I read country music singer Granger Smith's new book in one sitting and cried my way through it. It’s a powerful story of the unspeakable loss of his 3-year old son and what happened in the aftermath as he attempted to cope.
Granger tried everything to cope with the trauma, including numbing and every self-help hack. It didn't work. This is an incredible story of what happens when self-help fails and God shows up. Here’s what we cover:
1. The traumatic “slide show” that ran through Granger's mind for months
2. Why we numb
3. Granger's rock bottom moment and what happened after
4. What grief looks like when transformed
5. How self-help messages gaslight us
Do you have questions for Dr. Alison? Leave them here.
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While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
This episode contains discussions about suicide which may be distressing for some listeners. Please prioritize your well-being and proceed with caution. If you or someone you know is struggling, call or text 988 for free, confidential support.
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis
Billy Graham videos on Youtube
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TBOY Episode 76
Alison: Hey everyone. Welcome back to this week's episode of The Best of You Podcast. I'm so glad you're here. I'm so excited about this series on Faith Talks where we're highlighting the spiritual dimension of MEPS that I like to talk about–the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health that we're all responsible for.
Before God, we're all responsible for our mental health, our emotional health, our physical health, and our spiritual health. In today's episode, we're going to talk about faith and how faith is different from self-help.
I dabble between the two–I love to give you guys practical tools that are often categorized as self help tools, but all of that happens against the backdrop of a living faith in Jesus. I had a profound experience of transformation through meeting Jesus personally in college, and my experience was not unlike what our guest will share with us today.
I'd grown up as a Christian. I knew all the right things. I read the Bible, but I didn't really know Jesus until that moment in college. It was about a three month period of time where it all became real to me. It changed everything.
When I read our guest's book, it reminded me right of how empty all of our tools are, all of our self help strategies, all of the things we do that are important, but how empty those things are if they're not infused with the power of the living God. If we're not infused by that daily moment-by-moment connection to Jesus, to the one who loves us, to the one who brings us forward into this beautiful life, who helps us bring purpose out of pain, who helps us find hope when we are hurting the most.
For this episode, I've invited on a new friend of mine. His name is Granger Smith. You may know Granger from his country music. He's an award winning, platinum selling country music singer songwriter.
But I was introduced to Granger through his New York Times bestselling book, Like A River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward After Loss and Heartache. It's an incredibly raw, candid look at the aftermath of an unspeakable loss that Granger and his wife Amber experienced several years ago.
It was the loss of their three year old son to a tragic accident. It really led Granger into an experience of post traumatic stress. It talks about how Granger found hope again. It's a powerful book, it's a moving book and Granger shares very openly in our conversation about the aftermath of that trauma.
I want to give you a heads up that today's episode includes some graphic imagery of the loss. It touches on drug use and it touches on a moment where Granger considered suicide. So I want you to listen with care today. If those topics are triggering to you or activating to you, please listen with care and seek out support.
If these subjects are particularly distressing or sensitive for you, I want to remind you there's 24/7 free confidential help available for anyone who's in distress–you can text or call 988 if you're experiencing distress.
This is a powerful episode about how Jesus met Granger in his moment of deepest need. Now the way it happened for Granger is not the way it happens for everyone necessarily. There are a lot of ways that Jesus meets us in our time of need. It doesn't necessarily happen this way for everyone, but it's a powerful story about how we need connection with the living God, the God who can actually change us, the God who can actually redeem us, the God who can actually give us hope.
I'm thrilled to bring you my conversation with Granger Smith, the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Like A River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward After Loss and Heartache.
I am so glad to have this conversation with you today, Granger. We met very briefly in Dallas–we were both there recording an interview. I didn't know about your story but I knew your country music when I went and looked it up. I thought, oh, I know those songs. I love your music. But I didn't know your story and read your book in one sitting on my way home on the plane–cried my way through it.
