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Join us on Tuesdays this fall for the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith television show on Circle TV, hosted by country music superstar Lauren Alaina! Each week, we’ll talk with people from all walks of life about their heartaches, their victories, their joy and their pain—and how their faith kept them going through it all. You don’t want to miss it—Tuesdays at 8:30 PM Eastern Time, and re-airing Sundays at 2 PM Eastern this fall on Circle TV.
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Casey: I could tell anybody out there hurting that our go-to, for us, was Christ. Clay, he’s gone. We’ve got great memories. He’s awesome. He’s taught us a lot. But then this whole story has brought us to Christ, and all of a sudden, now we’ve got hope.
After Tragedy, Finding Hope & Freedom in Forgiveness: Casey, C.J., & Tucker Beathard – Episode #220
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. It’s a sad truth that every person is united by a common experience: loss. No matter how long we live, the people we love most will not always be with us. But even as our hearts are scarred by grief, God offers us a cord of hope—because He promises there’s life beyond the one we’re in, and that He’ll walk us every step of the way until we reach our forever home with Him.
We’re joined today by hit country music songwriter Casey Beathard, along with two of his sons—CJ Beathard, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, and country music artist Tucker Beathard. As a close-knit family of seven, the Beathard kids grew up doing homeschooling work side-by-side at the table and spending many afternoons on the sidelines of NFL practice fields and in the studio watching their dad record. But the family of seven became six in December of 2019 as the Beathards lost a son and brother, nineteen-year-old Clay, to a fatal stabbing. As they mourned, the Beathards searched desperately for hope—and the foundation that they had built long ago on faith and family was the bedrock that held them up, while discovering that forgiveness had the power to give life back to their family.
Casey: My name is Casey Beathard, I moved to Nashville back in 1991 to chase a singing and songwriting career in country music. And what a great place to live.
C.J.: My name is C.J. Beathard. I’m the oldest of five. And I play quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
Tucker: And I’m Tucker Beathard, I am the second brother and sibling of five in this family, and I write songs and perform and am a country artist and writer.
An NFL Legacy
Casey: I grew up with a father in the NFL in different capacities. But ultimately, [he was] a scout when I was very young with the Kansas City Chiefs, and they went to the very first Super Bowl. So I went to the very first Super Bowl as just a baby. And so that’s one of my first claim to fames. And then from there, my dad got other jobs—became the player personnel director for the Miami Dolphins, when they had in their heyday, when they went undefeated. The only team ever to be undefeated. And he worked in tandem with the legendary Don Shula. Got players, and Don coached them and they had a great run there. And then he moved up to the general manager of the Redskins. He and Joe Gibbs had a great run there. And from there, the San Diego Chargers and they went back to the Super Bowl there. I grew up in that world of football as a kid, just running around barefoot on football fields. And I didn’t know anything better. And all my heroes, you’d think would’ve been all those football players. But they became so normal to me.
My mom’s thing was singing. So when I wasn’t on a football field or running around, throwing a ball, playing sports as a kid with my brothers, I was singing with my mom, and that was probably my deep-down real passion. But I remember being a kid and thinking, Well, I’m gonna be a football player and a singer at the same time. I didn’t know what I’d be first, but I had a feeling maybe that’s what I wanted to be.
It’s a crazy, blessed life that maybe I even took for granted, to be able to [spend] all my summers, all my days were eating in the cafeteria with a pro football team. Or being on a football field in the afternoon from six years old ‘til I got through college, you know. And then I got to play through college.
So as my dad was still working with the Falcons and and the Chargers, they got to as kids, as gigantic fans of sports—if we weren’t out in San Diego when he was there, we were down in Atlanta when he was there, and [my boys] were doing the same thing I was. That was the one of the coolest things I ever got to witness, was watching what I got to do as a kid them get to do. That was awesome.
C.J.: Oh, yeah. I mean, just growing up around football, it really kind of molded me. That’s what I wanted to do. I mean, I knew at a really young age I wanted to play football in the NFL. And my whole life, any time anybody would ask me from when I was four to high school, my answer never changed. It was like, “I want to play in the NFL.”
