Music has a way of reminding us of a time and place in life, whether it be a memory of great joy or great pain. Isn’t it strange how a sight, sound, or smell can instantaneously take us through time and space and briefly haunt us with history? Whether it be a melody that reminds us of our greatest moments or our greatest tragedies, music has a way of moving me through time.
For me, one of those songs is “Godspeed” by Anberlin. When their album called Cities was released, I was in Los Angeles and struggling with severe mental illness, financial struggles and career failure. In fact, it was an incredibly painful time of life that haunts me to this day. Yet, during that season, a song that brought me hope, joy, and life was “Godspeed”. Call it the anthem of my life, as silly as that sounds. In fact, I even got the chorus of the song tattooed on my left forearm several years ago, in honor of its great impact on my life. The chorus rings out with Stephen Christian singing, “They lied when they said the good die young”. When I listen to that song, it takes me back to the pain, joy and memory of that era in my life that I often wish I could get back. It also reminds me of the hope and life that was given to me through that simple melody.
Those years often feel incredibly lost when I dwell on my failures and mental struggles. I feel like I totally threw that season down the drain due to my battle with OCD, depression, a struggling career as an actor and a troubled soul. And yet, I can’t help but believe that God has found a way to redeem those years through the writing and work I do now discussing the topic of mental health, particularly in the Church. What once destroyed me has now become a way to speak hope and life to others. Tell me that back in 2008 and I would refer you to my psychologist.
Kurt Vonnegut, the famous author and thinker, once said, ”Those years weren’t lost. They simply weren’t the way I’d planned them.” What if he’s right? Especially as a follower of Jesus, is our broken past a complete waste, or can God use even the worst of our journeys? Is anything beyond the grace of Jesus—even our past?
Do you often look back on your life and feel haunted by failed relationships, self-destructive seasons and choices that derailed your dreams? We often haunt ourselves, especially when we get lost in the past and lose sight of the future. Yet, isn’t it strange how Jesus always finds a way to redeem what was once considered lost? We see it throughout the Scriptures, as God takes broken lives and uses them for His eternal purposes.
The Apostle Paul’s broken and dark past was incredibly impactful in his ministry to the Churches. In fact, his past was one of the most compelling arguments for the power of Christ moving in his life! A guy who once persecuted followers of Jesus was redeemed by the same Christ he was persecuting. Fascinating! God then used his background as a devout religious zealot and enemy of the Early Church to impact one of the greatest movements Christianity will ever know. He is just one of many examples we see where God made something useful of what was once lost.
Have you had trouble looking at photographs of past chapters of your life, knowing that all you can see is a failure, a foolish kid and a waste of space? Is there a song that reminds you of that broken past, yet also reminds you of the hope that got you through? Was there a loss that shattered you, a disorder that plagued you, an addiction that owned you, or a failure that left you questioning if you were a complete loser?
In my story, I have many, many regrets that haunt me every day. I wish I didn’t struggle with OCD for most of my life, that I hadn’t failed at my dreams of becoming an actor and that I wasn’t such a screw-up. Regrets tend to haunt me more than the hopes I have for the future, if I’m completely transparent with you. If I said that I was always optimistic, I’d be a liar. And yet, as I continue on this journey with Jesus, I cannot deny how God has continued to use my broken past, not my handful of successes, to impact others with hope and life. It’s as if God is not as concerned about our successes as He is by our failed attempts.
When you look back on your past, imagine with me for a moment that God can use that pain and heartache. Imagine what it would look like for you to make a positive difference in the lives of others from the years that once felt lost and devoid of meaning. Wouldn’t it be incredible to know that your life meant something, even at your worst?
If God can use my mess of a life, I know He can redeem the years in your life you wish you could get back.
Your past is not lost in the void of time and space. God is using you now and can use even what once was for His purposes and glory. There is hope and redemption for even the most broken of pasts.
Andrew Voigt is a writer and blogger who engages in conversations about God, brokenness, and what it means to be human. He currently lives in Charlotte, NC and is a self-renowned root beer and coffee enthusiast.