Granger Smith OPENS UP About Grief After Losing 3-Year-Old Son & God’s Plan | Kirk Cameron on TBN

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Granger Smith OPENS UP About Grief After Losing 3-Year-Old Son & God’s Plan | Kirk Cameron on TBN

Author and performer, Granger Smith, joins Kirk Cameron to discuss how tragedy may ultimately deepen faith as it forges a stronger dependence on God. After the loss of his son, Granger leaned into his pursuit of God’s purpose and he shares the many lessons he has learned in that journey. Don’t miss this riveting interview on Takeaways with Kirk Cameron on TBN!

Join Kirk Cameron to discuss pressing issues Christians are facing with compassionate, well-informed guests. Together we will find actionable takeaways that we can use today, this week, and this month to bring more of Heaven to Earth.

It hurts when it when we lose somebody, it hurts.
And sometimes it hurts bad, but we could grieve with hope that there is a future, but this is not our only life, but there’s a much better one.
This is not our home. And, uh, that there’s nothing more important than that when you’re grieving.
You you speak so candidly in your book about your son and about your loss.
You talk about your family.
You you you you talk so transparently about grief and about moving forward Uh who did you write this book for?
I wrote it for anyone that breaths oxygen and has a heart beating in their chest.
I I I really I I really think, um, and I hope my hope is that that anyone could get something out of this book, uh, even if they haven’t gone through grief or loss or heartache or heartbreak.
I I feel like if you live long enough, you will.
But, certainly, the most important thing about this book is not that.
It’s not navigating grief, even though that’s what the cover says. And and the first chapter’s about losing my son.
Uh, the real story is the gospel in it.
And the the gospel is embedded in several places in it so that by reading and by hearing that gospel, I pray for, uh, that god would do it transformative work with the listener.
I can’t think of anything that would be more just heart breaking, gut wrenching, then the incomparable grief of losing a child.
I’ve never gone through that. I can’t even imagine what you must have and are going through.
Was there ever a time when you asked god why did you let this happen to me?
And first of all, let me say in response to that that, um, I believe that grief, the amount of grief that you have will always equal the love that you had for that person.
So if you love a lot, then you’re gonna grieve a lot.
And so I struggle a little bit with comparing grief, uh, because maybe someone will never go through a loss of a child, but they won’t they will heavily grieve their grandfather.
And I didn’t know their grandfather. They did. They loved him.
And so I’d like to say first that I don’t like to compare grief, um, but we will all go through it at some point.
And early on, and I and by the way, I was a cultural Christian. I wasn’t saved.
I thought I was, uh, during this time when we lost Rive.
But but during that time, I did have a feeling early on that perhaps it’s not the right prayer to only prayer for pray for what we want, what we wanted, healing, and revive this child and and give us peace right now.
Instead, early on, I started to think that maybe I should be praying for God’s will, god’s purpose so that I could move forward and take the next steps according to what he needs for me.
Not what I want. And that that thought alone will start to eliminate the question of why god?
Why did you do this to me?
And it starts transforming it to What what are you showing me through this season?
Yes. That is so important.
That that is so important because we are ultimately not in control. That’s what I’m hearing you say.
He is the sovereign. He is the is is the author of the story. He’s the director.
That that’s that’s not our job. That that’s what I’m getting from what you’re saying.
And and without answering the question directly, god, why did you do this?
You’re making the point that if we ask The other questions like god, what what is your willingness?
How do you want me to respond to this?
It maybe maybe takes the the edge off the knife of pain and grief that we’re feeling when we ask the other question.
That’s exactly right.
And as as we read through the Bible and the whole context of it, the whole canon of the Bible is we If god is revealed and we learn who he is, then we can begin to trust more of his plan always working for a greater good, a a good god that he is doesn’t mean that he has to eliminate all bad to be good.
That’s like me telling my kids, I’ll never take you to the dentist because you don’t like it and it’s bad.
I’ll never take you there. That would be wrong of me That would be a bad parent.
Instead, a good parent does take his kids to the dentist.
Even though there’s there’s momentary affliction in that, It’s for the greater good of the teeth.
And so as we as god has revealed in the Bible, we could learn to trust him even through the very difficult times.
Granger, in your book,
you talk about a therapy session that you experienced with a therapist in which you had said that you wanted to be a rock for your family, and your therapist suggested perhaps you should be a tree.
Would you explain that to us?
Yeah. And and so in in a to to respond to with what I said about got a sovereign and we we trust him.
That I didn’t do that right away. It took a long time. For me to get to that.
And the book really is the the journey of that understanding. Uh, that didn’t just happen at once.
It happened as he was revealed more and more to me.
And so back then, I was thinking, well, I wanna be a rock for the family.
