Granger Smith’s Radical Transformation
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“Everything had crumbled in that very moment and I was destroyed. I reached in the drawer looking for the one thing that could help, my gun. This is the way to peace. Just squeeze the trigger.”
In 2019, acclaimed country music artist Granger Smith was on top of the world. Sold out shows, a loving family at home, it was all going so well – until one fateful day.
“I was in the backyard with the three kids just kind of enjoying the last few moments before I headed off to tour,” Granger said. “I was playing gymnastics with my daughter and the boys were playing water gun fight. The next thought was, ‘It's quiet. Where's River?’ Turned over my left shoulder and there he was in our pool, the gated locked pool, in the middle floating face down. I flipped him over and he was like a ragdoll. I panicked, took him to the side, started CPR. Didn’t know how to do that besides what I had seen in movies. It was an absolute nightmare.”
Granger and his wife, Amber, did their best to revive River until paramedics got to him, but it was too late. Their 3-year-old son passed away at the hospital.
“I failed at the one thing a father should be able to do – keep their son alive,” Granger said. “I failed at that, and feeling the guilt and shame from that I realized that I needed to be the rock for my family. That ended up quickly turning into, 'I got to go back to work.'”
However, Granger soon learned that his pain wasn’t something he could simply work through.
“I had this thing that I called the slideshow,” Granger said. “I had these visions that would pop into my head at any moment. It’s River in the pool, it’s the ambulance screaming down that county road, it’s the doctor walking in saying he’s not going to make it. I couldn’t get that slideshow out of my head. It would cripple me, absolutely cripple me. I felt like I was drowning.”
Granger tried everything to stop the slideshow: therapy, self-help books, meditation. He grew up in a Christian home, so he began reading Bible devotionals, but the visions kept playing. Then a friend suggested Granger start vaping marijuana to help calm his nerves, which worked for a while. But it all came to a head one night on tour in Idaho, six months after losing River. Granger’s band had just finished two back-to-back sold out shows and they wanted to celebrate at a nearby bar.
“I go to the bus,” Granger recalled doing after leaving the bar. “That’s when it hit me, when I got to the back of the bus. I thought, ