NASHVILLE (BP) – The isolation, stress, and dramatic change in the pace of life brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic has taken a toll on mental health. Anxiety, depression and drug use are on the rise.
Amid these hardships, multiple Christian music artists have homed in on the needs of their communities to release songs that speak directly to those dealing with increased mental health trials and doubts.
Chris Renzema, nominated for “New Artist of the Year” at this year’s Dove Awards, released both a full-length album (“Let the Ground Rest”) and a new single (“Mercy”) during the global pandemic.
Renzema, signed to Nashville-based Centricity Records, said while the majority of the songs he released this year were written before COVID-19, he still crafted them while walking through his own anxiety. Now, those songs that chronicled the deep emotions of his heart during such a difficult time are able to minister to others in similar situations.
“We’re experiencing this insane time on a scale that I would consider unprecedented for the modern human experience, and it’s taking a magnifying glass to those things – to worry and anxiety and the ways that we already as humans try to numb ourselves,” Renzema said. “So, I see it as providence of the Lord – taking songs that mean one thing in one context, and they’ve totally taken on a deeper level of meaning for myself as well, coming out during this time.”
He believes his latest single “Mercy,” released Sept. 18, is surprisingly applicable at this time.
The second verse and chorus of the song denotes “The stressed out, the worried/Those terrified of right now/The wandering, the hurried/Who don’t know how to slow down/There’s room at His table for you/There’s room at His table for you/’Cause His mercy’s new with the morning/Even when you can’t sleep at night/And if you’re too anxious to notice/He’ll hold your hand while you cry.”
Renzema explained one of his goals is simply to write about and uncover the human experience – no matter how raw or unfiltered it may be.
“Music can be this incredible tool for empathy in the world – Christian and non-Christian music alike,” he said. “But specifically music that points people to Jesus has this powerful ability to say ‘Hey, me as a writer, I have a struggle that you probably have too, and you’re not in this alone, and Jesus is in this with us.’ When I’ve heard songs, both secular and sacred, that are able to say ‘You’re not alone in this thing you’re going through,’ those have become so dear to my heart.
“I wrote the songs on ‘Let The Ground Rest,’ and I wrote ‘Mercy’ with the desire to reach out empathetically to people and just never expected that it would be so applicable to how badly we’re all hurting right now.”
Independent Christian artist Megan Brown, whose debut single “If I’m Honest” deals with themes of self-doubt and pain, expressed similar sentiments. Brown released multiple singles during the quarantine season and explained she typically writes out of her own experience of suffering, hoping to show listeners they are not alone.
“The reality is, the more honest I am in my songs about what I’m specifically going through and how that related to my relationship with God, it’s going to resonate with people even more,” Brown said. “The feedback has been exactly that – people reaching out to me that I don’t even know saying ‘Hey, this is exactly what I feel and I just didn’t know how to say it,’ and I think that God uses that authenticity and honesty to reach people.”
A few lines Brown emphasized from “If I’m Honest,” say “Maybe You took these pieces, and saw someone worth saving/Could these scars be a perfect work of art?/I’ll never see myself, a beautiful reflection/Buried in shadows, I have to look up.”
Brown said while someone is stuck within their fears or mental struggles, moving forward alone is nearly impossible. But it is in that moment where Jesus enters.
“Right now, I’m in this dark place and it’s hard for me to look up,” she said.” When I feel like I’m trying to look to Christ I realize that in myself I don’t have enough strength to lift my head off the floor right now because of the state of mental being. But, that’s encouraging because I’m not the one who is going to lift my head. That’s God, and he promises that he’s going to do that. All we have to do is just ask.
“I hope that encourages people to not feel like they have to reach down into the depths of themselves to find strength to keep going, because all they have to do really is just express their need for God, to God, and he’ll take care of the rest. It’s OK to say how you really are doing, and it’s OK to say what you really need, especially when you’re talking to God, because he already knows anyway.”