Jesus Calling Podcast

Don’t Run Away, Run to God: Granger and Amber Smith & Chiquis Rivera

Granger Smith: There is a meaning and there’s a purpose for everything. For every child of God, there’s a meaning and a purpose. There’s God’s will. But a human response is to say, “Well, I am mad at God. I don’t know. Why? How did this happen?” If we fought the world and questioned everything and…

Amber Smith: …turned our back on God…

Granger: …turned our back on God and got mad at Him, that was going to do some serious damage to our future. I felt that.

Amber: I think the thing that we did was we ran to Him. 

Granger: Yeah.

Amber: We just ran to Him, and He’s just carried us for these last two years. He’s just carried us.

Don’t Run Away, Run To God: Granger and Amber Smith & Chiquis Rivera – Episode #289

Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Perhaps the biggest thing that contributes to having a happy and fulfilling life is faith. Our guests this week can attest to that—even though they’re talented, attained fame, and are adored by millions, they each say that the only thing that has gotten them through their life, brought them where they are today, and continues to sustain them in their faith. 

Are you having trouble living in faith? Has your past been difficult and you’re struggling to see where God has shown up for you? Even though it may seem impossible, you can still live in faith. You can take that first step by just talking to God. Tell Him your hopes, your fears, your disappointments. And as you develop that relationship with Him, you won’t be afraid to dream bigger dreams, to imagine that your life can be better, to believe that any sadness that envelops you now can be replaced by peace one day. When we believe things can be better and that God will fulfill His purpose in our lives, we begin to develop a faith that is unstoppable and will carry us through every challenging season. 

Here to share more about what it means to have an unstoppable faith is country singer Granger Smith and his wife Amber, and singer/songwriter and author Chiquis Rivera. Let’s start with Granger and Amber’s story of how they clung to their faith when they faced the hardest thing any parent can face—the loss of a child. 

Granger Smith: Faith was a big part of my upbringing. In fact, my mom always says that she read the entire New Testament to me when I was nursing, and she loves to repeat that story. And you know, we were a church-going family, and a lot of times begrudgingly put on the nice clothes, me and the brothers, you know, all dirty going to church and squirming around in the pew and Dad squeezing our wrist and trying to tell us to stop making noises. It was always a big focus. 

I got baptized when I was in confirmation class, twelve years old in the Methodist Church. And it was a big part of my upbringing and who we were, and my parents were just rocks in that aspect. 

Building a Foundation of Faith

Granger: As you left the nest, left the family, you go on and you start seeing the world and you start learning things and you start reading books that kind of contradict what you thought you knew that the scriptures told you. And then you meet worldly people and you meet people outside of the faith and you think, There’s a whole new world out there. 

As I went to Nashville and started hanging around with all these musicians, I would drift. And it probably wasn’t until we started we got married and started having kids that we realized that maybe we should reel this in a little bit and revisit God.

Amber Smith: I grew up going to an Episcopal church with my mom. I’d say after I was five years old, my parents got a divorce, and after that, we just went sporadically. And I always tell people I went to church, I knew of God, I knew of Jesus, but I didn’t have them in my heart. I had no idea that Jesus died for me and would forgive me of all my sins. I just wasn’t told, you know, that He loved me and I was forgiven and so precious in His eyes. I was never told that. 

So I very much lost my way and growing up through my teens and early twenties, I was lost. I was very lost. And as Granger said, you know, you get into the world and you have so many worldly things, worldly people pulling at you, and I just didn’t know what I believed anymore. 

I think until Granger and I met—and I think it was when we got married and we took those vows before God—I always said I didn’t think I was ever going to get married because I came from lots of divorces. And when I finally made that commitment before God, I think that is when my faith started to make a turn, and it was gradual. And then as we started having babies, we started to read, you know, devotionals or read the Bible or pray together.

“I always said I didn’t think I was ever going to get married because I came from lots of divorce. And when I finally made that commitment before God, I think that is when my faith started to make a turn, and it was gradual.” – Amber Smith

Granger: When you hold little humans, you know, and you realize that they depend on you for so much, and you look into their eyes and you see the reflection of you and you see your genetics and you see their eyebrows that kind of look like yours and cheekbones that look like hers—it’s just such a miracle. God is undeniable in a baby. And the more and more you hold that baby and you realize the responsibility you have, then I would realize my responsibility now is to show them the foundation that I had when I was growing up.