And then I went through a phase there in high school my freshman year, I was 5’7”, 113 pounds on my freshman football roster. And people asked me, “What do you want to do?”
“I wanna play football in the NFL.”
People would be like, “Okay, well what if that doesn’t work out?”
I’m like, “It’s going to.” Like, that’s all I had. That’s going to work out. I’m going to get there. And it’s all I wanted to do.
Casey: It was crazy, because he never wavered. You know, the funny thing is that’s like the faith of a child. You know, they don’t even—growing up, he just, “Well I’m gonna do this.”
C.J.: My two favorite players, growing up [were] Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison there with the Chargers, like, the leaders of that team. My grandpa was there, so I just remember growing up and just kind of seeing how they handled themselves. The leaders were in the weight room, like, [seeing] how hard they worked, that was really inspirational to me. I remember that vividly. I remember going to their training camps, watching them on the field, and I would always have a Junior Seau jersey on, and seeing Rodney and Junior and just how awesome they were to us, to the kids. I remember one time we were in California, my grandpa’s house, and Junior Seau came over to his house and hung out with us. And it was just one of those things that really made an impact on me for the rest of my life.
Growing Deep Family Roots
Casey: Susan and I, we didn’t have anything. We didn’t have much. We had a couple dreams and we were chasing it. Everything we did was together.
Tucker: Growing up for us, I mean, I feel super blessed to be right in the middle of two brothers. I mean, me and C.J. are only fourteen months apart. And Clay was two years apart. So always having your best friends around, being able to always keep each other busy, keep competing, and just being outside, I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood or a better situation, to grow up around as many siblings as we did.
C.J.: We were homeschooled for, like, our whole life. So we were always around each other. I mean, me and Tucker would sit at the table, my mom would teach us. And unfortunately for him, we ended up doing the same curriculum. So he had to step it up a little bit. But it was always awesome because we were always together doing school. And I mean, God bless my mom for having to care for four kids.
Tucker: We started our own band.
C.J.: Yeah. Yeah. And then. And then Tucker was unreal at drums at a young age. Clay was a better guitar player than I was. I was three to four years older than Clay, and he was better than I was a guitar, especially at his age. He was in third grade. Tucker was in fifth grade. I was in seventh grade when we started our band. We had a band and we did like school talent shows and stuff. And we actually were really good for our age. Like we wrote our music, made our own songs. They weren’t, like, that good. But it was cool that we made our own music. I was actually the lead singer, I remember begging Tucker, I was like, “Dude, Tucker, Can you be the singer?”
He’s like, “No,I’m the dummer.”
I’m like, “I do not want to sing. But I guess I have to.” So I played guitar and sang. Clay was a guitar player—the more solo guitar guy, really more cool stuff. And Tucker was a drummer. We did shows and even up until high school we did some little fundraiser stuff. And that’s when I kind of get serious with football.
Remembering a Son & Brother
C.J.: Growing up, Clay was the third oldest of our family, the youngest brother. So I mean, I feel like me and Tuck, early on we created a bond because we were always usually on the same sports teams. We’re fourteen months apart, so we did a lot together. And Clay grew up just really, really into athletics as well, also into the music thing.
Casey: Clay, somehow, I mean, he just had, I don’t know, he just had his own thing. He’s just his own thing. His own guy. And it started to become, “Okay, if you guys are going to do that, I’m going to be me. I don’t care what y’all do.” And he was just a really real guy, you know?
C.J.: Realest dude I ever met.
Casey: He told the truth. You know, he said it like it was.
C.J.: If he didn’t believe in something, if he didn’t didn’t agree with something, he was not going to get peer pressured into doing something he didn’t think was right. Which was super cool, because I mean, he was so firm. Like, if everyone was doing something, he’d have no problem sitting there and being like, “Nah, I’m good.”
