They say time heals all wounds but the cold hard truth is that there are no guarantees. When you've lost someone you love there's no rainbow that suddenly appears over the horizon. The pain that engulfs you is like a roaring river -- if you step too close to the edge it will sweep you off your feet and pull you downstream.
But for 10-time Grammy Award nominee and celebrated pastor Marvin Sapp being dragged to the depths of his grief and drowning was never an option. Following the loss of his beloved wife of 20 years to cancer, preceded by the untimely deaths of his father and two best friends, Sapp still had three children to raise, an influential church to run and a thriving musical career to maintain. Despite enormous sadness he knew God would not want him to forsake his path. And so he poured his swirling emotions into his craft, crediting the cathartic creative process with the release of his stunning revelatory decree You Shall Live.
Eleven luminous tracks exploring both the fragility and durability of the human spirit, the gospel star, best known for his gold-selling classic "Never Would Have Made It," takes listeners on a rewarding musical ride punctuated by life-sustaining hymns of praise and promise. Impassioned, emboldened but most of all unbroken the masterful singer delivers an exceedingly intimate disc in a nod to his deliverance, testifying to God's ability to pull his children out of the rubble of their lives and into the blindingly brilliant light.
"I was in a very transparent space when I recorded this album," recounts Sapp of his tenth solo album, recorded in Houston, L.A. and New York. "Being transparent is important to me, especially since the passing of my wife," he admits. "I wanted to deliver something that was going to encourage, uplift and enlighten those who are in the valleys of their lives, to let them know I get it. I know what it feels like to have your heart ripped out of your chest -- when it hurts so bad you don't know how you're going to go on. But I also needed them to know that no matter the heartbreak, God's got us and even the most painful experience can be overcome."
Listeners need only look to the album's partial title track, the thunderous commandment Live for proof. On it Sapp -- who collaborated with long-time producer and creative force Aaron Lindsey -- drives the sage, inspirational message home, reminding fans that "You shall live no matter what you go through."
Next the pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan takes all God's children to church on Greater, a song he says was adapted from one of his favorite sayings. "As part of my sermons I like to tell my listeners not to be satisfied with mediocrity," he says, "and that God is taking them from great to greater. Greater's confident and empowering lyrics reflect this truth: "I'm not sorry to say this but I'm leaving/ I'm heading for greatness / More exceeding / To this place in my life I'm waving bye bye/ I'm pressing on/ I'm moving on/ I'm moving from great to greater."
On the organ-backed "Beloved," a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, choir-shouting praise fest, Sapp extols the omnipotent power of God and the every-day miracles he performs in our lives.
But in case the Faithful still need convincing Sapp gift wraps the mighty "Praise Your Way Through," a rousing, tambourine-accompanied spiritual call to action in acknowledging God for all he's done for each of us.
Sapp takes listeners back to the old school with "The Old Rugged Cross," a refreshing spin on a beloved Gospel standard. On it, his voice sweetly rides tender piano chords as he pledges his life to the Lord.
"Yes You Can" is aimed at the selfie generation, a commercially savvy song featuring wax DJ scratches and an undeniably danceable rhythm that entertains as it uplifts.
The former Commissioned musician also tips his proverbial hat to recently departed gospel great Andrae Crouch with a tribute to his legend on the 80s-flavored "Count on You," which he wrote with Lindsey and Myron Williams.
The golden-piped singer mounts the pulpit to preach about how Jesus' love has saved him on the dramatic, string-swelled "Thank You for the Cross."
More traditional praise and worship songs like Honor and Glory, Holy Spirit Overflow and Your Love round out Sapp's stellar spiritual love offering.
Soon fans may have an opportunity to not only hear the charismatic singer but see him on a reality show that's in the works. In the meantime Sapp continues to tour the country preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and song, devoting much of his spare time to acting as an advocate for charter schools, particularly the Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology (GREAAT) which he opened with his wife. "As parents we understood what the right educational opportunities could provide for our kids, and it is my desire for us to be able to give all our kids the same promising chance at life."
Sapp has enjoyed a decorated music career receiving 22 Stellar Awards, 2 Soul Train Music Awards, 2 BET Awards, 2 Dove Awards and 8 BMI Songwriter's Awards for sales along with many other accolades and honors from national, regional and local institutions.