“When you hold little humans, you realize they depend on you for so much. And you look into their eyes and you see the reflection of you.” – Granger Smith

Owning Your Story, Even When It Hurts

Amber: I feel like we were in a really good place. We were living in our “dream” home if you can say that. Granger’s career was booming, you know, the kids were happy. We were really, really digging into our faith, reading in the mornings. You know, we were devoting time to praying together. I just feel like we were doing everything, it just felt right. We just felt like we were in the right space. 

And that’s when tragedy happens, a lot of times for a lot of people. 

A lot of that day, I don’t remember. Granger had to remind me of some of it after the fact. I think it’s just the shock of everything. 

I remember looking at River, and I got him out of his high chair, and I remember thinking, He needs to go to bed. It was such a beautiful day outside. We had the doors open. My daughter wanted to take Granger outside to tell him a secret, I think, out there, but the boys wanted to follow. It had been a stressful day for me, which he reminded me of. And I went to go take a shower, so I got River down, let them go outside. 

And at one point, Granger called me maybe just before I got in the shower and said, “Can you take the boys inside?” 

And I was like, “I need a minute, I need to just go take a shower.” 

And I didn’t. I didn’t do it. 

Then the next thing I remember was I had just gotten out of the shower and sat on the bed, and I heard my daughter scream. We had the doors open, and our room was a little bit back in the house. So all I could hear was “River” and “pool.” And so in my mind, I’m thinking He’s still in the water. I’m going to run out. I don’t know how he got out of the gate, but I’m going to run out. I’m going to grab him. He’s going to be fine. 

And I was running and I remember I think I yelled, “Where’s Daddy?” But as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I looked and I saw Granger and he was already doing CPR on River. 

Granger: I just pulled him out, and Amber came out shortly after. My daughter and I ran together, and I told her to run and go get our phones. We didn’t have phones or anything on us. So Amber had to go back in and search for a phone to call 9-1-1.

Amber: So we took turns doing CPR for about ten minutes before the ambulance got there. We were trying to get the kids away and the ambulance arrived. They got his heartbeat back. So we were excited. We were hopeful. We thought, My gosh, this is just a scare. He’s going to be fine. So we rushed into the car, went to the hospital, and then we spent the next three days there at the hospital. 

Granger: And at that point, we were thinking more along the lines of, How did this happen? How did he get in the gate? Man, we really dodged a bullet. That’s what we were thinking.

Amber: He would make little movements, little twitches, you know, and I remember our doctor or nurse telling us any movement is good. So we were hopeful, you know, little movements, and we realized later those were the start of seizures. 

We did a lot of praying. And I think it was twelve hours later, but the doctor came in and said, “I’m so sorry. There’s no brain activity at all. There’s zero chance of recovery.” 

And we just said, “We want a second opinion. We want a second opinion, a third opinion.” We asked for a second opinion and then a third, and we have three different neurology teams that were monitoring him for those two days. And every time they would come in and just say, “I’m so sorry, there’s zero chance.”

Granger: A lot of people were texting during this time. But I remember one specific text that sticks out to me. And he said, “Don’t unplug those machines. Don’t listen to these doctors. The Lord will heal this child. If you finally get all man’s hands out of it and let humans get out of there, it’ll give God His opportunity to perform this miracle and He will bring this child back. Don’t listen to anyone else. Just pray and trust.” And I just overwhelmingly felt, That’s wrong. That’s not what [I feel] the Holy Spirit is telling me right now. 

Amber: Not that He can’t. 

Granger: Not that He can’t. Not that He wouldn’t. But that wasn’t my story. It wasn’t River’s story. And the only way I could explain that is the peace that came over me. And I just said, “No, that’s not my prayer. My prayer is not to heal this child no matter what.” I wanted it to be, desperately. But that’s not what came out of my mouth. My prayer was, “God, help me make the right decision in this moment right now for my family. Help me put one foot in front of the other to fulfill Your purpose. To manifest Your promise to me right now and to this family. I need strength just to take one breath and put one foot in front of the other. And I’ll follow Your lead because I’m not in control here.”

