While We Are Alive
Sherri Youngward on the Importance of Worshipping God at All Times
By Sarah Komisky
With a soothing voice that rises just above a whisper and a tender heart for God that is found in every acoustic song, Sherri Youngward is a musician that truly inspires others to worship with contemplative songs based on scripture. Losing both her parents in the last five years and then developing adult onset type 1 diabetes, she recalls a time when she thought her gift of songwriting was nearly gone until God showed up in a big way. Her eleventh full-length album, While We Are Alive reflects this message that while we are alive, we can sing praises to God no matter what circumstance we are in.
Growing up with educated and intellectual parents, Youngward felt the sting of emptiness without God as a reckless, misfit teenager, strung out on drugs and alcohol, seeing no point to life at all. Befriended by a friend and her parents who were Christians, she was drawn to Christ and since then had a longing to see her parents to come to know the same God that saved her. Over the years she prayed for them and in their last days on earth, Youngward was able to have that prayer answered. Seeing one of them with her own eyes, she was able to have a moment where her father who had Alzheimer’s said “Yes” to Jesus when she asked him if he wanted to go to heaven.
“I was reading in my bible and it was January 1st and it said: ‘God spoke to Joseph in a dream’ and the next day it says it three different times. God encouraged me that as long as my Dad was alive He could deal with him in spiritual realms,” she shares. “That moment came where he saw me and he shook his head yes and God let me see my Dad and He spoke to him in those realms. We prayed and we prayed and He did it!”
Seeking the Lord for comfort and an answer when her Mom passed away, she asked Jesus to surprise her with verses that would assure her she was in heaven. Answering, Youngward heard God speak, “Just put your trust in me.” And again, God showed up in scripture confirming Youngward’s wish for her loved ones acknowledging, “All this is happening but you still have that ache. There was a day that I realized I haven’t written a song in a year and I think it’s gone. Then I had this moment only God can do where He just showed me your parents are beholding me right now and I was just weeping. I thought, I wanted that my whole life. It was so real. That was a massive turn in my mourning. I don’t want anything else. What could I ever want? I felt like I started living again and wrote a song on the CD about that called, “Never Have to Say Goodbye.”
Each song on the album reflects a unique part of the process in that time. “Runaway” represents a victory anthem while “Even the Grave” shouts that God is the God of impossibilities. Others offer praise to the Lord found in the Psalms, an attitude that reflected Youngward’s heart and gratitude to her Savior saying, “I having a whole new perspective on salvation that God goes to every length to save the human soul. Through that hard time God is even more stunning to me.”
One of the trademarks of Youngward’s music is scripture. Staying true to the word of God, she attributes her weakness to being one of the biggest strengths in ministry commenting, “There are a lot of things that have been hard and now I have health issues that keep me clinging to Him. For me, the word of God has been my sustenance. When you have a word that God breathed on just for you, its your lifeline.”
Encouraging readers to be gentle on themselves if they find themselves in a similar situation, Youngward also encourages others to take time to grieve noting, “Its different for everybody. There’s something about us I think in America where we just think, It’s been too weeks and I think should be over this or we feel like people expect that. I read that Abraham in the Bible mourned for 70-80 days and I thought, they took time to just let them be. Do things that help your heart. Go easy and you do have to find the mercies of God in it and I think I can say pretty confidently that if you’re walking with Him there’s a promise that He is near to the brokenhearted.”
When it comes to her newest release, Youngward’s prayer is that listeners can have a real moment with God that might soften their heart towards who He is and give them energy to walk through the day knowing who they are in the Lord. Undeniably her favorite thing is when people have a moment with God that is just for them which is something only Jesus can do.
Approaching her twentieth year as a musician, Youngward notes with fondness her journey with the people that have come alongside her sharing, “I have history with these people. It’s just so sweet to even have a little part of their story when I hear people play my music at weddings, births, and funerals and I treasure it all.”
Writing from experiences and encounters she has had with others traveling as an artist, Youngward hopes that people who listen to her music will be inspired to worship – in all seasons of life.
“I realize a lot of people are going through this. I write these songs and I am never just writing for myself and when I have a moment with the Lord, I want to share that and let other people join in that,” she adds. “Maybe sing a psalm in a different way or just take one line from it and put light on it just so you have time to think about it. In the title psalm, it says, ‘while we are alive, while we have our being, I’ll sing praises.’ There’s times good and bad and while I’m here Jesus is always worthy to be praised so that’s going to happen while I have breathe. I guess I like the idea of taking a piece of a psalm and putting a spotlight on it and giving it room to breathe in a person’s heart, mind, and worship.”
Find out more about Sherri and her music at: sherriyoungward.com