“If he didn’t believe in something, if he didn’t didn’t agree with something, he was not going to get peer pressured into doing something he didn’t think was right.” – C.J. Beathard on his brother, Clay
People’d be like, “Come on, Clay,”
And he’d be like, “Nah, I’m not about that. That’s not me.” And he had no problem representing the skin he was in.
Tucker: He knew who he was. He knew what he believed. And he knew right from wrong, and he held himself to that standard. And that was also how he showed the ones he cared about the most. I was definitely the one who would get into more things more and trouble. And there were multiple times he would have no problem, like, ripping me. And for me, like, that opened my eyes, you know, that that helped me. And then he really had had a relationship with Jesus and would read the Bible. I mean, shoot.
Casey: From a kid.
Tucker: He was reading Revelation. That was his favorite book. That’s where he based his whatever you wanna call it—foundation, conviction, stubbornness—whatever you want to call it was based on that truth. The truth of the Bible.
Casey: It was always about the right thing, “That’s not right.” And he stood up for it. He always did. He was a kid who’d walk around with Revelation one-liners and a tool belt. He wanted to build stuff, and he wanted to fight. He wanted to be an Army guy. So that’s why we always say right now, he’s doing something in the Lord’s Army. But he wanted to be a Navy SEAL because he wanted to do what was right and fight for the people that were oppressed.
“He wanted to do what was right and fight for the people that were oppressed.” – Casey Beathard, on his son Clay
Tucker: And protect people. He was a protector, too.
Casey: All his friends growing up, if they were underprivileged or oppressed, if he thought that? Those were his guys.
Tucker: He was a light, too. He wouldn’t walk around like a stiff. He had a contagious laugh, like, just energy, friends with everyone. I mean, like just a guy’s guy and just the fun-loving…
Casey: You couldn’t miss him if he walked by. And C.J. still has texts, and Mom’s got texts where, as that guy, when he saw you going off course or doing something wrong, he would tell you this, and he’d always finish with something like, “All right, I’m going to say this one time, and this is what you’re not doing. You’ve got to understand who you are, and what matters, and what this…”
C.J.: Not necessarily going off raw. It was like in the NFL or…
Casey: Just when you’re battling…
C.J.: Yeah, when I was battling, like, I started 0-4 my first four starts, and I was depressed, I was hurt, and it was tough, it was a stressful time of my life. And I remember the text I got from Clay, it was so long, like a book. And it was the best text I’ve ever gotten. And I read it before every game. I mean, it’s just so Clay to a tee, just how he was.
“I look at you, and I’m so inspired. You can be whatever you want to be in the NFL. I look at you, and you’re up there. You can be the best player in the NFL.” And all this stuff that I didn’t necessarily believe in myself. I was like, “Man, this dude.” He ended it with, “Every time you walk on the field, you inspire me.” And that’s just something that every time I walk on the field, that thought is in my head just really helps me.
Casey: His loyalty, it was off the charts. These guys were his…
C.J.: Best friends.
“One of Those Worst Nightmare Nights”
Casey: That night was one of those worst nightmare nights. It’s one of those things—we’ve gotten that call several times throughout our lives, you know, an after-midnight call that you don’t want to get.
It was his first night home from college. He got a call from one of his best friends from high school and he just said, “Hey, I’m gonna go over here and hang out. All the guys are back in town for Christmas. I’m gonna hang out at a house.” Then texted his mom and said, “I’m going to probably come home.” And it was 11:00-something. Right around 11:30, he said, “Leave a door open. I’m coming home in a little bit.” And then he said, “Nah, there’s more high school buddies downtown at this place.”
We got a call at probably 2:00 in the morning from C.J., because nobody knew our number.
C.J.: So I was always in bed at, like, 12:30 in California. We played on Saturday, and it was a Friday night. We were in the team hotel. I got a call from a number, I didn’t see it. I just let it ring. I tried to go back to sleep, but then I heard my phone ding from getting a text. And I was like, “This is weird.” So I checked my text and it said, “Call me, something bad just happened.”