I'll get into this later when we talk, but it was a really profound way that God used it in my life because my story in many ways, at least my story of faith, is almost the opposite of yours in the sense of being a Christian. It was all-in spiritually and I almost didn't have the practical life tools that I needed.
It was really profound to me to enter into your journey and be reminded of what it's like to be living a successful life, trying to cope with really hard things without that transforming rebirth, that transforming experience with Jesus.
We'll get into that, but I want to just start for my listeners who aren't aware of your story or who maybe haven't read the book. You found your son face down in a pool and you were not able to save him. That was the end of his life. He was how old, Granger?
Granger: Three. He was three.
Alison: Three years old. You and your wife went through an unthinkable loss in that moment. You describe with such honesty and in such detail what it was like for you in the aftermath of that loss, the guilt that you felt even though by no estimation was it remotely your nor your wife's fault. It was a horrible accident, but just the horrible guilt that you felt, the PTSD that you experienced, you talk about a slide show that consistently went through your mind.
Would you just tell us a little bit, if it's okay, I hate to push on a wound, although I know you've written the book and you're talking about this, just a little bit, about what those first few months were like after this loss.
Granger: Yeah, certainly. I am willing. I think that a lot of people thought when I wrote the book, they thought oh wow, Granger wrote a book about the loss of his son. But interestingly enough, that's just the first chapter. Because the book is what you're talking about. The book is the aftermath of it.
What happened to me spiritually, physically, emotionally, after that loss, after that tragedy and running parallel with what was happening to my wife and my kids and everyone else around us simultaneously walking through life as a public figure, as a country music singer that needed to get back out and tour and fulfill contractual dates and make money to pay for the rest of the crew that was on salary…that was a journey. And I tried hard to control that journey.
I tried to control the way that I reacted to the tragedy. I tried to control the way that people saw me. I tried to control my family and navigate the depths of that grief as this kind of authoritative figure, as if I had the power to emotionally and spiritually control anything.
That was my first mistake. I always like to say that I am really a kind of a control freak, and that has worked out for me sometimes and it has not other times. So I was really into the self-help movement. I considered myself mentally tough, and a lot of things that I've done, and I don't say that in a way to brag.
I say it in a way to qualify me for when we get into the conversation, that wasn't enough. I ended up completely hitting rock bottom after trying everything to physically control the environment around me.
Alison: Yeah, you describe that in such precise detail, that all of those, in some ways, what the world would applaud, and even as Christians, the discipline that it took you to get the level of success that you had in your life. The morning rituals, you excelled at these daily rituals, these daily rhythms of keeping a well-ordered life.
Not all of it is bad, but it could not sustain you in the grief that followed this loss. You described that you would get little footholds of, okay, maybe it's going to be okay, but it just wasn't. You talk about this slideshow–tell me a little bit about that. The slideshow that you couldn't get out of your mind.
Granger: Yeah the best way I could describe it, especially in hindsight because I've thought so much about it, is that my brain saw something so abnormal and out of the norm of anything that I could possibly comprehend that when I saw that, it damaged it in a way. Maybe in a way that a computer overloads with too much RAM and it starts spinning that little spinning wheel of death on the screen.
I believe that something akin to that happened in my brain when I saw something so out of the ordinary, so devastating that it overloaded on RAM. That's the poorest way I could possibly give an analogy. But in order to try to fix itself, my brain was replaying the events over and over looking for a solution to it.
Looking for some kind of finality to it, like something that it missed. Oh, there's an explanation to why River was in the pool. There is, because I ran it so many times, subconsciously, that it finally found the solution, and it closed the loop, and it fixed itself. Those images were of River face down in the pool.
I'm crashing into the water, I pick him up, he's... he's limp like a ragdoll. His eyes are loose and rolling around and his head and his body is purple and Amber, my wife is running out to meet us and she's horrified and the emergency services are arriving and they are working on him. After we did CPR, we’re driving to the hospital.
