses he turned to for comfort and answers after the heartbreaking loss of his son.
Have you ever lost something important to you?
Maybe it was a job. When the thing that provides your income and stability gets taken away, it shakes you to the core.
Maybe it was a dream. Something you wanted your entire life and worked and worked to achieve only to come up short. If you’ve ever had a moment where you realized your dream isn’t going to come to pass, you know how hopeless it can feel. As if the very thing that used to get you out of bed in the morning no longer has the power to do so.
Or perhaps it was a relationship. You met someone, and you thought they were the one. You were convinced you were going to spend the rest of your life with them until they decided they didn’t feel the same way. And suddenly, you felt like half of yourself was missing.
Or maybe, like me, your something is a someone. I lost my three-year-old son to a drowning.
So many people have said to me something like, “I’m embarrassed to tell you that I’m hurting, because you’ve lost a son, and that loss is much worse than losing my grandpa.” I reject that idea. Your story is relevant to your life. Pain is pain. It’s not something that can be compared to anyone else’s.
The place where our stories overlap is in the fact that our lives are like a river. Although we can pretend to contain our piece of waterfront, we can’t control the power of the river itself. To a small extent we can balance ourselves with effort and persistence, but once the river reaches a certain level of turbulence, even the strongest, most skilled sailors will capsize.
We can’t control the speed, or the direction, or the obstacles along the way, we can control only how much or how little we surrender to the Source of it. Until we finally connect with the Source of the river, everything done downstream is useless and therefore powerless to make a difference.
God is the Source of the River
I found my way to the Source through my hope that the pain of my loss wasn’t purposeless. I longed for this to be true. Don’t we all to some extent? I believe that desire to look for meaning in the ashes of tragedy comes programmed into our DNA because we were beautifully made in the image of our Creator.
All of us have stories where we’ve seen some kind of evidence that there is an unexplainable rhythm to this planet, things that lead us to believe there’s an orchestrated purpose or design or destiny underlining our otherwise directionless existence. Many times we call it luck, karma, chance, a glitch in the Matrix, an accident, or a coincidence, but is that the correct way to define it?
Whatever term you might use, when someone says, “It was meant to be,” wouldn’t the next logical question be “Meant to be by whom?” And then, “Why would said designer make some things meant to be, but not all other things?” If anything is meant to be, then aren’t all things meant to be? If some things were meant to be and other things were left to chance, then wouldn’t the things left to chance mess up the things that were meant to be?
That’s a lot to think about. As I navigated the many months after my son’s death, these are questions I really needed to unpack.
I turned to the Bible for answers. Here’s small sampling of what I found:
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)
“I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
“The LORD has made everything for its purpose.” (Proverbs 16:4)
These verses and many others support the clear picture of God that is woven throughout all sixty-six books of the Bible. According to Scripture, God, the Source of the river of our lives, is in complete control of everything that happens downstream.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
If this is true, then the response to that knowledge could only be complete surrender, humility, and trust in His purpose. And instead of wasting our futile efforts fighting against the current, can align ourselves with the flow.
What is the result of that surrender?
Peace, joy, and hope. These are things I did not have in my early months of loss.
Loss is a part of life. But know this: loss is our teacher. Loss reminds us that nothing here is permanent. If we spend all our time clinging to something, trying to control and preserve it, then we miss out on the beauty of what God wants to do in our lives.
It doesn’t mean there won’t be any suffering; in fact, the Bible promises tribulation. But trusting the Source allows me to see a meaningful reason behind all of it. Today, with my eyes wide open, I’m still discovering new reasons.
Adapted from Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward After Loss and Heartache by Granger Smith
Like a river, life is full of twists and turns. But like a river, there is a path downstream.
On a sunny day in 2019, country music singer Granger Smith found his three-year-old son, River, face down in their pool, unconscious. Emergency responders restarted River’s heart, but doctors could not revive his oxygen-starved brain. After he and his wife, Amber, buried their youngest child, Granger found himself caught in a runaway river of grief that he could not escape.
Driven by the hope that River’s death had a purpose, Granger soon encountered the God of love who could be trusted with every current, hazard, twist, and turn. Granger’s vulnerable testimony will lead you to the truth that:
- God is the Source of everything that happens on your river of life and loss.
- God has a purpose for your pain and a wonderful plan for your life.
- God will lovingly take over the oars of your life as soon as you’re ready to surrender to Him.
- God is waiting to give you a life of peace, hope, and joy, even in grief.
As Granger, Amber, and their two older children began their walk in faith, they discovered the purpose of their suffering: to point others who are hurting to the Source of all peace, hope, comfort, and freedom.
Granger Smith is giving everything to God. After 24 years touring as an award-winning, platinum-selling country music singer-songwriter, Smith chose to leave the music business to pursue ministry. The “Like a River” summer tour in 2023 will mark his last as he moves full throttle toward his faith. Honoring his late son, River, Granger’s first book, Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward after Loss and Heartache, will be released on August 1, 2023 (W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson).
Compelled by the call to ministry, Granger intends to serve his local church under the teaching, council, and leadership of his pastor and elders while he continues work on a master’s degree at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, along with public speaking and authorship. Granger and his wife, Amber, live north of Austin, Texas, with their kids London, Lincoln, and Maverick. Visit grangersmith.com for more.
Like a River is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.