It was his friend. And he told me what happened, and my heart just sank. The way he made it sound, he said, “They’re rushing him to the hospital right now.” And so I was like, “Oh my gosh.” So I had to call my mom. And I called my mom and told her.
Casey: And I remember the phone ringing, and I heard his voice through the phone. She’s like, “Yeah?” And she was like, “What?” And I heard her say, “What?” in a way that didn’t sound right. So I turned, I sat up. And she hit the speaker and he said, “Yeah, he was stabbed.”
We got there. And just the way—you just felt something was wrong when we got there. And we walked in, and there was a room over here, a policeman. And I might have been extra sensitive, but it seems like through that glass window in that room, they all looked like, “There’s one of the families.” There were some kids on phones, nervous, walking around crying and everything. O was like, “If he just got stabbed in the side, what is the craziness about? What did y’all see?” And no one would literally be honest with us and tell us what they saw.
And I remember an out of uniform detective coming in, and he asked us a few questions. Thank God he didn’t say, “I’m from homicide,” or whatever, but he was. And he was out of uniform in the way he conducted himself. I was like, “This guy is trying to gather evidence. One of these kids did not make it.”
Tucker: Then it was like, “Family, who’s the family? Y’all go wait in a separate room.” And then it’s like, “Oh, okay, this is kind of weird.” And then we wait in there for a while. And then when they were like, “The doctor is going to come out and talk if you want to wait in the chapel,” it’s like, “Oh man.”
Casey: Now my heart breaks for the social worker that was trying to keep us. I saw her eyes go to the chapel door and I said, “I don’t wanna go in there.” And she goes, “Why not?” And I said, “Because I know what that room means.” And she was like, “Oh, no, no, no. It’s just a good, private place. And for certain rules and regulations and stuff, it’d just be a better place to go.”
And we went in there, and when those three doctors came in in scrubs, I don’t think there was any doubt.
He went to past tense pretty fast. He said, “So let me tell you, when Clay came in, this was going on, and then we tried, we got this taken care of. And then it was just this . . .” But by then, those words, you’re just going, “Okay, what?”
Tucker: Every word and every sentence they said that didn’t end with, “He’s going to be okay,” it was just delaying the inevitable, sitting there. As soon as it was obvious that he was saying, “We couldn’t fix his wound, repair his heart, it’s too late,” I remember…
Casey: That was it.
Tucker: I got out. I stood up.
Casey: Yeah, he was gone.
Tucker: And walked out. And as I was walking out and I’ll never forget, I just heard you being like, “No!” You’re like, “Oh no!”
C.J.: You talk about the most hopeless feeling, like, being stuck in that hotel in California. I felt so hopeless, I wanted to be there so bad.
The worst phone call I ever got, it was my dad calling me back. And I just felt it in his voice. It’s one of those dark places in my head that I don’t like to go to, because it was the worst, the darkest place I can go to. I got the call. I could feel my dad’s voice. All he said was, “Buddy, he passed.” And I just couldn’t believe it.
Casey: It’s pretty, uh…
C.J.: That was it.
Casey: It’s still surreal.
Finding Hope, Reaching Others After Loss
Tucker: The only thing that possibly got us through this is at the end of the day, our core foundation, we were all at least rooted with the mindset of knowing that the only way to get through this, was diving in and asking Jesus and relying on the Lord to handle it. So it was like that was the core foundation that we all knew in our family.
“The only thing that possibly got us through this is at the end of the day: our core foundation. We were all at least rooted with the mindset of knowing that the only way to get through this, was diving in and asking Jesus and and relying on the Lord to handle it.” – Tucker Beathard
It’s like working together. It’s the epitome of a family coming together and understanding what we’re all going through, and each and every one of us handling it differently. And each and every one of us are having different days, because it comes in waves. Each and every one is different for all of us.
C.J.: I thought it was so inspirational how my mom and dad handled the whole thing, just like how light shows how tough they were and how strong they are.
Casey: I mean, literally, I would battle, I’d have my time. And then we all offset and we all kept each other, you know, balanced. Like, Susan at her time. And then it seemed like when she was strong, I was in the tank.