The doctors are coming in saying there is no more hope. He is gone. We've lost him. The funeral flashes in. My son Lincoln has his hand on his little brother's casket and as he releases the hand I remember that the moisture from his hand leaves the print on top of the casket itself and those images just play and play and they could pop up at any time.
I could be in a conversation with someone, could be in the middle of the night, and I could wake up and think I'm okay, and then the slideshow starts and I'm not okay. It was horrifying. It was addicting. I was addicted to the slideshow, and it absolutely controlled me. All in, I think, all in a way that my brain was just trying to fix itself.
Alison: Yeah, the word in psychology oftentimes for what you're describing are flashbulb memories. You're exactly right what you're describing. Your brain, the circuitry of your brain, takes a photographic picture of these moments that are so extreme and so out of its norm and it just keeps going. Anybody who's been through that kind of traumatic moment of seeing something as you said that we should not be seeing, the brain captures it and it becomes a nightmare.
But it's interesting because it's almost like your power–the tremendous ability of your mind to solve problems–became your worst enemy because this was unsolvable. There was no explanation. There was nothing that could take this away. So then it just becomes an intrusive loop that you couldn't get away from. You talk about connecting with Navy SEALs who had similar experiences with PTSD and those flashback experiences. It was very similar to your experience, and it makes sense.
Granger: Yeah, you said that all so beautifully and so much more technical than me, and I love that. I would speak to these special forces guys because they're known for, when you think of PTSD, that's what you think of. You think of these men and women that have seen things and they can't get that out of their head.
So I thought, what do they do to combat this, because that became the biggest problem. I was having my own mind overcome, and once again, I have to go back to what I said earlier about qualifying myself as a mentally tough person so that someone couldn't just write me off as well, you know, I could overcome something like that.
I couldn't. It became the main enemy of what I was dealing with and so I thought just like other injuries in my life, physical injuries, and I would think what does a NFL quarterback do to recover from this certain injury? I thought, what does a, some kind of war vet special forces guy, how does he or she recover from PTSD?
I come to find out that they don't do it very well. There are different techniques. There were different ways in therapy. One of them was called brain spotting that I went through. That was trying to identify the places in your mind that are recalling that information from and trying to soften those memories where they're a happy place.
For the most part these veterans were not doing very well at it because it's still not widely understood how to combat it at all. That's your field, not mine or any veteran’s, so without a lot of knowledge of even how this is happening, people were coping in other ways. Like alcoholism. That's why alcoholism is so huge with veterans. Drug use is so huge with veterans. Because that's a quick fix. That's a way to numb it quickly,
Alison: I wanted to thank you for the way that you so candidly describe your own foray when you couldn't beat it. You're a logical guy. You're smart, you're strategic, you're logical, you're a problem solver. You tackled it like one would tackle any problem. You couldn't beat it, understandably.
The therapist in me was like, of course. You turn to numbing, you turn to marijuana, and you're so honest about it in the book–I was so grateful for that Granger because that's what people do and you didn't sanction it. But you also didn't shame it. You were like, this is the only way out and it doesn't fix it, but it sure did give me a night's sleep when I needed it.
I worked with so many trauma survivors who have had that same experience, who've been in prison or who've seen atrocities or have been the victim of such horrible abuses. That is the only way to shut that slideshow down. For a moment, it does it. We're taking all the morality out of it. We're not talking about whether it's right, wrong or indifferent. It's survival.
Granger: Yeah, I think I said when a drowning man is drowning, he'll do anything he can to find the air. That was air at the time.
Alison: Yes. It got you through. You also say so candidly and so beautifully, that it didn't get to the root of the problem. It just numbed it. It just got you through to the next day. I want to pause there because for those who are listening, I know so many of you in private, in secret, have turned to things that you wish you hadn't turned to when the pain was too great.
It's part of the horror of some of these things we've experienced and there's no shame in it. We want to name these things without shame.
