MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, April 7th.
We’re so glad you’ve joined us here on WORLD Radio.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Emerging from a season of sorrow.
The past year brought heartache to many families. WORLD senior correspondent Katie Gaultney talked with one woman grappling with loss.
AUDIO: [sounds of kids in kitchen]
KATIE GAULTNEY, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Life in the Barnard house looks typical. On this Thursday morning, half-empty smoothie cups sit alongside a cold mug of coffee on the kitchen table. A few steps away, the homeschool room boasts math manipulatives and a stack of textbooks.
But, the fact is, the Barnards aren’t exactly like a typical suburban family. Mom and dad have their own Wikipedia pages. Between them, they have multiple Dove Award nominations and awards. Dad Shane Barnard is half of the contemporary Christian music duo Shane & Shane. And you may recognize Beth by her stage names—first, Bethany Dillon when she made it big at age 14.
SONG: YOU’RE ALL I NEED BY BETHANY DILLON
Then, Bethany Barnard after she got married at 19. Beth insists most days are routine.
BARNARD: It looks like: community group, cul-de-sac life and doing school and homeschool…
But their older girls are starting to notice that a lot of people recognize Mom and Dad’s names.
BARNARD: We’re very glaringly normal, but at the same time, there’s those little things that happen that aren’t very normal. So they ask the super uncomfy questions like, “Are you guys famous? Wait, wait, wait, wait…”
Starting out in Christian music at such a young age makes for an unusual adolescence. But Barnard said it felt like an adventure.
BARNARD: I had a lot of fun. I really did. And God, I think he just had me in this grace bubble…
It was low-pressure. After about six years of touring and recording, “settling down” felt like a new kind of adventure. Barnard recalled growing up in rural Ohio in a stable home, with extended family nearby. And she found beauty in the mundane.
BARNARD: God gave me the gift of seeing a picture of a mama who is home. So I think once I got married and yes, I was a baby, but I was like, man, I just, I would love to be a mom…
And things were normal, for a little while. But 2020 brought hardship for a lot of people, and the Barnards were no exception. Beth’s dad’s cancer returned, and the prognosis was grim. She lost him in May of last year. Meanwhile, close friends were walking through difficult seasons too. And her own health suffered.
BARNARD: So I got a diagnosis in July that I had severe depression and severe OCD. And there began the journey of treatment. Kind of making sense of a lot of things in my life, but also it really not being fun and being really heavy and shaming—even though it isn’t, it feels that way. I just was not okay.
We hear a lot these days about high-profile Christians deconstructing their faith. Authors, like Joshua Harris. Comedians Rhett & Link. And plenty of musicians: Audrey Assad, Hawk Nelson frontman Jon Steingard, and Derek Webb, to name a few. Barnard went through her own period of questioning.
BARNARD: It’s not a: “Is there a God?” It’s just like, “There is a God, wait, can you please just be a little nicer because my dad just suffered and died. And so all these other things, could you have just spaced them out?”
Loved ones reassured her and pointed her back to truth.
BARNARD: It’s okay that you’re not sure. And I am not banking on you. I’m banking on Him. And I see these evidences of grace. It’s okay.
Barnard said OCD isn’t always what many of us may picture: washing hands over-and-over, touching the lightswitch a certain number of times. For her, if she didn’t read her Bible first thing in the morning, she would find herself spiraling throughout the day. Or, she would stress to an unhealthy degree trying to remember all the people she felt like she was supposed to pray for.
BARNARD: I have identified with Martin Luther my whole spiritual life, because he’s writhing in a fetal position trying to remember everything that he needs to confess. And that is what really loving God looked like to me.
It’s a term known in mental health circles as “scrupulosity.” Barnard’s diagnosis revealed that she had equated “religiosity” with a relationship with Christ.
A Christian therapist helped her retrain her brain—and her habits.
BARNARD: It became something I became enslaved to. I thought functionally, those things are keeping me saved.
Her heart followed.
BARNARD: I’m going to start like, I’m just going to read a verse, just one verse. I’m not going to read it over and over and over again, I’m going to read it and I’m going to simply pray something. And I’m not going to think about everybody that I needed to pray about…
Healing is an ongoing process. And there’s still grief. Amid the tumult, she said the Lord filled her with new songs, after a long season of feeling like the music was on hold.
BARNARD: I’m thinking something and feeling something, and it just feels right to sing that, to lament with a melody.
The songs aren’t glossy and upbeat. They’re raw. She captured her season of questioning in her music.
BARNARD: There’s a line in one of the songs that I sing all the time to myself is: “Jesus, will you still be my friend when I can do nothing for you?”
Barnard’s “deconstruction” led to a reconstruction—a firmer belief in God’s love and pursuit of her, and an acknowledgment of her frailty and imperfection.
BARNARD: God created us as humans with limits and it glorifies him because God is not limited. God is God. I’m going to be human today. And I don’t know where I have let some gaps happen on purpose or not. I just don’t know what he has for that. So I’m just going to lean into that uncertainty.
MUSIC: INSTRUMENTAL EXCERPT FROM TEARS ON YOUR FACE BY BETHANY BERNARD
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Katie Gaultney in Dallas, Texas.