When you start realizing This is not all there is, even as Christians, then you have to go reaching and digging deeper. And we hunkered down, and our house turned into a church. Ever since Clay left…
C.J.: Every Tuesday night, basically.
Casey: Yeah, we started a family Bible study. And these guys, it’s changed. It’s been awesome. Tucker will call on a Friday night, he’ll be going “Hey. Who’s down for a Bible study tonight?” It’s like 5:00 in the afternoon. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, I’m going, “We’re having a Bible study tonight because he wants to.” I mean, it’s just that crazy. That would never have happened.
C.J.: It’s like our favorite part of that week too. They go for hours. We literally read one chapter most of the time. We talk about it for hours, and go on tangents about the Bible, about scripture, all this other stuff. And it’s just really good conversation. I mean, I love it.
Casey: I mean, we dug hard looking for hope. Yeah. And we started finding answers. I mean, man, this guy, He is who He says He is.
Tucker: It’s just like, Man, wow, that it really true. It really works, you know. And I knew that to see it really in a situation like that, it just grows your faith and your relationship to a point to where it’s like, Wow, man.
Casey: And then so we were just feeding off each other about who God is and what He really has for you. And all sudden, the despair turned into a gigantic hope. We were still beaten up, sad. We’re never going to get over that. But it’s all in hope.
“We dug hard looking for hope…We were just feeding off each other about who God is and what He really has for you. And all sudden, the despair turned into a gigantic hope.” – Casey Beathard
C.J.: I can’t tell you how many people reach out to me that have been through losing someone they love so close in similar ways. I mean, you can preach truth to other people, and you have a testimony that reaches. You know, instead of the quarterback that lost his first five starts, it’s like, Man, this is real life stuff that you can talk to people that are going through some real stuff and tell you how you got through it. I mean, this is the worst stuff we experienced. And you wouldn’t wish this on anybody. But, man, there’s light at the end of the tunnel and there’s God.
Casey: I remember the first moments, just reading some promises of comfort, and I just meditated on them. I go, “Okay, I’m gonna hold You accountable for this. I need You. I need You.” Next thing you know, somehow, some way, you found some joy, a little ten minutes of peace and joy in your day. That was the first day.
Tucker: I literally used to pray, like, “God, please let me be the first one to go in my family because I can’t—I wouldn’t be able to handle it.” But I’d totally underestimated the power of Jesus Christ. I mean, that’s just the bottom line. That’s all that really matters. And it’s like with Him, this world can’t faze you. It can hurt, and it can suck. and it can break you down, and this and that. But it can’t. It’s almost like you’re bulletproof, you know, for whatever the world throws at the end of the day, you know?
“I literally used to pray, like, “God, please let me be the first one to go in my family, because I can’t—I wouldn’t be able to handle it.” But I’d totally underestimated the power of Jesus Christ. I mean, that’s just the bottom line. That’s all that really matters. And it’s like with Him, this world can’t faze you.” – Tucker Beathard
Casey: As far as Jesus Calling, I…
C.J.: Been doing that for years, since high school, college or something?
Casey: I mean, we’ve been reading Jesus Calling for, I think my wife…
Tucker: Mom got me one. And I’m pretty ADD and on the road, I had that and it’s like, Man, this is awesome. This is super, super easy. I couldn’t go anywhere on the road without having it in my bag.
Casey: I remember that really put the whole relationship thing into context for me. When you take scripture and then match it with His voice talking to you, I thought that was awesome. That was great. And it’s uncanny. It was uncanny how a lot of the times a lot of those days were right on, like, Man, I’m here today. And most people we know [say], “Hey, did you read Jesus Calling today? I’m right there.”
Tucker: I just flip to like a random page every time, and that’s the coolest thing about it. Like you said, that as far as a relationship like that, that’s exactly what it does.
C.J.: I used to post them on my Instagram Stories like every day, daily.
Casey: But it’s been part of our days for years.
Narrator: As he reflects on the way God has walked his family from despair to hope, Casey reads the September 23rd passage of Jesus Calling.
