The God Who Stays

Matthew WestBy Matthew West12 Minutes

Excerpt taken from The God Who Stays: Life Looks Different with Him by Your Side by Matthew West


Chapter 4
God Stays with Imperfect People: Rebels, Prodigals, and Misfit Heroes

I was in the middle of doing one of my many online performances of 2020 when a comment from one of my listeners grabbed my attention. My heart broke as I read the question, “Is God done with me?” and watched it move quickly up my phone screen and slowly vanish into the sea of hearts, waves, fist bumps, and prayer and praise emojis. That sentence cut through everything else that was going on in my studio, and I could feel the despair in it. Lord, please be with this person, I prayed as I continued to sing and smile for the camera. I’ll never know exactly what that person was going through in the moment to make them pose that question, but honestly, I can’t tell you how many times in my life that I have asked that very same thing. In fact, just that morning, moments before I began singing, I was wrestling with how God could use someone as imperfect as me.

That morning I thought about those walks with my family and how God had come to walk with Adam and Eve in the story of Genesis. I reminded myself that God wants to walk with me. God actually likes me. He has designed me uniquely and has a plan for me. And I sang those song lyrics I wrote about the God who actually runs in my direction—and still I was amazed at how frequently I just don’t feel worthy. So many times, I feel like I am moving in the other direction from God. It made me remember the rest of that scripture about God walking in the cool of the day. He was coming toward Adam and Eve, and the Bible says, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8).

They went and hid from God out of guilt and shame for what they had done. They didn’t feel worthy to walk with Him. Doesn’t that capture how we feel some days? You can almost hear Adam and Eve as they hid, both thinking that same thing as the listener I was praying for: Is God done with me? It seems like since the beginning we have been messing up, falling short, and missing the mark. And just like Adam and Eve, we all sometimes feel like we aren’t quite good enough. But why do we all wrestle with that voice?

This belief that we are not worthy of God’s love is a common and destructive way of thinking. It is the voice of an enemy who comes to steal and destroy by separating us from a God who wants to be with us. To keep us hiding from the God who is pursuing us with His unique design for our lives. I have noticed that voice attacking me in three distinct ways.

First, it tells me I am not good enough, not up to the task. I am not a good enough musician and singer, not a good enough dad or husband.

It also comes to me in the form of guilt and shame. Maybe it does for you too. That idea that you are just too sinful, that God isn’t going to get over that one. This voice tells me that my pride is out of control. That I just can’t stop messing up. Which is all part of the lie that God’s forgiveness is not complete. And worst of all are the whispers that we are too broken for God to fix. We’ve messed up too many times. God can’t use us because of our brokenness.

I do find some comfort talking and praying with my peers and bandmates, my accountability partners and friends, and they remind me that these are the things that they deal with too. The struggle is real!

It has been so many years since that blue couch. So many ups and downs. I know that God is always moving in my direction, but I’ve often wondered if I have kept Him at arm’s length because of my own guilt and shame. How could I show up for God if I spent my time believing I didn’t measure up? Could I help someone asking, “Is God done with me?” when there were moments that I wrestled with the same question? If He made me with a plan and a purpose, why did I feel so guilt-ridden and unworthy of His love? How could God use someone like me? I kept thinking about those three lies that the world uses to separate us from God: You aren’t quite good enough. God won’t be able to get over that one. God can’t use someone as broken as you are. We simply can’t allow ourselves to be defined by those words.

This made me think back to the beginning of my music career. When I first moved to Nashville, I assumed I would get signed to a deal right away. I figured that if I just knocked on the record label door they would open it, shake my hand, have me sign some papers, and bam, I’d be the next Johnny Cash! Instead, I faced flat-out rejection for three years straight. Every single record label I auditioned for turned me down. And it was always, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Occasionally, because I wanted to learn and improve my auditions, I would make the mistake of asking the record executives what they didn’t like about me. The list was always longer than I expected. I let the rejection from these critics crush me: “You’re not quite good enough, not quite talented enough, not quite charismatic enough, and not quite handsome enough . . .” I always laughed when they would add “quite” to the “not,” like that was supposed to make me feel better! I joke sometimes now that I had many nights lying in my bed and crying out to God, “Lord, I know that last one is not true! I know you have blessed me with these Matthew McConaughey looks for a reason, and I will not hide this face under a bushel!” (That one usually gets a pretty good laugh in front of a live audience.) But man, the rejection was real. And too often, I allowed those words to define me instead of recognizing God’s voice in my life.

My good friend Mark Hall from Casting Crowns and I wrote a song about dealing with rejection and the voices that tell you you’re just not quite enough to measure up. We talked about how much this mindset can get in the way of embracing God’s love. I remember as we wrote it, I was joking about always being the last kid picked for the kickball team and how I was always made fun of as a kid because of my weight. Mark opened up about having undiagnosed dyslexia and how it made him feel stupid and unworthy. The world can make you feel inadequate. We wrote and released a song that spoke right to the heart of the lie that we don’t belong and to the truth that God sees things differently than we do. Like it says in Ephesians 2:10, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are created to do good works! Still, it can be so hard to remember that God has a different view of us than the world does. Is it possible I am listening to the wrong voices for encouragement?

You would think that growing up in the church as a pastor’s kid would have helped prepare me for a career in Christian music. You get to see some unsuspecting people act in really mean ways. And when I was young there was always the expectation to behave and talk and look a certain way because I was the preacher’s son. Sometimes I didn’t live up to that. But I have to be honest about the grace thing. I didn’t realize until I was older that I wasn’t offering those folks I saw at church a lot of grace. And in the same way I didn’t offer a lot of grace to myself.

Taken from The God Who Stays: Life Looks Different with Him by You Side by Matthew West. Copyright 2022 by Matthew West. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.

Order your copy of The God Who Stays: Life Looks Different with Him by Your Side by Matthew West