Matthew West Has 'Something to Say'
By Heidi Krumenauer
CBNmusic Guest Writer
2007 was shaping up to be what Matthew West thought would be the best year of his music career. But without warning, Matthew’s best-laid plans turned upside down with an annual trip to the doctor’s office.
“Everything was lining up perfectly. I had a new record label. I was getting ready to make a new album. I had written new songs. I had tour opportunities. But my life has this common thread that as soon as I make plans, something is thrown my way that changes them,” says Matthew.
In April, he visited the doctor for a checkup on his voice. Matthew was shocked to learn that he had a vascular polyp and hemorrhaged blood vessels on his vocal chords. On May 17, he had surgery on his vocal chords and began an uncertain journey, wondering if his voice would be restored and if his musical ministry would continue.
“I went from seeing the sky as the limit to everything being shut down and coming to a screeching halt.”
In the beginning of his recovery, Matthew was discouraged. “I just kept thinking ‘here I go again’. Nothing in my career has come without a lot of trials and a lot of setbacks and pain. I just really felt that I’d been praying that prayer, ‘God keep me in the center of your will. That’s where I want to be and where I want to spend my life.’ And in my human mind, I just kept thinking this can’t be where God wants me. I’m supposed to be using my gifts for Him and getting up on stage and singing these songs I’ve written.”
Matthew worried about how he would provide for his family if the recovery was not successful. “I had concerns like anybody who can’t do the job that they do. I wondered how I would provide for my family, and then God gently reminded me that I never provided for my family, but He did. God, one by one, addressed every single concern I had and He left me with peace during my difficult time.”
With his one-year-old daughter just learning to speak and relying on verbal cues from those around her, Matthew struggled with not being able to communicate with her in the way he was accustomed to. Using a dry erase board was the only way he could verbalize his words, but he soon realized the importance of eye contact and the need to show affection like never before.
“I found an intense desire to communicate my love to my wife and daughter in new ways. My means of communication was taken away, but it occurred to me that’s how God tries to get our attention,” he said. “My family had a tough time, but my wife kept it all together. She had to read my mind sometimes because my handwriting was so bad.”
Matthew admits his ordeal really shook his foundation and challenged his faith. “I wish I could say my faith never wavered. I knew the scriptures. I knew it, but I was still afraid. More than anything, though, I knew I had to be honest in my faith to God. He already knew my heart, and if I tried to put up a front He’d see through it. And so would the people who would listen to my music.”
Matthew was often reminded of how God works in our lives after he heard his pastor quoted C.S. Lewis. ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, He speaks in our conscious, and He shouts in our pain.’
During his season of silence, Matthew found guidance from Psalms 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” Matthew learned that it wasn’t just about being still, it was about being silent.
“I found myself going deeper in my quiet times with God, and I found the true definition of a quiet time. I became so aware of how one-sided my conversations with God tend to be. By one-sided I mean it’s me talking to God by sending up prayer requests or giving Him praise. I realized I would wind up staying in the presence of God just long enough to do the talking that I wanted to do. And through this season I realized that, maybe just maybe, about the time I’m done doing all the talking, God’s saying ‘stay a while. I’ve got something to say to you.’ My core prayer became, ‘God, you do all the talking. I want to hear from you. I've really got nothing here. I don’t even have a voice.’”
On January 15, Matthew released his third studio album, Something to Say. Strangely, the title was already chosen for the album back in January 2007, three months before his diagnosis.
“It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? Instead of something to say, I had nothing to say. Something in me always realized that God had a sense of humor, but I wasn’t laughing.”
When asked what the title means to him, he said, “Last year I might have said the title would have meant something different. But I had to go through this season to truly understand the significance of this title. Not only do we have something to say as God’s creations, but God has something to say to us. You talk about vital information that I needed to learn before I took a step forward in my career or before releasing this music! I’m so thankful for the problems I’ve faced and the chance to share my story with the world.”
Matthew has adopted a big red megaphone on the cover of his album as a symbol to show that it’s time to rouse a deaf world. “When we begin to realize there’s a purpose in the middle of our pain, it can completely turn us around…and we might end up saying thank you for all these problems,” he said. “I’m certainly filled with gratitude now that I’m standing on the other side of this trial in my life. I can’t overstate how much this season has impacted my worship and the way I live my life every day.”
While Matthew has recovered from his surgery and he is now on tour with the Boomin Beyond Measure Tour with tobyMac and Jeremy Camp, he continues to think about how his season of silence changed his life. In fact, he’s come up with a personal theme for the upcoming year.
“I’ve been through an intense season of brokenness and, for whatever reason, rather than wanting to move on from this, God’s challenging me to stay broken. That’s been a real theme for me. It’s our broken pieces that remind us we don’t have it all together.”
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