Granger: I would say that if anyone is in that category, you just qualified someone that was going through something so devastating that then they tried something to get over it and now they're shameful of that thing. I would say you can't be. You can't be, because it's not a matter of comfort. It's a matter of survival.
Alison: That's right.
Granger: You'll do anything you can. That doesn't mean that it's right or wrong, like you said. But it was a matter of survival and what really matters is what happens after that.
Alison: So tell us a little bit about that. You had a dark night of the soul that kind of took you into the depths of, I've tried everything, including numbing. It was so fascinating to me, Granger, from a psychological perspective, it's exactly what we see.
I don't know if folks have named this for you, but the minute you start to get a ray of hope, if there's been any sense of “I might be able to make it”, that is when we are the most vulnerable.
When you look at suicide or depression, when we look at the trajectory, the minute you start to feel like, oh, maybe I'm going to make it, that's when we're the most vulnerable to falling back down into the pit. I saw a little bit of that in your story. There was a moment of hope where you, for the first time in a long time, enjoyed being with your buddies on the road.
It'd been torture. You'd hated it. You'd been going through the motions. You were doing it because of all the reasons you said you thought you had to. There was one night where there was maybe just a moment of, maybe I can enjoy this.
In that moment, it took you right into actually right back to the pit and then in the worst possible way. Can you tell us about that a little?
Granger: Yeah, I love the way you put these things. This is great. It's a great conversation and yeah, I did feel that. I had been through sessions of therapy and I felt like I at least understood that I had some tools in my toolbox to tackle the root of the problem. I knew that I couldn't completely fix it, but I knew that if I could just kick the can down the road a little further each day, that eventually time would heal me.
So I thought, I've got this, I've got the brain spotting techniques that I learned in therapy. I've got a pretty good grasp on it, I've got a good community around me. People that are supporting me, praying for me, loving on me. I've got a good job. I was wrong, but I thought that these things that I just named would eventually heal me.
Then as a backup to all of this, I had the weed pen, the marijuana pen that you charge up and you could inhale this vapor. I thought, I've got all this, plus I've got my goalie in the last goal, making sure that ball doesn't get into the net. I've got everything pretty much worked out, and it had been about probably seven months since we lost River.
That was the night in Boise, Idaho that we had a show and we had a distraction in the concert because my guitar player, we went snow skiing that day and he broke his collarbone and that put a huge distraction in the whole day for me because then he had to get surgery and he missed the show.
He was totally fine, but he missed the show and we were forced to play one man down and so we had to put a lot of brainpower into performing without all these guitar parts and finding a way to supplement that. I'm not thinking about the normal pain that I go through. I'm thinking about new things and using my brain in other ways.
We accomplished a great show. The crowd was awesome. The band was great. We felt so good. I remember thinking, wow, I feel pretty normal. I feel like a normal human. I don't feel like this guilt ridden, shameful father that lost his son that's trying to find ways to just breathe oxygen. I'm not that guy. I feel pretty accomplished today.
So after the show, the guys said, hey, we'd love to just go have a drink, like the old times, just to have a few drinks. I was like, yes. I would love that. That sounded amazing.
There was this little obscure bar by the buses and we went over there, just us and we had a few drinks and sat at the bar and talked about old times and had another drink and talked about more old times. I remember one of my audio guys said, hey boss, it's really nice to see you looking normal again.
I said, thanks man. I felt it. I felt that in my soul. I was like, wow, what a great feeling to feel normal again. I walked out to my bus and it was a cold December day in Idaho. That's the first time I noticed, oh wow, I'm really tipsy. I went into my bus and I tried to dial in the code to the lock on my door and it was not working. I thought, man, I don't think I have been actually drunk since we lost River.
Then I thought, oh, I haven't been drunk since we lost River. Then it started, and I started getting clarity to what was happening. I thought, oh no, I hope I have the ability to fend off the slideshow. I went to the back of my bus and I quickly pulled out my pen, my weed pen, and I took a large hit of it, just as a precaution, and I remember taking that in and I thought, Okay, this is a precaution for the slideshow.
