INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Aaron Shust: Morning Rises
By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com Senior Producer
Known for “My Savior My God” and “My Hope Is In You”, singer/songwriter Aaron Shust is not new to penning faith-affirming and God-glorifying songs. In his new record, Morning Rises, the Pennsylvania-based worship leader hopes to encourage believers to hold onto God’s mercies for they are new every morning.
Recently, Shust spoke with CBN.com about the new record, Morning Rises, how he processed the difficult news he received when his son was born and the saving grace we all can find in God.
HG: Morning Rises is as a collection of worshipful and celebratory songs. You’re quoted as saying they’ve been ‘therapeutic’ to your soul. How so?
AS: I’ve recently been struck by the story of Job. What makes Job’s story so powerful is not that he dropped to his knees and prayed for deliverance, and I’m sure he did. It’s not that he dropped to his knees and prayed, “God, help me. God, save me from this situation.” Even in that case he’d be acknowledging God as savior and provider and deliverer. But what struck me, and I think what makes Job’s story so powerful is that he praises. In the midst of his affliction, in the midst of his tragedy, he chooses praise.
In Job 1:21, he says the famous quote, “God gives, God takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” In chapter 2, he tells his wife, “Should we only accept the good from the Lord and not the bad?” At the end, in chapter 42, he acknowledges that no one can thwart God’s plans. He says that to God. ‘You are God. No one can thwart your plans.’ And so, I’ve been struck by praise, that that was his response.
I wrote this yesterday morning in a margin of this book that I’m reading, “Praising God is like pushing apart the clouds, allowing his light to penetrate our darkness.” I’m not trying to quote myself, but I just had this thought and I’m like, for me, that’s what praising God is like. It’s almost like when you raise your hands in the air, you’re pushing apart the clouds, allowing the light that’s already there to penetrate into our darkness. So, it’s been incredibly therapeutic for me to say, you know what, no matter what’s going on, I’m going to praise.
HG: Hence the song “God of Brilliant Lights,” right?
AS: Yeah. “Breaking through the darkness.” That chorus in “God of Brilliant Lights.” He’s identified in James 1:17 as “the God of the heavenly lights, the God of the sun, the moon, the stars.” That’s what this refers to. “The God of brilliant lights is shining down over us, breaking through the darkness, covering all the earth. His love is like an ocean.”
It’s the love of God that we’re talking about. It’s all of the characters of God, quite frankly. It’s the peace of God. Just as we describe light, it’s everything combined together, all the colors, to create this light. It’s all of the characteristics of God that create what we call the capital ‘L’, “Light,” at least as I interpret it, the Light of God, the Light of the world. His characteristics are so contrary to the characteristics that are innate in us. That’s what makes Him holy. That’s what makes Him completely other.
HG: “Mighty Fortress”, a new song on Morning Rises, is one you wrote with Paul Baloche. How did that song come about?
AS: That song’s the first one I began to write two days before my youngest was born, Michael. He was born last January. Lo and behold, two days before he was born, I started sitting in the back of my sunroom. It’s January in Pennsylvania; it’s freezing. We have this sunroom, and as long as the sun’s out, it can actually hit up to 80 degrees, so, I love working there in the winter time.
I’m working on this song based on that verse, ‘Fix your eyes upon Jesus. Just focus on Him, set your mind on things above, set your eyes on things above, not on earthly things.’ And I started thinking about, OK, what characteristics of God? What can I bank on that He will never do? We often talk about what He is and what He will do, but let me think about what He will never do. He won’t abandon, He won’t deceive, He won’t desert us, and I’m trying to make them rhyme, of course, so…He won’t ever leave. He’ll never deny us, He’ll never forsake us, He won’t ever run, He’ll never reject us.
So, I’m throwing these things down and I started this song that I just really began to fall in love with, and it’s the verses of “Mighty Fortress.” I wrote a chorus for it that meant a lot to me. Two days later, my boy is born and in the hospital we find out pretty quickly that he has Down Syndrome. We didn’t know that ahead of time; that he has a major heart defect, and he was going to require open heart surgery in the very near future. It was just a lot to take in one day when you have these expectations and these hopes and these dreams for a healthy baby.
We had these ideas and these dreams about what he would look like and what he would be. For a short season, we felt like we were handed somebody else’s baby. A dear friend, Jeremy Thiessen, who was the drummer for Downhere, his boy who’s four years old has Down Syndrome. He’s a dear friend. And he gave me some advice that day, because I called him up and told him that I joined his club.
