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Everyone Has an Inspiring Story

In 2007, this popular singer-songwriter almost lost his voice. Not long after, he started singing your stories.

By Matthew West, Franklin, Tennessee

As appeared in

Emily found a pew near the front. I plopped down and glanced in the bulletin at the title of the sermon: “Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?” Nice topic, I thought ruefully. But as the pastor spoke it was as if I were the only person in the sanctuary.

“I want to read a quote from C. S. Lewis,” he said. “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

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I moved to the edge of my seat, slowly repeating the quote in my mind. Listening, with my whole body. Hearing the words, yes, but there was something else. A comforting sound I couldn’t quite identify.

I thought of all the times that God had been there for me in my career, the gifts he’d given me, my wonderful family. Whispers I’d barely heard, taken for granted. Without God none of it would have happened. He was there beside me every step of the way.

Could I have doubted that he was beside me even now, shouting to be heard?

I’m listening, God. Tell me what you want me to hear. Lead me where you’d have me go. There was no response. Not in words, at least. But for the first time in months my worries faded. Yes, God was in charge. That was all I needed to know.

That afternoon I returned to my music room and filled pages of my journal with my fears and frustrations, but now it was freeing, not paralyzing. With every pen stroke I let go of another torment. I prayed, not with words, but with feeling and sensing, my soul shouting in the silence.

There was the sound again. Like waves crashing onto the shore. God’s love washing over me.

“Share my blessings,” he seemed to say. I didn’t know what that meant, yet it comforted me.

The day to see my doctor again finally arrived. I was nervous but not afraid. She examined my throat and then asked, “So how are you feeling?”

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I smiled, nodded energetically.

She laughed. “You can talk now,” she said.

“Oh, okay,” I said. Two words. And yet I listened in wonder at the sound of my voice. Like a child talking for the first time. It was me, just like before. I could hardly believe my ears.

“You’ll need to work with a speech pathologist and a vocal coach,” the doctor said. “They’ll show you how not to strain your vocal cords. But you’re good to go. I’m looking forward to hearing your next song.”

Now here I was, a little more than six months later, on stage in front of 1,000 people. Something to Say was my best-selling album yet, one of its songs, “More,” a No. 1 hit on the Christian music charts. My voice had never felt stronger. I was so thankful. I couldn’t say it enough.

“God has blessed me so much,” I said. “And I am so grateful. I doubted my faith at times, but God was always in charge.”

I walked off the stage to thunderous applause. It felt wonderful, like a great big, beautiful blessing.

I hung out backstage for a while, letting the crowd disperse, before making my way to the tour bus. There, at the bottom of the stairs, was a cluster of fans. Autograph seekers, I figured.

“I got laid off a year ago, and with all our bills sometimes I just want to give up,” the first woman in line said. “I wanted to thank you for what you said. I’ve struggled, but you gave me hope.”

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“Thank you,” I said. I hugged her. It seemed like so little. But what more could I do?

Behind her, another woman, with a teenage son. “My husband has cancer,” she said. “It’s really scary to think of losing him. I can’t wait to tell him what you said about God being in control.”

Every person there had a story. People bearing up under challenges I couldn’t imagine. I kept thinking about them long after I went to bed. And I knew what I was being called to do. This time God didn’t need to shout.

“What if I asked people to send me their stories?” I said to my manager the next day. “Made that what my songs are about, all of them. People are hurting out there. They want someone to listen to them, a chance to be heard.”

“Let’s give it a try,” he said.