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#228 - "Stronger" by Mandisa
NRT's Kevin Davis talks about the very personal background to Mandisa's hit song.

Often an artist’s strengths inspire their best work. But for acclaimed pop-and-gospel singer Mandisa, it’s her very human flaws and frailties that gave birth to her stellar third album, What If We Were Real.

The two-time GRAMMY nominee knows that nobody is perfect, and she wants her fans to realize that, too. Her new career-defining project, released on Sparrow Records, reminds us all that everyone struggles.

“A lot of people think we as Christians have to put our masks on and pretend that everything is great,” Mandisa says. “But I was really amazed at the responses I’d get when I’d tweet that I was struggling or needed prayer with something, or having a bad day.

“People said, ‘I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.’ Or ‘I need prayer for that too.’ It surprised me that people thought I had it all together. The truth of the matter is I have bad days too and am still learning to bring that to the Lord and let Him lift my burden.”

That learning curve is evident on the vulnerable but empowering What If We Were Real. “Where I was at the beginning of this album and where I ended up are two very different places,” confirms the Season 5 American Idol finalist and multiple GMA Dove Award nominee.

I had the great opportunity to interview Mandisa about her hit single “Stronger.”

Please tell me the message behind the song “Stronger.” Do you have any personal application regarding your walk as a Christian in the song?

The message of this song is about how a lot of people think that when you are a Christian you’re not supposed to go through hard times, but that’s not true. In the Bible, Jesus tells us that in this world we will have trouble. The message is to work out those times with the Lord and that’s when we’ll grow closer to Him. We’ll grow in our character in ways that we wouldn’t if things were all roses in our lives. God uses those times to make us more like Jesus. The way that the message of the song applied in my life is very personal. So much of my trouble has revolved around my weight. It’s been a struggle and an addiction. I’ve felt hopeless at times. I’ve had some success losing weight in the past, but then I’d struggle again. I had lost 100 pounds and then the day I went into the studio to record this song, I had gained 20 of those pounds back. It was so hard as I was challenged to sing about my ability to be stronger. When you record songs, you have to sing lines over and over again. The line I kept singing over and over was “’Cause if He started this work in your life, He’ll be faithful to complete it, if only you believe it.” I think the Lord wanted me to sing that to Him. My circumstances hadn’t changed, I hadn’t lost the 20 pounds, but the message was working in my life. Several months later as the song was released a single on February 15th, that day I stepped back on the scale and I had lost 100 pounds again. The Lord was showing me that He gave me the strength and He’ll bring you out stronger than when you start if you trust Him.

Do you have any Bible verses that go with the message of the song? Any life verse?

I’ve been memorizing Scripture every month and in January I memorized the Book of 1 Peter. A passage that goes with the song is 1 Peter 5:10: "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."

How can listeners apply that message in their walks as Christians when they listen to the song and the new album?

The lesson applied in my life has been that struggles like with my weight can’t be conquered by willpower. Every diet showed me after I failed that God’s power is much more powerful than my willpower. If you think about it, God raises people from the dead; he can certainly help me not want to eat a doughnut.

I just spent a week at “The Biggest Loser” resort in California. Six days of workouts, for seven hours per day. We would take these two-hour hikes every day. Strangely enough, to show where God has brought me, I was in these high level hiking groups. There were these steep inclines and I would get to the top and I would start crying. I was thinking about how God had brought me to that mountaintop figuratively and then also literally. I didn’t know what the scale would show me at the end of that week. What I knew was that God had made me stronger.

When you really cling to Him and walk with Him, He shows you that there is nothing that you can’t accomplish. We can do all things through Christ. I believe that more now than ever. I’ve heard that Scripture my whole life and now I really believe it.

Here are the lyrics:

Hey, heard you were up all night
Thinking about how your world ain't right
And you wonder if things will ever get better
And you're asking why is it always raining on you
When all you want is just a little good news
Instead of standing there stuck out in the weather

Oh, don't hang your head
It's gonna end
God's right there
Even if it's hard to see Him
I promise you that He still cares

When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain't gonna last forever
And things can only get better
Believe me, this is gonna make you stronger
Gonna make you stronger, stronger, stronger
Believe me, this is gonna make you ...

Try and do the best you can
Hold on and let Him hold your hand
And go on and fall into the arms of Jesus
Oh, lift your head it's gonna end
God's right there
Even when you just can't feel Him
I promise you that He still cares

'Cause if He started this work in your life
He will be faithful to complete it
If only you believe it
He knows how much it hurts
And I'm sure that He's gonna help you get through this

Here’s Asbury’s Bible commentary on 1 Peter 5:10: “Peter ends his exhortations by placing his readers' situation in a broader, cosmic perspective. Christians must understand who the real enemy is: the Devil who assaults God indirectly by assaulting his people wherever they are found in the world. Further, they must understand that God has already won the battle in Christ. He is the God of all grace who calls them to a life of temporary suffering but whose grace is sufficient to bring them to glory. That God has already won the victory must not, however, obscure the important role Christians play in the victory. Having recognized the true enemy, they must alertly, steadfastly, and unitedly resist that enemy by their faith. As they resist, they will depend on the call of their gracious God who in Christ will restore, strengthen, and establish them.”

What If We Were Real’s theme centers around the masks that each of us wear every day. Mandisa shares that her new record is “all about taking the masks off, and really letting the world see that we as Christians, It doesn’t mean we don’t go through difficult times, doesn’t mean that things are always great in our lives. It simply means we have a relationship with the Savior who is able to bring us joy and peace in the middle of our difficult times.”

I’ve been married for 16 years and have three young daughters, and this entire album really ministers to me and my family. The opening songs, “Stronger” and “What If We Were Real” are very upbeat and catchy songs, and Mandisa is a surefire GMA Dove Award nominee for Best Female Vocalist.

I can’t get enough of the worshipful chorus of “Stronger,” which offfers:“When the waves are taking you under, Hold on just a little bit longer, He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger, The pain ain't gonna last forever, And things can only get better.”

Mandisa is a great role model for girls struggling with identity issues and has a great platform from her success on American Idol and GRAMMY and GMA Dove Award nominations. This album is loaded with positive grace-filled messages of hope from someone who has struggled with the pressures of life and understands that true happiness only comes from her relationship with God.

As Mandisa sings in this song: “'Cause if He started this work in your life, He will be faithful to complete it, If only you believe it.” What a great message. Amen.

(You can watch the music video here.)

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.

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