“My prayer was, “God help me make the right decision in this moment right now for my family. I’ll follow Your lead because I’m not in control here.’” – Granger Smith, on praying over the life of his three-year-old son River

The Peace That Surpasses All Understanding

Amber: For some reason, when I sat on the edge of that bed, I was able to whisper to River, “If you could fight, come back to us. But if you can’t, I can give you back.” You know, I would have never said that without the faith that we had been developing. 

And then God placed on me to donate River’s organs. I would have never said that if we hadn’t been growing in our faith. So it is that peace that surpasses all understanding. And like we said, it’s not that God can’t perform miracles, but that wasn’t our story. And we had to surrender and just listen to what the Spirit was telling us and be strong for each other and for our children. And that’s what we did. 

Granger: We both have expressed to each other this peace that we had that day, that in hindsight, if it wasn’t for that peace, we couldn’t have made any kind of these decisions.

Amber: I think the thing that we did was we ran to Him. Yeah, we just ran to Him and He’s just carried us for these last two years. He’s just carried us and, you know, we’ve done a lot of growing and a lot of healing in these two years. But if you believe like we do that God is sovereign, then River had three years on this Earth and all of our days are numbered and we have to surrender to that and accept that. And then just do the next best thing to try to move forward to still continue to grow our faith. 

When we lost Riv, we had this vision of, “We’re gonna get to see him, we’re gonna get to hold him.” And while that’s still true, it’s shifted. And it’s not about our family any more, it’s just about praising Him.

“We ran to God, and He’s just carried us for these last two years.” – Amber Smith, on the death of her three-year-old son River

Narrator: To keep up with Granger and Amber and see how God continues to work in their lives, follow them on their social media pages.  

We’ll be right back with Chiquis Rivera’s story, right after this brief message. 

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Narrator: Chiquis Rivera is a Latin GRAMMY-winning recording artist, a New York Times bestselling author, and the host of a successful reality TV show. Amid the accolades and achievements, Chiquis has had to work through the trauma of being sexually abused as a child by her father, her complex relationship with her mother, legendary Latin pop star Jenni Rivera, and the toll that being a popular celebrity has taken on her home life. She shares how her faith is the one constant that has kept her going through it all.

Chiquis Rivera: So I’m the eldest of five. It’s three sisters, two brothers, and I always grew up with that pressure of being the eldest. And I would always ask my mom, like, “Mom, why am I the oldest? Why do I have to be so responsible?” She always embedded in me that I had to be an example to my siblings, that I had to lead them, keep them together, and I always felt this pressure. She would always say, “Well, I don’t know. God chose you for a reason. You have to ask Him, talk to Him. Talk to God.”

My mom always had her Bible on her desk, and she would write notes always wanting to be a better version of herself. So I always saw and heard of God in my home since I was little. And it was a thing, going to church on Sundays. And after we would go to church on Sundays, we’d go to McDonald’s and buy—you know, back then, the cheeseburgers were thirty-nine cents, so that would be our after church meal for the rest of the day. So we have very beautiful memories with that, you know? 

A Bond and Brokenness Between Mother and Daughter

So the relationship with my mom, Jenni Rivera, was a beautiful relationship, and like every relationship, we had our ups and downs. I think that what played a huge role was that my mom and I were only fifteen years apart. She had me two weeks before her sixteenth birthday. She wasn’t ready for me, but she made herself ready. She was just so focused on her education and wanting to finish high school, and she had so many plans for her life. So I think that the pressure of just living and going to school and working at the same time was a lot, so we had a complicated relationship. Now I understand and I’m like, Wow, this is why I’ve waited so long to have children of my own, not only because I helped my mom raise my siblings, but also because I wanted to heal and mend that relationship between my mom and me.  

My mom didn’t start getting really famous until I was a little older, in my twenties, but she started singing when I was, I don’t know, ten. And I was her fan from day one. I remember going to school and having a binder, and it was like where do you have that little plastic in the front. I used to put my mom’s picture there and I would tell people at school, all the kids at school, like, “My mom is going to be famous one day,” and they would laugh at me and make fun of me. And I had so much faith in her from the very beginning.

