I've long been a "Panhead" (the name dedicated Skillet fans call themselves), going back to their self-titled grunge rock style debut album. I've had the opportunity to speak with Skillet lead singer John Cooper about many songs over the past ten years of writing these behind the song devotionals.
Skillet drummer and vocalist Jen Ledger joined the band when she was just 18 years old, and now she has stepped out in faith to release her debut solo project, LEDGER EP, on April 13. Her heart behind these songs and how her faith has guided her in moments of anxiety and fear is beautifully expressed in catchy and biblically inspired lyrics. I had the chance to speak with Jen Ledger about her debut solo single, "Not Dead Yet."
Please tell me the personal story behind this song.
Basically a few years ago, I was touring with Skillet through Europe, and I went through a really dark season that now I'm super thankful for. When I was in that season, it was one of the hardest times of my whole life. I was waking up in the night feeling terrified.
I'm not normally an anxious person. I'm normally very even and don't usually struggle with ups and downs with my emotions or with anxiety. To wake up being so afraid was an incredibly surprising and hard season. It was spiritual warfare. I would wake up and think I had missed my calling or didn't have enough faith, and now God was done with me. It sounds dumb to say out loud because I know the truth and that those thoughts aren't rational. When I was going through that, I would get up and speak truth over myself. It was a hard time. I came back from the tour and got together with the leaders from my church and shared my thoughts of panic and questions of my identity, wondering how I could be part of a band who speaks of Jesus when these thoughts were making me afraid and causing me to question my faith.
Last year, I was onstage, and suddenly I started panicking. It was a fear that made me want to give up after I'd already been battling with it and thought I'd defeated it. I know better, and I thought I had already overcome it. I was thinking to myself, why am I having a panic attack? I've been doing this for nine years.
It was just such a defeating moment. I got offstage, and I was sitting in a room with Korey Cooper, and I shared my feelings with her. I told her that I was just really struggling, and I wasn't sure why these feelings had come back. I was just panicking so much onstage that it made me want to give up, and I just hated that feeling so much. I said, "What is this feeling and what if this is something that I always have to fight?" And Korey just looked and me and said, "Then you never give up, Jen. You fight until the last breath leaves your body. You never give up the fight to do what God has called you to do."
It was one of the most powerful conversations I've ever had, and it was just so freeing. I'm never going to forget it. The Enemy tries to make us think we aren't good enough to do what we are called to do. He wants to keep you from being effective for God. Instead, God tells us that He chooses the weak to shame the strong. He chooses the foolish to shame the wise. It is His breath, and He breathes life into us. That's what this song is about. Yes, maybe I will have to fight, and maybe these things won't go away, but you've got to resolve in your heart that you will never let them defeat you and you will fight until your very last breath. I'm weak. My God is awesome. I'm not going to let the Enemy destroy me. Even if I'm afraid, I'm going to follow God.
Which Bible verses connect to the message of the song?
John 10:10(NKJV): "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."
1 Corinthians 1:27(VOICE): "But celebrate this: God selected the world's foolish to bring shame upon those who think they are wise; likewise, He selected the world's weak to bring disgrace upon those who think they are strong."
2 Corinthians 10:2-5(NIV): "I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world; we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Romans 8:11(VOICE): "If the Spirit of the One who resurrected Jesus from the dead lives inside of you, then you can be sure that He who raised Him will cast the light of life into your mortal bodies through the life-giving power of the Spirit residing in you."
Philippians 4:6-7(NIV): "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
1 Timothy 6:12(NKJV): "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
Isaiah 43:1-2(NLT): "But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the One who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you."
Isaiah 43:18-19(MSG): "Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands."
Isaiah 55:8-9(NKJV): "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."
What is the takeaway message?
This song is incredibly dear to me because anxiety is something that I've been dealing with for the last few years. What was wonderful was I got to talk through things, and I knew that the Enemy was seeking to steal, kill and destroy. The main thing he does is speak into your thought life.