As soon as I started thinking that, the slideshow came in. Full, vivid, bright, there's River, he's in the pool, he's face down, the whole thing repeating itself. It was vivid, and it was real, and I had all the tools with me–I had the weed pen, I had inhaled, I had everything, and everything was failing.
All my little weapons were broken. I had nothing to defend myself, and I lost it at that point. I lost it. I started crying uncontrollably, crying, standing in the back of my bus, just tears rolling down my face, and it seemed like a long time I sat there in self-pity and depression and guilt and shame. The slideshow is rolling and I cannot escape from it.
I reached for the drawer that I knew had a nine millimeter pistol in it. The one that was to protect our bus from anybody that would come on there and in the middle of the desert and want to take something from us. I was going to take my own life with it.
I thought, here it is. This is the way.
I've tried everything else, this is the way to finally end all of this. I remember in that moment feeling a comforting voice, and I don't want to over spiritualize this in a strange way, because it wasn't, I didn't hear a voice, I thought a voice. I thought of a voice that was comforting that said this is the way, this is how you'll end it.
Squeeze, and you'll finally have peace. Then I thought, with another thought, outside of that thought, I thought, this is not me. How is this thought in me? Because that's not me, I didn't just think that.
I was suddenly aware of another presence. Another conscience within me. I’m doing my best to describe something that's very hard to describe and I've heard C. S. Lewis walk through the different consciousnesses that we could have. But I realized there was an intruder thinking for me. That was the first time I realized I was in a spiritual war.
That I was outnumbered and outflanked and cornered. I had no weapons to defend myself. I was fighting a battle that was impossible to win on my own.
I cried out, right then I cried out, Jesus, save me. The slideshow ended. All of those feelings stopped. That second consciousness stopped. I dropped that pistol onto the bed, and the tears stopped, and I fell to the floor, and fell asleep in all of my clothes on that floor, repeating, Jesus saved me.
I was new, and the crazy thing about it was I always considered myself a Christian, I always did. So that name wasn't new, but there was a new authority to that name that I wanted to know and that started a new journey for me. On that night, on the floor of that bus, my new journey became, Who is this Jesus with the authority to end the slideshow?
Alison: Yeah. You tell this, you're doing such a great job now, Granger, and you tell it so beautifully in the book. I love Lewis, I love how he talks, The Screwtape Letters, I mean he's just such a genius at articulating this spiritual warfare. It's clever, it's sinister, it's tricky, it's so much worse than the ways in which it gets over-spiritualized and hyped in this sort of flashy way.
You do such a beautiful job of painting that picture of realizing, all of my tricks are useless in the face of this enemy. Suddenly you understood the enemy and then somehow in there you understood the actual cure in that moment, and it's so sincere how you describe it.
I just want to thank you for doing the work of trying to put words on that. I can't imagine it's pleasant. So I want to talk about that now, because as you said, this is a book that really is about your journey in the aftermath of unspeakable loss.
As I was reading along, the first half of it is really what you're saying. There's not a lot about your Christianity, but you do get a sense you're a man of faith. But then suddenly it takes a 180 , and there's a page in the book, I posted it on social media, it's page 93, and you go through all of the things you tried and you don't necessarily disparage them.
You don't necessarily say they're bad, a lot of this self-help regimen, but you're saying it didn't have the cure without Jesus, without the power of the living God. It fell flat. And it's such this stark picture that you paint of what I think so many people are living that it's not that these tools are bad and I thought about it and I want to say this to you as a therapist, as someone who equips people with tools, often practical tools–it was that stark reminder of in the absence of the living God, those tools are pretty impotent.
