Sara Groves – lessons in abiding

During that time, the hymns that found their way onto the current album, Abide With Me, were the songs that brought her comfort while she was “on the floodplain.”

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SONGWRITER AND ARTIST
SARA GROVES KNOWS WELL
THAT LIFE — EVEN THE LIFE
OF A CHRISTIAN — IS NOT ALL
EASY LIVING IN THE SUNSHINE,
DEVOID OF ALL TRIAL AND
DARKNESS.
She has cycled through both dark and light seasons
in her life, but has always returned to her
awareness of God’s constant presence.
Much of her music over her 20-year career reflects
this integration of her faith with the other parts of
her life, with its ebb and flow, questions and answers,
ups and downs.
“Part of my work and passion,” Sara says, “is to
tear down the sacred-secular divide, where people
look at their lives and say, ‘These are the spiritual
things; these are the other things.’”
As a positive celebration of God’s presence and
provision during a difficult period in her life, Sara’s
latest album, Abide With Me, is part of that faith-life
connection in how it relates to her previous album
Floodplain.
Initially Sara resisted creating Floodplain, which
documents her journey through anxiety and depression.
“Probably four or five years ago, I was in one of the darkest seasons I have ever been in,” she says.
Feeling as though no one was praying as much
as she was, but yet the depression was not being
lifted from her, Sara began asking questions and
processing what was going on with her during that
season of her life. She felt like God was inviting her
“to document life on the floodplain when the waters
rise.”
During that time, the hymns that found their way
onto the current album, Abide With Me, were the
songs that brought her comfort while she was “on
the floodplain.”
“I felt like God was extending friendship to me in
that place,” Sara says, further commenting that
many of the songs on Abide With Me declare
friendship with God. “He sits with us, He dwells
with us when we are struggling and hurting. [In His
grace], God extends this radical friendship to us in
any number of places that we find ourselves.”
Further affirming the connection between the
two albums, a friend of Sara’s, after listening to
Floodplain, described it as emphasizing not depression,
but provision.
“I feel like that’s true,” Sara agrees. “That record
is about provision. This album [Abide With Me] is
giving language to that provision, to what that has
looked like for hymn writers across the centuries.
The best hymns we have were written in the middle
of great lament and tremendous trial.”
Sara decided the timing was right to put together a hymns album — something she and her husband
had discussed several times over the
years — partly because she felt like she “needed
to go back in order to go forward.” She had
been writing new songs as she processed her
thoughts about her life and the world around
her, and began thinking it was time to revisit
the ideas about who God is as found in some
of the classic hymns.
“What do we mean by “amazing grace” or
when we say, “O my Redeemer, what a friend
thou art to me”? What does the friendship of
God actually look like right now?” Sara speculates.
Making Abide With Me was a joy for Sara because
of how easily everything fell into place.
“There were so many green-light moments with
this album. I’ve never worked on an album that
fell together so quickly and so easily. Every
single door just flew open. It was really joyful in
that regard. I had to look at that and say, ‘Well,
I guess this is the record I was supposed to
make.’”
God, who was always with Sara, reminding her
of His presence through the classic hymns that
are so familiar to her, even in the middle of the
rising waters, has now set her feet on higher,
drier ground.
“I have grown a lot. I have moved into a different
place. God has sent ‘boats’ — an armarda
of friends and help.”
Abide With Me is a reflection of a truth Sara
has held onto even in her darkest moments —
that God’s presence with us is not dependent
on circumstances. At all times, we can abide in
Him and trust Him to pull us through.