A bruised reed I will not break, and a dimly burning wick I will not extinguish. I know you sometimes feel as weak and helpless as a bent reed or a faintly burning flame. Accept your weakness and brokenness, beloved; let them open your heart to Me. You can be fully yourself with Me because I understand you perfectly. As you tell Me your troubles, I refresh you and offer you Peace that surpasses all comprehension. Instead of trying to figure everything out, lean on Me in confident trust. Go off-duty for a while, trusting that I’m watching over you and working on your behalf.
My healing work within you is most effective when you are resting in My watchful care. Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing Love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of Peace be removed—for I have compassion on you. Whenever you’re feeling weak and wounded, come confidently into My Presence to receive abundant Love and Peace.
There’s Freedom in Forgiveness
Casey: As far as forgiveness, I think in grappling and trying to figure it out, I remember going to the vengeance part, where the Lord talks about, “Vengeance is mine,” and, “Treat your neighbor like you would treat yourself, even your enemy—that’s who your neighbor is.” And it’s like that seems impossible. That’s absolutely impossible. But think about it. I really did. I just started going to a place, God took me to a place of going, Something drove this kid to that place. He hurt.
It doesn’t take away, or it doesn’t stop. It’s not gonna bring Clay back. See, we’re forgetting that when you start—when you come to a point where you go, Oh, yeah, he’s in a better place, it’s not just a bumper sticker. He really is. We are all in the hard place, including this other guy.
This guy had been passed off and cast off, and I know he’d been in and out of jail, but talk about broken. You know, the Bible says that all the angels rejoice when one of God’s sons, one of His children comes to Him, that one that is lost as all get out. Just because He loves us all the same. And we can go, “Okay, but you can’t love him.” Well, yeah. Yeah, He does. He does bring all your stuff. Like my buddy told me, “Bring all your stuff.” I had some junk, too. You know, when I brought it to Him, He forgave me, He forgives me every single day.
What’s it going to help? In fact, it would be like killing another person. It’s going to take my everything away from me, my living away, being so mad and wanting vengeance for that kid, for somebody else. And on the other hand, I think it would help us all—and actually, the Lord said it would help us—if we could come to that place where it’s not for, it’s not for him. It’s for us. To give him forgiveness, it just set me free.
C.J.: I remember people coming to me and being like, “Man, I hope he rots in hell.” You know, not at all. But I hope he comes to find Jesus Christ. I hope I see him in heaven someday, honestly. Like, yeah, of course.
Heaven to me used to be a saying that you tell people, “Yeah, you die, you go to heaven.” But now our best friend is there, and that’s where he’s at. So, I mean, you start to research and getting in the Bible about what’s the stuff about heaven? It’s like, Man, that’s where he is. And I truly believe—I know that’s where he is. And we’ll be there someday, and I know I’m gonna get to see him again.
“I truly believe—I know [my brother Clay is in heaven]. And we’ll be there someday, and I know I’m gonna get to see him again.” – C.J. Beathard
Narrator: If you’d like to hear more stories about finding hope in the middle of painful loss, check out our interview with country music artist Eddie Montgomery of the duo Montgomery Gentry.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with entertainer and author Kathie Lee Gifford. Since she was a little girl, Kathie Lee has been a dreamer. And now, she’s spending her days inspiring kids to ask themselves a new question to help them craft their futures.
Kathie Lee Gifford: I truly do believe that we ask the wrong question, basically, of children. And people asked me this my whole life: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And I think that’s the wrong question to ask children. I think it’s not what they want to be so much as, “What does God want you to be? What dreams did He put inside of you that He will use for His glory, to make your life rich and abundant and joyful and blessed?”
Narrator: Want to hear more inspirational stories of people who have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then subscribe today to the Jesus Calling Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And please be sure to leave a review, which helps us reach and inspire others with these stories. Plus, if you like seeing our guests as well as hearing them, you can find video interviews available on our Youtube channel at youtube.com/jesuscallingbook, on Facebook, and on the Jesus Calling Instagram page.