I wanna be the guy that everyone could lean on.
And the therapist said, what happens to the rock when it has no one to lean on?
I was like, uh, that is right.
He he said, I suggest you become more like a tree And you could be a strong tree, but you have roots that that attach to other trees, and you could bend and turn and twist in the storms.
And people could still lean on you, but you don’t have to be rigid like a rock because you’re not.
And that that that helps me
in a lot of ways. You also reveal in your book that you feel that you lived what you call a dog tag Christianity for much of your life.
What do you mean by that?
Yeah. Well, I didn’t discover this until later, but, um, after I was saved, I looked back on my life.
And the the 40 years before that, I was I was a cultural Christian, and I used I landed on the term dog tag because in World War 2, they gave the soldiers these dog tags, and they would ask them what religion they were, and they would stamp it on the dog tag.
So that they would know what kind of priest to get for their funeral if they died.
And it really meant nothing more than that.
And as I looked back on my life and I and I know attended church regularly.
I had great faithful parents. I could articulate the gospel. I could tell you what Jesus did.
Uh, I was, uh, you went to these Christian camps and clubs.
I I saw you at one of them. You know?
And but throughout that, I started drifting over time, I started drifting and, uh, there there wasn’t a fruit of that Christianity later on in my life.
In fact, I I was the fruit. I was the one that made things happen. It was my hard work.
I was my own savior. And, when things happen in life, when it hits hard enough, you’ll quickly realize you cannot save yourself, and that was the catalyst to to god saving me and then looking back and realizing, and I was a dog tag Christian.
And and can you remember specifically when you first began to feel those first inklings of god’s call on your life to come into an authentic relationship with Christ?
Yeah. I I I he had to take me to rock bottom first.
And and, you know, the first inklings I I could say that my mother read the new testament to me when she was nursing, you know, so the the seeds were planted.
Um, but after the tragedy, I had to hit rock bottom.
I had to figure out that I couldn’t save myself because because I sure tried.
I was really into the self help movement. And that was that was, like, that really spoke to me.
And so I tried to wake up earlier. I tried to eat better.
I tried to work out and meditate and and and visualize and read my books and my devotionals.
And as I progressively got worse and worse, uh, I eventually hit rock bottom.
It was It was at rock bottom when the and the lord will take us there sometimes just to prove that he is all we can rely on.
And after that, then I started seeking. I wanted to know more about him.
I wanted to know who is this Jesus that I’ve claimed for so many years who is he really?
And and how can he have such power to pull me out of my darkest day?
And it was through that slow seeking that the bread crumbs that I found more teaching on YouTube and listen to more and more pastors over and over.
And the gospel was just constantly being preached to me until it just all it all came
to fruition on one day in one moment. Wow.
And and and you’re talking in your book about how this new understanding of the gospel, this moment when god gave you eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to ceive the gospel and his love for you, how that impacted your way of grieving the loss of river.
You were still grieving his loss, but now you were grieving with hope. Explain that.
Yeah. For family different. Uh, after that, after that transformation.
And it it came through listening to a sermon in John 14.
It was actually John Piper, preaching out of John 14.
And the disciple asked Jesus, lord, why is it that you manifest yourself to us, but not to the rest of the world?
And Jesus said, if anyone loves me, he will keep my word.
And my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
And in that moment, I knew I knew that it was loved, adopted, ransomed, redeemed, and I knew in that moment that in in order to show an overflow of gratitude of that in order to show him that I loved him, I was not keeping his word.
And so that started this daily routine.
I just wanted to go home and just read his word without devotionals, straight coming starting in Matthew and going all the way through to revelations, starting over in Genesis, that was what I craved doing.
And that let me heal and and grieve with hope.
Wow. And that’s what the scriptures tell us is that as believers If we’re believers, we grieve differently.
I’ve also thought, and you tell me because you’re you’re you’re living in the middle of deep grief.
But grief with hope is that grief itself appears to be a gift from god.
What would the world be like if we loved things so much and lost them and that had no physical way to express the loss of something so valuable.
If that just somehow shut off and we didn’t feel that, I don’t I don’t know.
I think It feels to me like grief is a gift that expresses the value of the depth of our love for someone and gives us reasons to say, god, thank you for the time I did have.
And my greet my grief is like a physical manifestation of the reality of the love that god has given us.
That’s exactly right. Take that away.
We have a very boring world, and and people don’t wanna hear that when they’re grieving, but you take a a football team.
We started football season. Right? And you you see a Super Bowl winning team, and the guy holds up the trophy and he’s crying, tears of joy.
He’s not crying because they won the Super Bowl and had a perfect season.
