The Afters’ Josh Havens: Songs of Hope in Hard Times (Part 2)

The Afters’ Josh Havens: Songs of Hope in Hard Times (Part 2)

John FarrellBy John Farrell12 Minutes

JF: What’s the coolest thing you’ve witnessed while on the road?

Josh: When we get little snapshots into how God uses the music. When we don’t even realize it, God uses it to touch lives in so many cool ways. For instance, we have a song called ‘I’ll Fear No More,’ and people have told us that they’ve printed the lyrics out and put them by their bed. It’s the thing that brings them calm. They’ll read it when they have anxiety or panic and it brings them calm. That reminds me of why we do this.

People have shared stories with us about how God used a song to save their life or save their marriage. That that kind of thing to me is the reason we make music. It’s the reason we do this.

One of my favorite stories is from a show where I had my daughters with me. There was a guy with his five-year-old daughter in the signing line. He waited until everyone had gone though. He came up to us and said, ‘I want to share my story with you. I was a soldier in Afghanistan and was in combat. When I came back, I had PTSD really bad. I got so depressed that I planned to take my own life. I was in the process of actually taking my life when music came on in the background. To this day, I don’t know where it was coming from, but it was your song, ‘Broken Hallelujah.’ Instead of taking my life, I went and got help. Today at your show, when you sang that song I looked down at my five-year-old daughter, who had her hands raised high and was singing every word, and I realized that if God hadn’t used that song at the right moment to save my life, that I wouldn’t be standing here watching my daughter worship that same God.’

When we walked away, one of my daughters said, ‘Now I know why you have to tour. I know why you have to be gone.’

All of those kinds of stories are fuel for the fire. We’re all in this together. We go through a lot of the same things and we can encourage each other. Our part in doing that is to write songs that hopefully can be encouraging in hard times.

JF: What sets your most recent album, ‘Fear No More,’ apart from the previous five?

Josh: Every album has a progression. This album is filled with songs for overcoming and facing hard times. The song ‘Well Done’ deals with when you’ve been through a hard loss of someone and just remembering why we live this life. The song ‘I Will Fear No More’ is like an infinite victory over fear, anxiety, and worry. There are a lot of songs in there that were made for this time that we’re going through right now in the world.

JF: What is the message you want people to take from ‘Well Done’?

Josh: I’ve been through a lot of loss in my life. I lost my dad when I was younger and lost other people who I love. It’s hard when you lose somebody that you love a lot. It’s one of the hardest things to go through in life. My hope with the song is that it would remind people of heaven and that when we’ve lived this life well that we have an eternity with our savior to look forward to.

Hopefully, it will provide comfort to those who have lost someone – to know that they’re in the presence of our savior. There’s a peace that we can have knowing that … thinking about what heaven looks like and that when we go there all the pains and worries of this world are gone and we get to worship our Creator forever. There’s something so calming and peaceful about that. My hope is that the song brings healing, calm, and peace during one of the hardest and most painful times in most people’s lives.

JF: How did the theme for your album, ‘Fear No More,’ and, to a lesser extent, the song develop?

Josh: I feel a lot of anxiety, which is an emotion so many of us feel. I’ve dealt with anxiety since I was a kid and I feel the overall level of anxiety in our world right now is higher than I’ve ever felt it in my life. There’s so much worry happening. We’re concerned about the future.

When we wrote ‘I Will Fear No More,’ we were thinking through some of the things that make us anxious. We wanted to write an anthem of victory over those feelings because God doesn’t want us to live in fear. He wants us to trust Him. God’s been in control since the beginning of time. He’s in control right now and He’s going to be in control forever. We have peace knowing that the One who created the world holds the world in His hands.

Our hope was that ‘I Will Fear No More’ would bring calm and peace. We hope when people hear the song that God’s peace, which passes all of our understanding, will wash over them and calm their minds and hearts. It’s a song I wrote for ourselves because we needed it, but it’s been cool how God has used it as an anthem for so many others too.

JF: When can we expect another album from The Afters?

Josh: We’re working on new music right now. I don’t have a timeframe yet, but we’re working on music as we speak and writing songs. We’re praying for God’s inspiration to give us the right songs. As soon as it’s ready, we’ll put it out.

JF: Which artists have influenced you?

Josh: Growing up I was really into Michael W. Smith. When I was a kid, he was my hero. We were all kind of into Delirious, U2, and Coldplay. Music like that.

JF: What do you like to do outside of music that helps you rejuvenate?

Josh: I love hiking and being outdoors. I love to be in nature. I’m also really involved in my church. I help with the worship at my church a lot. I love helping our worship team and pouring into that team. I love being a part of that.

It’s a different world for churches out there right now because most have gone online only, which is unprecedented in history. This has never happened. This is a historic time. Therefore, I’ve been helping my church maneuver that and figure out how to do that in the best way possible and still be able to shepherd our community. It’s an exciting time because it’s uncharted territory for the church, but God is great and He’s going to continue doing great things to all of them.

JF: Some churches may find that they’ve reached just as many people, if not more, through online worship and drive-in services.

Josh: You can do it from anywhere. I know we need community. It’s not healthy for us not to have community. It’s not a permanent substitute. It’s a way of finding community in the current circumstances. It’s the closest thing we can have to it right now, but ultimately we need to be back gathering together in the future. We the church, we need each other.

JF: What is your personal testimony?

Josh: I was born into a Christian home. My parents literally gave their lives to Jesus the day I was born. A local pastor came out and shared the gospel with them. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started really asking questions about my faith and had a professor who would ask challenging questions about what I believed. That’s what made me make my faith my own and dive into apologetics. I wanted to understand why I believed what I believed.

JF: Where can people find your music and learn more about The Afters?

Josh: We’re on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. There’s a lot of content on YouTube. You can also find us on Spotify and Apple Music. All the places where you find music.

JF: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Josh: I just want to encourage people in these crazy times to let God’s peace that passes all of our understanding just wash over them and to trust God in these times. Know that God is in control right now and He will always be in control. God loves us and is with us and He doesn’t want us to give over to the spirit of fear. He wants us to love like Jesus always. Even in these hard times, this is an opportunity for us to show the world what it truly means to be set apart as a Christian and to believe in God. We can love the world really well right now and we can change the narrative from being a narrative of fear and panic to a narrative of love and generosity. My prayer is that God would turn off fear, turn our anxieties into trust, and turn our worries into reminders of his faithfulness.

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