“I would tell the kids at school, ‘My mom is going to be famous one day,’ and they would laugh at me and make fun of me. I had so much faith in her from the very beginning.” – Chiquis Rivera

It had its beautiful things, being the daughter of a famous woman, and it obviously had not so beautiful things. She was the mother and father at home. She was the breadwinner. So I became the second mother for my siblings and I helped her. I was her assistant. So things just took a turn. You know, just the way life is sometimes, unexpected things always happen. So she had to go out and travel and work, and sometimes she wasn’t there for holidays, she wasn’t there for birthdays, and I know growing up that was difficult for us.

I think I was very hard on my mom, and now I can admit that I was. I always felt like sometimes I had to be her mom, you know, because we were so close in age that I had no other choice but to grow up fast and mature fast and do things that, you know, a fifteen-year-old girl shouldn’t be doing, like staying home instead of hanging out and going to the movies. I had to stay home with my siblings. 

Well, sometimes my mom went out with her friends, and I’d kind of get frustrated and I resented her a little bit for that. I felt like the mother. And sometimes when she would step in and try to be the mother, I wouldn’t be okay with that. At the end of the day, I knew she was mom, and whatever she said went, but I felt so territorial over our home, over my siblings because that’s all I knew and I had so much responsibility. 

But now that she’s gone, I understand her now more than ever, and I tell her every now and then, “Mom, I’m sorry. Now I get it. I understand that you had to travel. You had to do this. I was the person that you leaned on the most.” And sometimes because I was so close to her in some way, I was sort of like a punching bag. But now I get it. Now I understand. 

I think my mom had a lot to do with the fact that I never felt sorry for myself when we went through the whole thing with the sexual assault, sexual abuse with my dad. I thank her so much for not questioning me. She believed me as soon as I told her. Now, I think when we’re in a situation because, yes, I’ve gone through divorce and I lost my mom twice—I always say this—she passed in December of 2012. But we stopped talking in October of 2012. She’d completely shut me out of her life. And that was a very difficult moment for me because I had literally put my life on hold, all my dreams, to make her dreams come true, to help her with my siblings, and I was happy there. I really thought that I was going to be there for the rest of my life helping her. I felt that I was born to be there for my mom. I was okay with being in her shadow, being behind the scenes. So when all these things happen in my life, of course, it drops me to my knees. And I always say, like, when life drops you on your knees, you’re already there, you might as well pray. And that’s what I’ve always done throughout those moments, I always keep my eyesight focused at the light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s just like, Okay, wait for a second, everything’s going to be okay. I breathe through it. There are moments when I’m like, Oh no, I don’t think I can do this.

“When life drops you on your knees, you’re already there, you might as well pray. And that’s what I’ve always done throughout those moments. I always keep my eyesight focused at the light at the end of the tunnel.” – Chiquis Rivera

But for me, it’s just in those moments where you are in a dark place because we all go through it. It’s really just being intentional and knowing that everything will be okay. Just keep your eyesight focused at the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s easier said than done, guys. It definitely is. I know that firsthand, but everything that we go through teaches us something. It’s like the rainbow after the storm, we have to look forward to, the rainbow, you know? It’s real. 

The Secret for Getting Through Hard Times

People ask me, “Chiquis, what’s your secret? What is your formula to success?” And I share it all the time, every single day, as much as I can on my social media. It’s literally my faith. I explain everything that has happened in the last six years. I talk about my divorce. I talk about a lot of things that have been said in the media, a lot of things that aren’t true, a lot of things that are true. But now I am explaining it in my own words at my time.

“People ask me, ‘Chiquis, what’s your secret? What is your formula to success?’ And I share it all the time, every single day, as much as I can on my social media. It’s literally my faith.” – Chiquis Rivera

For me, I have a huge responsibility with the platform God has given me, and I’m very well aware that everything I have is because of God, because of His grace. And I keep that in mind. It helps humble me and keep me grounded every single day. 

For me, truth over fame is everything. It’s always checking in with my heart, keeping myself accountable and asking myself, “Is my heart in the right place before I speak?” Before I say anything, I check myself because sometimes being in this limelight, being in the eye of the media, of everyone really—it can really take you into a dark place if you allow it. So I always have to make sure that I’m speaking my truth. 

I have this other phrase that I always use: “What comes from the heart reaches the heart.” So I try to always just not have anything planned, just literally speak from my heart and speak from experience and always remember that everything that I have can be taken away, and always glorify God in everything that I do. That’s my promise to Him when I won my Latin GRAMMY. I woke up that day and I said, “God, if I win this GRAMMY, I promise to say Your name among all these people that are watching because I would not be here if it wasn’t for You.” 