He said, “Brother, you need to allow yourself, you and your wife, to grieve the death of lost dreams so that you can make room to dream up all new ones for your boy.” And that was so healing for us because we were going through this sad grieving process and on top of that, feeling bad for grieving whenever we have a new life that’s come into this world, and into our family, that we were able to shift our grief to.
You know what, we need to grieve the death of the lost dreams so that we can dream up all brand new dreams for little Michael. And he’s been such a blessing. To go back to that song, that song was my bedrock. It was my sanity during those days in the hospital; he spent 10 days in the NICU. Just to be able to sing, “God, you won’t abandon.” I remember crying, singing these words or saying them… “You won’t abandon, you won’t deceive, you won’t desert us, you won’t ever leave.” I had to stand on those promises. So, fast forward, this song has become so important to me because of the chorus.
Nobody in the record label, in the team that was helping me choose these songs, nobody really liked my chorus. And I kept shifting it, “We still don’t really care for it.” I would change it. I would completely alter it. Reinvent it. Nobody was digging it. So, one day I had this epiphany. I think Paul Baloche would totally slay this song in a good way. He would totally kill it. So we connected; we got together in Nashville, and I played him the song and he said the same things, “Man, I love those verses but the chorus doesn’t really grab me. Let’s try to write a new chorus.”
So, I finally relented. On a rainy afternoon in Nashville, during those first three hours, we had nothing. We just talked. We got to know each other. We talked about home, our life stories and where God’s taken us. Finally in that last hour, something crept forward and he started singing the first few words of that first line, “A mighty fortress is our God.” It’s a completely different direction from where I was taking it initially, but it was so true. To be able to sing about all the things that we can bank on, characteristics that he would never embrace, and then to sing about his might and his power, and his strength in the chorus was pretty strong for me.
HG: Morning Rises speaks to hope and promise. For what do you hope?
AS: Day to day, I hope for God’s mercies that are new every morning. I say hope, not as, “Oh, I wish, I wish.” I believe. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” We read that in Hebrews 11:1. So, I have hope that God’s mercies are new every morning.
I also look forward to the restoration of all things. I look at the sickness that my two boys deal with, and I look forward to knowing that one day we will not have to deal with sickness. We will not have to deal with friendships that are difficult. We will not have to deal with betrayal or lies, or sadness. I look forward to that hope.
I think of that first day after Michael was born. He was born early in the morning, around 4 o’clock. We missed that first sunrise because we were still deep inside the hospital. And that full day after he was born, it seemed like a very, very long day. He was born the 13th, so that sunrise on the morning of the 14th, it was more symbolic to me than any sunrise has ever been. It was that hope of the dawning of the new day.
Some days you just think, “Man, it really needs to end, so I can start over and I can wake up with new hope and say, OK, here we go. God, you are with us, you’ve never left us. Our journey has now begun. This incredibly traumatic day that has changed our lives forever is now over. Today, I can begin the rest of my life, the rest of our lives together.” So when I think of ‘morning rises’, I think of that longing. I remember being awake before the sunrise and just saying, “Come on, sun, pop up. I need that new day, I need those new mercies.” And it’s not that His mercies are not there at 4 a.m., but this is something because of the scripture that we’ve been given, that we know we have that hope with each new day.
HG: Connected to that hope is promise. What has God promised you?
AS: He’s promised us son-ship. We are adopted into his family. All the promises that I tried to squeeze into my last album, This Is What We Believe… I just wanted a list of things that we cling to, the promises that we cling to. That song itself, the title track was just a list of people’s declarations of faith in the New Testament. Peter saying, “You are the Christ, the Anointed One, the Light of the world, God’s only son.” Then in John 1, “In the beginning was the Word.” I think of the centurion at the foot of the cross, that truly this man was the son of God.
Look at John 10:10. “I have come that you would have life, and life abundantly.” He’s not just giving us life in the here and now. He’s not just promising us life eternally. He’s promising us abundant life. Look at the fruit of the Spirit; what does abundant life mean? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. That’s abundance to say that, ‘Hey, I don’t have to go through life without love. Even if I’m not surrounded by earthly love, by friends and family, I have the ridiculous love of God Himself, who loved us first, who loved us while we were sinners and demonstrated His love while we were sinners by dying for us.’
He didn’t have to do that. And on top of that, He gives us peace that passes understanding. He lavishes His love and His gifts on us and we don’t deserve it. Despite what circumstances might be surrounding our lives, we have a promise of a love of a heavenly Father that’s bigger than all that.
Hannah Goodwyn serves as the Family and Entertainment producer for CBN.com. For more articles, visit Hannah's bio page.
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