Alison: So you went all in now–you shifted gears completely. Tell us a little bit about what that was like. Specifically, there's so many ways we could go with it. I imagine you were still grieving. I imagine there was still pain. I imagine there was still moments in the middle of the night, but what was different, what became different after that turning point for you?
Granger: Sure. You're right. There were moments of grief and pain and that didn't end. My grief didn't end that night. I could track that through my journaling, as I was still journaling through this process. I could track that I had bad days.
But amidst those bad days, I had a new mission. Who is this Jesus with the authority to eradicate the slideshow? It's like going through a war, but I know that if I can get to the end of this field, then there is light there. So I had a direction to move. Before that I didn't have a direction to go. I thought the direction was me. I was looking inside. I was looking internally for the direction.
The direction all along was outside of me. Those next several months, I was all in, like you said, and trying to find who he is. That started with the thought of, I need a preacher. The first thought I had was Billy Graham, that's a very common preacher name. Let's go for Billy Graham.
I found him on YouTube and I saw that there were hundreds of Billy Graham sermons. So I thought, okay, this is a good way to learn who he is. Through Billy Graham sermons. Here we go. I started watching and listening and I was attracted to them. I was drawn to them. I was drawn to that teaching.
I could look back now in hindsight and see that the gospel was just being poured over me every day. But I still didn't quite know what was happening. I was just on a journey of learning who he is. Would he have this kind of power?
Alison: I want to pause you here for a second because you use this term, dog-tag Christian, that I think is interesting in the sense that you had a cultural background of Christianity. It's not that you weren't a man of faith, but this was different. This was a heart-mind-whole-body-reset of really understanding who this person Jesus was that stopped the slideshow.
Granger: That's right. That's become a major ministry for me is speaking out towards people that could be, and I believe a lot of them are, stuck in that cultural Christianity. Because this is for the people listening in America. This is how a lot of us are raised.
This is what we say, one nation under God. This is the culture that we speak of when we talk about Jesus. I don't think there's anyone that doesn't know the name Jesus living in the United States of America today in 2023.
That's not a good thing though–it's actually harder to evangelize towards someone that already knows the name of Jesus and can articulate what he did on the cross than it might be to go to a tribe of someone that's never heard of him at all.
Alison: Yeah, that's what's so interesting about this leg of your journey. It's like you were starting over as if you didn't know anything even though you actually knew a lot.
Granger: Yeah, I could quote scripture. I could defend the faith to some extent. I definitely would have told you that I was a Christian. There's no doubt but in hindsight I look back and go, well, there was a moment–on March 1st, 2020.
That's when I knew, in every fiber of my being, that I was redeemed and restored and healed and forgiven. Ransomed. That was me. I knew that through teaching and that came through hearing a certain sermon of another pastor on YouTube and everything became clear to me on that day and that was the full 180 when I fully embraced who He was, as revealed in the Bible.
That's a concept that I, through my search through Billy Graham and everything else, still hadn't arrived at the idea, the very basic idea, that God has revealed himself in his Scriptures. Upon that revelation, I went home and I told Amber and my wife, I said, hey, we're gonna read the Bible.
We're not gonna read any more devotionals. We were stuck on devotionals for years. We're gonna throw those away. Not that they don't matter, but they are not a sole source of nourishment. We went to the Bible and I thought, where should I start? I thought, I remember thinking Matthew is the birth of Christ.
Let's start there. The beginning of the New Testament. Let's start there. We started at Matthew 1. Without commentary. Without anyone telling us where to go. We started Matthew 1 and just started reading like children. Like you said, starting over, let's read like children.
Because in John 14, Jesus says, if anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. I thought, how do I keep his word if I don't even know what it is? I don't know what it is.
Out of gratitude, for him saving me on that dark night in Boise, my expression of that gratitude was supposed to be, hey, just keep my word. I'm going, what is it? Okay, so now I'm on a new mission now. Read his word. Absorb his word. Find him in his word as he's revealed. The living Savior revealed in the living Scriptures and that started a new journey, or maybe an extension of the other journey of finding him.