He’s crying because of the diversity and the suffering that it took to overcome to get that trophy through the the game they lost.
They didn’t mean to lose. The the locker room fights, the the struggle in the season, the the the 2 a days, the the blood, sweat, and tears, and they hold up that trophy because it means something because of they they’ve earned it through their suffering.
This world needs grieving and it needs suffering.
That’s that’s the way god set it up for his greater good. We don’t know exactly how that mechanism works.
But we do know that because of the feeling of of hope and peace and rest through it that it’s working for us.
And in the mystery of god and in his providence, we look at the gospel and we see god and all of heaven witnessing the loss of Yahweh’s son and that producing tremendous grief, imagine his mother, imagine family, imagine best friends, and all of this was was truly unjust, not an accident, but even divinely appointed before the foundations of the world, and we have to wrap our head around all of that and in the goodness and mercy of god, that changed the trajectory of all mankind.
For the good. I can’t hardly imagine that and yet god in his perfect wisdom knows exactly what he’s doing through those kinds of tragedies.
There’s a unmistakable theme in your book like a river, and it’s the theme of surrender.
What does it mean to to truly surrender to god and and why is it so important?
You know, sometimes people hear that word Americans hear that word, and they and they think it sounds like weakness.
It sounds like retreat, you know, but it’s actually to to to surrender is an It takes active energy to release yourself and say, god, you’re in control.
I give this to you.
When we see this played out so many times in the Psalms, The Psalms have changed my life as as it has millions of people as we just kinda read through the words of David and and his continual surrender and and the active effort that it takes, the posture it takes to say, god, you are you are god, and I am not and I will worship you, and I’ll clarify you through it all in everything in my life.
And, uh, that is that is something that’s ongoing.
It’s through sanctification as we continue to surrender, and I do it very imperfectly daily.
And, uh, it it and I don’t accomplish what I need to do or what I wanna do by the end of the day, not that I’m earning his love anymore, but because it’s out of my gratitude, I just I just want to give it all to him.
How do you remain surrendered to the lord? Month after month, year after year.
I love that question. I love that question because I think it’s it’s underrated.
And I think we we sometimes overvalue the flash in the pan moment.
Uh, the the seed that grows up quickly in the in the bad soil and the rocky soil.
We we kinda value that, and we we we we put it on Instagram and we show our baptism and we count the numbers and we say
that’s right.
What we have done. But but the real question is how do we persevere to the end?
And and and I think I think god’s answer for that.
I think what Jesus wanted from that and the Apostle Paul and many others is for us to do that in church.
I think the church, lowercase c, is set up our local church so that we can become it become gathers of the word that the people gather on a Sunday morning like they have for 2000 years, and we walk with other believers that encourage us that perhaps rebuke us if we need be so that we could we could inspire each other with our own singing, our congregational singing so that we could hear preaching poured on us so that then we can go back out and practice that with our neighbors and with the unbelievers that live in around us.
And then we go back and we gather again, and I think that that weekly gathering is so important and so underrated in affirming our faith and encouraging us and not letting us break loose and and start wondering astray.
many couples that experience the loss of a child also experience the death of their marriage.
The stress, the heartache, The anger, the frustration can just be too much.
What have you and Amber done to maintain your love and your relationship after the loss of river.
Yeah. You’re right. We knew that statistic early on.
We knew it ground 0 in the hospital.
We actually walked out after the doctors told us there’s a 0% chance for River to live.
We we took a walk because we’re waiting on they’re waiting on our decision to tell them to unplug the the the respirator.
So we took a walk in the hospital. We went out to the serenity garden.
And I remember sitting kinda leaning on this bench and we’re just staring just blankly, just in total shock, uh, staring into the serenity garden and we looked at each other and we said statistics say we’re not gonna make it.
Were not going to be a statistic. We will make this work. We’re gonna make a decision.
It was like the most unromantic business agreement that we could have done. But we made a decision.
We made a decision not not not some infatuated, uh, you know, love gays. It was Hey.
We’re gonna make a decision. We are not going to lose this.
We’re gonna keep this together no matter what, and we made that decision that day, and and I’m speaking from 50% of this agreement.
But at but at the same time, I was there in the backyard with River and and at any time, Amber could have said, how could you have done this to our son?
How could you have allowed this to happen in her in her worst moment?
She could have let that slip and she didn’t.
And if she had it, I I don’t know, uh, how well I would have done in defending that, but but she never let that slip.
And so controlling her tongue in those kind of situations was was pretty critical, but we made that decision to love each other.
You also made a a recent announcement that you were going to come off the road and and you recently had your final, your last, music concert, and you made the decision to turn all of your attention to ministry pursuits.
Why did you decide to do that?
