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A triumphant story of new life birthed out of tragedy - Granger Smith

A triumphant story of new life birthed out of tragedy - Granger Smith


When we lost our son, I thought the pain would never end. Some nights were so long and so dark that I began to wonder if the sun would ever rise – if a new day would ever come. Through the grace of God, though, it did. Today I’m in a different and much better place. Below is a look into the moment where I was reborn, shared from my book Like a River: Finding the Faith and Strength to Move Forward after Loss and Heartache.

Excerpt From Like a River

One day my friend Bernie, after hearing about my Billy Graham bingeing, texted me a three-minute YouTube clip from a pastor named John Piper. I still have the text from February 27, 2020. The title of the video was “Popular Verses: A Video Devotional with John Piper—Day 5.”[i]

Bernie texted, “Not sure if you listen or read much Piper, but this was pretty awesome. Enjoy the day, brother!”

I replied, “Never heard of him. I’ll dive in!”

I liked the video a lot. Piper had a different flow than Graham, and that spoke to me. I went searching for whatever else this guy had to offer and found more videos than my truck had miles to drive.

I remember the exact moment: the deep blue color of an early spring sky, the grip of the steering wheel in my hands, and the exact stretch of blacktop and mile marker where it happened. It was March 1, 2020. I was listening to a Piper sermon on YouTube titled “How to Seek the Holy Spirit.”[ii]

At just before the forty-six-minute mark, he was reading from John 14:22–23 where one of Jesus’ followers asked Him, “‘Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’”

There was a pause. In deep, gut-wrenching conviction Piper remarked, “That’s not unconditional love. It is profoundly conditional!”

He reread the same text again. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him.” After a pause, Piper again passionately interjected, “In a way that He doesn’t love everybody!

I can’t fully explain what happened next, but suffice it to say that my eyes were opened to see things like never before. I was loved! I felt it. Not because of anything I had done. In fact, I certainly didn’t deserve it and yet He had adopted me as a son. That revelation while hearing the gospel triggered a flood—not the hopeless flood I felt after losing River but God’s covenant promise flood of His Spirit to live in me and walk with me. I fell head over heels into an unprompted, unrehearsed, spontaneous prayer, without thinking about the words. I don’t even fully remember what I said, but with tears like a river rushing down my cheeks, it went something like this:

Jesus, save me! I want to seek You. I want to follow You. I want to learn You. I want to pursue You. I want to crave You. I want to desire You. Make me hunger for You, make me thirst for You, make me ache for You. Take my life, do as You please. I am Your servant, I am Your sheep, I am Your child . . . Jesus I am Yours!

Quote from Granger Smith

In that moment I was reborn!

It was as though I was handed a key that opened a door that had been locked, and when I gazed inside, nothing looked the same.

I went home and ditched the self-help books. I sidelined the devotionals, the visualizations, and the affirmations. I deleted the meditation apps and quit those cold turkey. I was certain of one thing now: I didn’t need them anymore.

I dusted off my childhood Bible. I was starving for what it would feed to my wearied soul.

Quote from Granger Smith - Like A River

How to Use This Book

Like a River was written for anyone who is learning to live after loss. The book is practical and accessible and features additional information including questions for personal reflection and group discussion. Like a River points readers back to Scripture and through Granger’s vulnerable testimony reminds us that God is the Source of everything and that God has a purpose for our pain.

Like A River Free Discussion Guide

[i]Popular Verses: A Video Devotional with John Piper—Day 5,” YouVersion, 

[ii] Desiring God, “How to Seek the Holy Spirit,” YouTube, February 2, 2018,