I was just, every day, I was blown away by those black and red words throughout the New Testament. I was blown away. I was telling Amber, look at this. Did you see this? Are we underestimating what Jesus said? Are we underestimating when he says things like, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself. Take up his cross and follow me. Are we underestimating what he meant here? I don't think we are.
I think he means what he says here. I was so excited and so motivated that when I finished, I started again because Jesus said the prophets were talking about me. I started in Revelation and started reading through Malachi. Once I finished that, I started again in Matthew. It's a pattern I'm still on today.
Every morning before the sun comes up, I'm reading where I left off from yesterday. That's what I'm going to read today in my plan. I'm feasting on it. It is real food. It's real nourishment. Everything else wasn't. All the devotionals and the visualizations that I was doing were not nourishing me like that living, breathing spirit was.
Alison: Yeah. It's so interesting, Granger, because your whole face just lights up. That movement from death to life, from dark to light, suddenly you had a new mission. You had a new purpose. You had a new person outside of you to pursue. Again, it wasn't that there's no grief.
It's not that you don't miss your son every single day. It's not that you don't, I know that all to be true, but it somehow provided you with something else outside of you to not take the pain away necessarily, but reshape the pain?
Granger: There is a new concept that was introduced to me, and it was hope.
Alison: Yes, there you go.
Granger: I could still grieve, but I grieve as those with hope.
Alison: There you go.
Granger: As the Scriptures were revealed to me, and as I read them, and I learned who He is, as revealed in the Scriptures, I learned that He, just like the old Sunday School song, has the whole world in His hands.
When Jesus says things like this, when he says, in this world, you will have tribulation. But, take heart, I have overcome the world. We just take that for one second, and we just think about what that really might mean, the implications of what that means. You'll have trouble. In this world, but don't worry. I've overcome it.
It's oh, wow. That means the one that I put my trust in, He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got everything providentially sovereignly in control for a plan of good because he's a good God. He has good planned in the end. So then I could just rest in that. I go, yeah, of course there's pain.
I'm not surprised at grief. I'm not surprised at physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual. I'm not surprised. I go, yeah, that's what he said, but take heart. I could trust him. I could rest in him. Suddenly a whole weight is lifted off of me. Then the new thought is. I want to tell more people about this.
Alison: Yeah. It changed everything. It almost, as I'm listening to you, it's like the way your mind was so fixated on solving a problem that you couldn't solve, that wasn't yours to solve, that your mind couldn't solve. It's not that God came in and just created a neat, tiny, tidy bow on what happened. It's that suddenly it was no longer your problem to solve.
God had it somehow. It's hard to put words to it without sounding cliche. I just think of people who are suffering, Nobody wants to hear a cliche where they're going God let it happen for a reason.
You're like, no, it was awful. But the way that you paint the picture of trying to be your own God in a way, in the sense of, make sense of it, fix it, solve it, make it go away, whatever it is, that the freedom you felt when suddenly it was like, no, this is God's, it's way too big for me. That there is a peace in that only because of who God is.
Granger: What I found in the gospel was solving my biggest problem, and that was when the world says, you need to forgive yourself, you're not guilty, let it go, and in my mind I'm going, yeah, but I am guilty. I was there, I was the one in charge of my son that night.
The Bible says, come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, you're sinners. You are guilty. You are sinners. Come to me. I will cover your sin. I will remember your sins no more. I will rejuvenate you. I will clean your guilt. Come to me. I'll clean you. Yes, you're a sinner. Yes, you're guilty.
Alison: Yes, you make mistakes, yes, you mess up.
Granger: I will cover you.
Alison: Yeah, it's funny because when I read that, I was like, it's like this cultural gaslighting because it's actually not a kind message to tell someone you can remove your own pain, you can forgive yourself, you can take away your shame. It's almost like the ultimate form of gaslighting. We actually can't.