Well, you know, I was listening to you talk earlier, Kurt, as you’re talking about uh, what we do after we’re saved and moving forward and gathering with the saints and and reading god’s word and having a a good prayer life, if if we have those components put together and it we’re not it’s never gonna be perfect.
Um, in fact, we we should always have a hunger for to be better in that.
But if you have a a decent prayer life, if you have, uh, a decent council around you of brothers and sisters Uh, if you are reading the word and you you you have a good routine with that and you don’t have any kind of underlying sin lurking around.
If you have those 4 components, then I believe god will show you what you could do through your own desires.
He gives you those desires. He gives you those wants, and he’ll start reducing other desires. Another one and passions.
And I I definitely felt that.
It wasn’t all at once, but I felt over the over this a few years I felt passions reducing in certain areas and raising in other areas.
And I could I could know that that god is giving me a desire to pursue this and not so much this.
And as that slowly happened, this would fall away. First, it was my record label.
I decided to leave the record label, which was a a tough decision for a lot of people around me.
But I felt it because I wanted to, and I and I I had a a good walk with the lord at the time.
And so I think the easiest way to answer it is, uh, why did I leave music? I wanted to.
I wanted to. I I always say you know, Jesus tells a parable in the book of Matthew about the hidden treasure where he says the kingdom of heaven is like treasure and a field.
That a man found. And in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
I always think of it in that terms.
It’s like, I’ve found this treasure, and I can’t wait to tell more people about it.
In in my joy, I’ll do anything.
Like, this interview right here, I love this, and I used to for years, for decades, I interviewed about music.
And it became very boring to me. I wanted to talk about this stuff.
I wanted to talk about the hidden treasure in the field. And I get to do that now.
Praise god for that.
It it makes me think about the the joy with which the the man sold everything he had and bought the field.
It wasn’t like, oh, I’m gonna be a martyr I’m gonna I’m I’m gonna give up all the good life so that I can go and do the right thing.
He was like, you can’t stop me.
There’s there’s there’s there’s there’s all the forces in the universe are not gonna stop me from going after the one thing, the main thing.
The most important thing And, um, you know, I I I I can see that as the treasure of of of the gift of god in Christ And sadly, I can see that for people who don’t treasure their family, the treasure of their wife, bro, sell the whole thing, and buy the field of your wife’s heart, sell everything and buy the field of time to spend with your children while you have it.
I I I I love it.
Good. Um, what
what do you say to the critics who would say, yeah, but but Granger, now that you’ve got the gospel alive inside of you, you you you’ve got this living treasure in in you as a jar of of clay.
So to speak up on stage in front of millions of people, why you could have used it as a platform for the gospel, but you threw that away.
Yeah. It’s a it’s a good question. I’ve I’ve thought about it for a long time.
For years, I’ve thought about that as I wrestled through this this final decision.
Uh, but the problem is not that I have the gospel, and I’m passionate about telling it.
The problem is is that I have a tendency to exalt myself on the stage.
When I’m singing my songs and I’m needing applause and I’m needing people to cheer for me and raise up and and put their hands up for my songs that I’ve written I have a problem with that.
And and when I strip that away, and it’s him that I exalt completely, uh, the then I know that I’m I’m not sending in that way.
So the so this is not for anyone else.
This is not a message to say If you’re singing country music, you need to probably quit and go just tell the gospel.
That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I have a personal problem. With needing to exalt myself.
And god, he might redeem that in music with me or not. Either way, it’s for his glory.
I I’d like to finish up with with perhaps the most hopeful thing in your book, which is the ability to grieve terrible loss with hope.
Um, you you talk about the difference between moving on and moving forward. Explain that.
Yep. Yeah. There there could be this idea that You just need to move on.
You just need to forget it. You need to forget them.
You need to you know, I know families that will, like, uh, erase a room, a bedroom, and take all the stuff out and make it into a guest room and just make it like they’d never existed.
And I know other people that’ll make a shrine out of that room and you get you gotta go in there and practically worship the the person that’s deceased.
But but the reality is you don’t have to move on away from it.
You could move forward with them.
And, uh, and and so through us, Amber and I, um, being able to take Little River’s legacy forward, and we talk about him all the time.
And so sometimes it’s Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we laugh.
And in fact, these days, a lot more times, we laugh remembering things that he did or things that he said.
And we we can move forward with them in our lives.
And and I believe as Christians as we grieve with hope towards a a a greater story, a greater redemption that we know god has written and planned for us.
And so we say, praise god.
It hurts when it when when we lose somebody, it hurts, and sometimes it hurts bad, but we can grieve with hope that there is a future that this is not our only life there’s a much better one.
This is not our home, and, uh, the there’s nothing more important than that when you’re grieving.

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