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Matthew West on how recognizing his spiritual complacency inspired new book: 'A real victory story'

Matthew West
Matthew West |

With decades of experience in the Christian music industry, Matthew West has done it all. He’s written chart-topping singles, penned six books, won nearly every award imaginable and even started a podcast. 

He’s also watched trends within the industry come and go, had a major tour canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and witnessed his fellow artists deconstruct and then, on occasion, fall away from the faith they once confessed. 

Life isn’t always predictable, the 45-year-old “Let the Truth Be Told” artist and five-time Grammy Award nominee has learned — but one thing is certain: God is a God who stays. 

“God doesn't move on. Even when the rest of the world does, He stays with you. And He walks with you, no matter how long it takes,” West told The Christian Post. “Our world is in the business of moving on. We're already on to the next crisis. If you turn on the news today, it'll be a different crisis than they were highlighting yesterday; the world moves on. But when we're still stuck in our grief, or we're still stuck in our anxiety, we're still wrestling with our depression, we're still battling our demons and our addictions, there's One who promises that He's not going to leave us. Even if the world says, ‘Too much for me, I'm moving on,’ He stays, He stays, He stays.”

The idea that God is present in even the most devastating of circumstances inspired West’s latest book, aptly titledThe God Who Stays.The book shares a title with West’s chart-topping 2020 song, which includes the lyrics: “You're the one who runs in my direction/ When the whole world walks away/ You're the God who stands/ With wide open arms.”

Described as his “most personal book to date,” the artist reflects on how the events of 2020 sent him on a much-needed spiritual journey of rediscovery and revival — and how God gently reminded him of the biblical truths he claimed to believe. 

“Chapter one of this book actually takes place in the backseat of an Uber in Trenton, New Jersey, on the way to the Philadelphia Airport, when I'm sitting in the backseat. The whole world's coming crashing down, and I'm just consumed by fear and panic, like everybody else probably was,” West recalled. 

“And a song came on the Uber driver’s radio, in the middle of that drive to the airport. And it was my song; it was ‘The God Who Stays.’ The Uber driver was actually singing every word of the song. He had no idea that I was sitting in the backseat. And so, the interaction that took place with that Uber driver actually wound up being the beginning and the inspiration for me to write this book, hopefully as a reminder to myself and others that no matter what kind of difficult things we're facing, we never are facing it alone. He is always with us.”

This message, West said, is especially needed as the world struggles to recover from the after-effects of the pandemic. A self-described “storyteller,” the artist shared how he’s heard from countless individuals struggling with their mental, spiritual and emotional health in recent months. 

“What happens when we're alone? What happens when we're isolated and away from community? We lack accountability; we lack support, and our thoughts can get the best of us, and we can go to dark places and make mistakes. And that's why you see addiction levels on the rise, so many people struggling. We need each other. We need community. And first and foremost, we need a relationship with Christ,” he said.

For West, writing The God Who Stays was both cathartic and convicting. The son of a pastor, West admitted that in recent years, he’d gotten complacent in his faith, “better at talking about Jesus than actually talking to Him.”

“A big part of this book was me,” he said. “It mirrors what happened in my personal life over the last two years. And there was something about the pandemic that caused me to be still, and it really made me revisit some of the foundations of my faith, like, what is it I believe, and why.”

While writing his book, West went back to the basics of what he professed to believe — and found that “it all checks out still, for me,” adding: “It didn't deconstruct my faith, it rebuilt my faith. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

“This book is a real victory story of somebody willing to admit, ‘Hey, I think I'm spending a little more time projecting my faith in a public platform than I am actually growing personally. And I want that to change. And I want to dig into what it is … I don't want to just to be what I was taught as a kid; I want to literally spend time with Jesus and allow Him to show me who He is, and who He says I am.’”

Matthew West
Matthew West

West reflected on others in the Christian music industry who have lost their faith after a time of deconstruction, from Hillsong’s Marty Sampson to Hawk Nelson lead singer and fellow pastor’s kid Jon Steingard. 

“I think in the grand scheme of the vast amount of high-profile followers of Christ, there's still a very small percentage that are having this journey that are then turning away, but media loves to like highlight that, for sure,” he said. 

“There might be 10 Christian artists who are following Christ and staying on the path and passionate believers, but then the 11th one says they no longer believe, and which one's going to get the headlines? That one. And maybe rightfully so because it's intriguing, and it's interesting.”

West shared that recently, he asked Steingard to be on his podcast to ask him about his journey through doubt. His conversation with Steingard, coupled with his own time of diving into the tenets of his own Christianity, left him “even more firm in my faith,” he said. 

“I'm a preacher's kid. He's a preacher's kid. I'm a Christian singer. He's a Christian singer. I'm a follower of Christ. He was a follower of Christ. I want to know what led him down that path,” the artist said. 

“I actually asked him, ‘OK, you no longer believe in God, but tell me the moment where you first did believe in God, and you felt like He was real, and you asked Him into your heart.’ And he goes, ‘I still pray. I pray for that moment to happen.’ And I'm like, ‘Wait, you don't believe in God, but you pray?’ And he said, ‘Yeah. Because I want Him to be real.’ I think he's searching.”

West said that instead of getting discouraged by those falling away from the faith, he remembers the promises in Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

“There’s no ‘maybe’ in that,” he said. “For those who walk away from their faith, I still believe that if they seek Him with all their heart, they're going to find Him.”

Through his books and music — his recent single “Me On Your Mind” is topping charts — West hopes to renew the faith of others and encourage those who have “gotten good at being a Christian” to go deeper into their relationship with God.

“This book is just a chapter-by-chapter reminder of all the ways that God stays faithful, good, loving, forgiving, patient and kind" he said. "He stays with us. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us. I needed that reminder, and I hope somebody else out there does too.”

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: leah.klett@christianpost.com

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