So to me, it’s so important in everything that I do that God is mentioned, because in reality, with everything that I’ve faced in my life, if it wasn’t for my faith, I just would not be here. There’s just no way. What makes me unstoppable? It’s really no secret. It is my faith. It definitely is.

“I’m very well aware that everything I have is because of God, because of His grace. And I keep that in mind. It helps humble me and keep me grounded every single day.” – Chiquis Rivera

Staying Close to God

You know, when I feel closest to God are those days when I wake up and I make Him a priority, which means not looking at my emails and my text messages or Instagram before I speak to Him in the morning, that makes the biggest difference for me. When I do that, I feel like my day just goes so much smoother. And when I don’t try to fit God into my schedule, everything else goes around Him, around my faith, it’s something that I think has helped me. 

I have this most of the time, unshakable faith where it’s like, Okay, no matter what, I know, everything is going to be okay. And it may sound cliche, but everything does happen for a reason and God does have a perfect plan. And I tell myself that throughout the day or when I’m going through hardships, I always tell myself, “This too shall pass. This too shall pass. It’s only for a moment. Something good is coming out of this.” 

And there are days when my faith isn’t as high, you know? But I’m very intentional about having that connection every single day, doing my best to have that connection because doing what I do, being in the limelight, sometimes the pressure of the media, of the followers, you’re so exposed, I’ve exposed my life and the opinions and the critics, they sometimes get to you. You know what I mean? So for me, it’s super important that God is first and comes first in my life so that I can sustain everything that life throws at me because life, it’s up and down. Honestly, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions and sometimes you’re good and sometimes you’re not. And I’ve learned that that’s just a part of life and it’s a part of our evolution. And if we’re not changing, then there’s something wrong, you know, we have to change. For me, it is, like I said, very important to have that connection on a daily basis.

“I have this most of the time, unshakable faith where it’s like, Okay, no matter what, I know, everything is going to be okay.” – Chiquis Rivera

My plan for your life is unfolding before you. Sometimes the road you are traveling seems blocked, or it opens up so painfully slowly that you must hold yourself back. Then, when time is right, the way before you suddenly clears—through no effort of your own. What you have longed for and worked for I present to you freely, as pure gift. You feel awed by the ease with which I operate in the world, and you glimpse My Power and My Glory.

Do not fear your weakness, for it is the stage on which My Power and Glory perform most brilliantly. As you persevere along the path I have prepared for you, depending on My strength to sustain you, expect to see miracles—and you will. Miracles are not always visible to the naked eye, but those who live by faith can see them clearly. Living by faith, rather than sight, enables you to see My Glory. 

As I was reading that passage, it reminded me of something that I read a long time ago that faith is intangible. It’s not something that you can touch or you see or you smell. It’s just something that you know, because you know that God has you, God has your back. And that has been literally my motto, Okay, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I have faith. I have faith that everything is going to turn out the way that it needs to turn out, that God is helping me with everything in my favor. 

And that’s what I love about this passage, because yes, we all are going to go through hardships and moments that, as I said, we fall to our knees. But it’s in those moments that we really get to know God and that we really have that opportunity to get close to Him. It’s those moments that faith really kicks in and it makes all the difference in the world. 

Narrator: You can find Chiquis Rivera’s latest book, Unstoppable, wherever books are sold. 

Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we hear from Linda Davis and Lang Scott, American country music singers whose love for each other and God has created blessings beyond their imaginations. Lang shares how he believes God orchestrated a plan for their lives even as they were struggling through their music careers.

Lang Scott: As we get older, you will find this out: it’s way easier to look back and see where God placed people in your lives. I refer to those as “critical crossroads” in your life, you know, and you can look back after a few decades and you can identify those pretty easily. 

For me, I met the gentleman who was the judge at that talent contest and had I not met him, I would not have come to Nashville. I would have not met my wife, my soulmate through life. And you know, we would not have had our children and there wouldn’t be a Lady A, you know, there wouldn’t be a Riley Jean, our youngest daughter who is still going to go out and set the world on fire. So, yeah, to look back and be able to identify, you know that it’s God orchestrating your life.

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