Granger: It is. It's making people try to do something that they can't actually do, and then they think they're failing at yet another thing.
Alison: That's exactly right. That's exactly right. There's more shame then there's more shame. Okay, but I can't even do that. I can't even do these things I'm supposed to be able to do. It's so powerful, Granger.
It's led you now to actually you've left country music altogether. Is that right?
Granger: Right. That's right, I have. I'm continuing this thought of, wow, I want more people to know. I want more people to know. In Matthew 13, the parable of the hidden treasure, it says that the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, that a man finds and covers up. in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
It's like there's this treasure that we have in Jesus. I want everyone to know about that treasure. There's not really any time for country music to get in the way of that. There's also an idea that exalting myself on the country music stage and needing attention and needing my name to be great in order to sell tickets it's just not reconciling with what I was needing and feeling under the cover of the gospel.
Alison: I'm moved by your story. I want to honor the way that you're stewarding it and the way that you are using this experience to help not only people who have experienced extreme suffering but as you say, people who maybe can check the box of faith, but maybe haven't come alive to all that it means to follow Jesus.
Alison: When I was in college, I had an experience with Jesus, not unlike yours. It was very similar to a death to life experience. Suddenly the sky is blue, the grass is green, it's like I've been living in black and white and now I can see right. Like the song of amazing grace.
From there I had to go on, as I alluded to, to fill in some of the practical life skills that we also do need to live a life in this world that we still live in. I didn't have a lot of those. That's why I say your story was almost the reverse. You had amazing, legit, practical life skills.
You had climbed your way to the top of an incredibly competitive industry. You had a wonderful marriage. You were a good dad. You had some skills. You had some skills that you will no doubt still use as you move forward. Those are gifts. A lot of what I do is equip people with those kinds of skills that they can use in partnership with their faith.
But I love that you're going to take all of these skills, the discipline, the keenness of the mind God has given you, even some of the creativity, even some of the ambition to use that to introduce others to this Jesus that actually changes our lives and frees us and removes the shame.
As you consider your future and as you consider this new journey, tell us just a little bit about what's bringing out the best of you. This is one of the things we like to talk about on this podcast. What are some current practices that are helping you live into this new vision for your life and how to steward the talents God has given you?
Granger: Sure. I feel that as much as I'm pouring out, as much as I'm speaking, or preaching, or doing interviews, or writing, I need to be doubly poured into, and so I feel like I'm in a season of equipping right now, and part of that season is that I'm in seminary, and so there's a lot of reading that I'm doing, a lot of studying that I'm doing, a lot of research papers and in fact, I did a position paper on C. S. Lewis recently, which is why that pops up.
I'm in a season of equipping and I don't think I could ever overestimate or oversell the importance, to everyone listening, of a local church. Of gathering, assembling on a Sunday morning with a local body. Under the leadership of elders or pastors that are properly shepherding and fencing their congregation from the wolves outside.
I think that is something, because of country music, that I just haven't been able to do consistently over any amount of time, is take my family to a church on Sunday morning and sit in chairs and sit under wise teaching and hear the word, hear some kind of expositional preaching, walking through different books of scripture and applying that to life.
That is probably number one out of everything that I do. It's really on top of the list.
Alison: I love that. You're really trying to absorb all of it through seminary, through church, through the Bible. I love that. Thank you. I appreciate being led into your story. I appreciate the way that you shared it so vulnerably so honestly with us. I appreciate just the way that you're leaning into being taught being shaped, allowing this leg of your journey to be transformative in a deep way.
I just look forward to seeing where God uses this story that you've been given to shepherd and help so many other people. Where can people find you? How can they get a hold of your work and learn more about you?
Granger: Yeah. Grangersmith.com or all the social media outlets. I'm just Granger Smith.
Alison: Thanks, Granger.
Granger: Hey, Alison. Thank you so much. I sure appreciate you sharing your platform with me.