I realized that the Lord wanted me to not misunderstand His love for me. Ever since I gave my life to Jesus and was born again, God has done things in my life that feel crazy huge and way too big for me. He has done impossible things with me. I was someone who hated performing in front of people and felt really weak as a drummer, and God has taken me around the entire globe. He has made me stronger at something that I wasn't naturally strong in. I think what God wanted to address with me is that it is not how He uses me that shows me how much He love me, and in that season in my life I realized that I was misunderstanding the love of God. Even if I don't do anything significant, do I still believe He loves me? Even if I clean toilets for the rest of my life, it doesn't change that His love is the only thing that defines me. I'm called to eternity with Him, and I'll be in Paradise one day. This life is just a breath.
It changed what I was thinking when I realized that if I don't do anything for God, He still loves me. There's no pressure on me to perform or achieve something. Even if I don't accomplish anything, His love will define me. It was an incredibly freeing season in the end, even though it was a hard season to go through. It took pressure off. I'm saved, I'm loved and I'm His.
Isn't it awesome that we are weak, and God still chooses us? God chose me when I don't feel good at drumming or performing in front of people. If I feel like God is calling me to step out and sing my own songs for people, I will do it. We are called to be brave and not be afraid.
This song feels like an anthem for my life. It's awesome that I'm not perfect and I'm broken, and yet God uses me and I get to live my life wholeheartedly for Him. In Jesus you are made righteous. God chooses the weak to display His glory. Rejoice in the fact that you don't have it altogether, but God uses you anyway. Run the race with outrageous faith.
Lyrics: Called to the ring
Taking me round by round
It hurts and it stings
Taking me down, down, down
You think that you caught me
I can hear you taunt me
Fractured and I'm falling down
My enemy is watching me bleed
I'm not dead yet
So watch me burn
Go on trying, lying, you're so sure
I may be broken
But I'm not done
I'll go on fighting, while there's breath in my lungs
Cause I'm not dead yet
No I'm not dead yet
You wait for the day
That I'll be counted out
You stand at my grave
Already breaking ground
But I don't think you know me
There's a side you don't see
Been to hell and made it out
My enemy, I'll watch you bleed
I'm still awake
I won't go away
It's gonna take more than you can bring
Calling my name
Heaven's calling my name
Having three young daughters, it is so important for them to hear this message. They need to find their true identities in the Lord. Our thoughts are constantly under attack by the Enemy, and this song is a great way to submit and commit ourselves to God. God's Word assures to trust in what God says about us, no matter how we feel about ourselves. Too often we get wrapped up in our circumstances and get down on ourselves with negative thoughts, allowing the Enemy to define self-worth. Jesus died on the Cross to set us free from the battle of our minds, from sin and death, and He wants us to have abundant life in Him. What a wonderful, encouraging truth. God knows us intimately, and because of what Jesus did on the Cross, He sees us as holy, righteous, redeemed, chosen, fully known and forgiven no matter what you've done. If you've put all of your hope and trust in Jesus, there is nothing that can separate you from His love.
We all have lies that we believe about ourselves. Also, we have an Enemy who doesn't like us. He does have a voice, and he does speak to us, but the voice of God's love speaks louder. This song encourages us to see ourselves the way God sees us. A consistent prayer I have is for hope and to follow God's plans for my life. The message of this song challenges listeners to think about our own doubts, fears and anxieties and how Jesus calls us to rely on Him and to remember that He has overcome death, panic attacks, anxiety and fear. God sees us as He sees His Son. He named us, and He loves us so much that He came to die for us. He makes something out of nothing in each of us.
As a believer, Heaven's calling your name. We can know that He is real, He is near and He is just a breath away. He's the author of our lives and knows what's best for us, much better than we do. That's reason to sing this empowering anthem at the top of our lungs in gratefulness to Him. Sing along, "I'm still awake, I won't go away, It's gonna take more than you can bring, Calling my name, Heaven's calling my name." Amen to that!
Listen to the song below.
NRT Lead Contributor Kevin Davis is a longtime fan of Christian music, an avid music collector and credits the message of Christian music for leading him to Christ. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters.
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