Art is often birthed from struggle. Expressing the heart’s most vulnerable emotions can be both cathartic and beautiful, as history has proven time and again. For one of Christian music’s most prolific vocalists, Todd Smith, life has undoubtedly inspired his art. While the depths of suffering, including the loss of a child and a serious illness, have profoundly affected Todd and his family, he’s emerged with an unquenchable thirst to create—to make music, offer Hope, and challenge complacency.
Best known as a founding member of Selah—the beloved vocal group has sold more than 4 million albums and singles, claimed eight #1 radio hits, three chart-topping Billboard albums and eight Dove Awards among numerous other accolades in a storied career approaching two decades—Todd steps into the solo spotlight to further articulate the passions of his heart. To that end, There’s A Light is a deeply personal portrait of a husband, father, son, friend, tireless advocate and follower of Christ.
“There have been so many times that I’ve been in a place of depression and anxiety, overwhelmed and wondering how to make it through,” says Todd. “Looking back, I can clearly see how God has provided Hope and brought me through time after time.”
The album’s opening track and title-cut is a declaration of this mighty Hope Todd knows firsthand. The chorus of the upbeat anthem sets the project’s tone: There’s a light at the end of the troubles/There is hope for those who believe. Yet the album intentionally doesn’t shy away from life’s heaviness and hurts. As Todd has seen time and again, God is equally at work on the most joyful and most sorrowful days.
Surviving malaria as a teenager growing up in Congo, Africa, where his family served on the mission field, Todd experienced God’s faithfulness in the midst of what seemed like a hopeless time. Years later his faith would be tested again when he and his wife, best-selling author and speaker Angie Smith, suffered the loss of a child. Their fourth daughter, Audrey, spent a mere two-and-a-half hours cradled in her parents’ arms before God called her home. “It was one of the most horrific things I’ve ever been through,” Todd says. “I didn’t know how our marriage would survive or how I would even get through. I had to beg for the strength to believe and trust that He would pull us through the nightmare.”
“You never want to think that God wills bad things to happen, but I do believe there is a purpose for all things, and He can and will use any circumstance for His glory. And I know when I get to heaven I will fall down and worship at the feet of Jesus and then rise and say, ‘Where is she?’ I will find my little girl and spend eternity by her side.”
Last year, Todd’s resolve was put to the test once more when his father was diagnosed with leukemia and given three months to live. “I was reminded of the story in the Bible where the dad brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus for healing. Jesus asks him if he believes He can heal his son. The man responds, ‘Yes, I do.’ Then he adds, ‘But help my unbelief.’ I didn’t know if my dad would live or not, but I needed to write a song claiming the promises of God and proclaiming all that He is.”
And that’s exactly what he did. The driving, pop affirmation “Jesus Is” is a bold statement of the goodness of God—a reminder to Todd that His ways are higher and greater than our own. Today, Jim Smith is alive and well, and the song has become a celebration of God, the healer.
Trusting Him no matter the circumstance isn’t just relegated to the studio or stage for Todd. A husband and father who struggles daily to lead his family well, he channeled these challenges in “Calling All Fathers.” An unapologetically bold anthem beseeching men to awake and be who God created them to be, the song is particularly personal for Todd.
“I often look in the mirror and say, ‘You don’t measure up spiritually or as a family leader,’” he admits. “There have been times when I haven’t been in the moment; I’ve not been a man of my word; I’ve been narcissistic. This song was written to challenge me more than anything. The world would change dramatically if fathers would simply step into the roles and responsibilities to which they’ve been called.”
While his family is by far Todd’s most important priority, he’s also an advocate for Christians living in persecution. “Four years ago, I was asked to write music for a documentary based on the book, ‘The Insanity of God,’ by Nik Ripkin,” Todd says. “It lit a fire in me to care about a group of people I had never given much thought to before.”
“Dmitri’s Song (Jesus Is Alive)” is one of two tracks on There’s A Light devoted to the plight of the persecuted Church. Penned by Todd, along with Ed Cash, the song poignantly recounts the true story of a Russian pastor imprisoned for his faith for 17 years, showing unfathomable courage in the face of torture. Despite the heavy context, the gentle, acoustic guitar lifts Todd’s incomparable voice, humanizing a struggle that can too easily seem remote and removed.
“When you've heard a story like this and been challenged by it, the question then becomes, ‘now what?’” says Todd. “One reaction is to pray for these persecuted people, not for safety, but for strength. And one of the greatest ways we can support them is by standing together, sharing the Gospel with our neighbors. When we don't, we’re withholding the light of God’s freedom.”
The pursuit of Christian unity and a collective effort to bring Light to all corners of a darkened world are narratives throughout the album. Songs like “We Will Rise” and “Right Where I Belong” depict the kind of life God desires for His children. The latter, featuring Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb, was the first song Todd recorded for the album. “I love ‘Right Where I Belong’ because I think the world knows what we as Christians are against, but sometimes it’s difficult for them to articulate what we are for and what we believe in,” Todd shares.
There’s A Light is an overarching statement of Hope for a weary world, an impassioned reminder that God has never abandoned the hurting and the persecuted, and He has never cloaked His love in darkness. “Life will always have challenges,” Todd concludes. “The Bible tells us we will have troubles. But it also assures us that we will never be forsaken. Even in our darkest hour, the Light of life, love and grace never flickers or dies out.”
For Todd Smith, these words are a lifeline. As he casts his net deeper into the water, both musically and personally, he can confidently proclaim that no matter the struggles or joys he may face, Hope remains….and inspires.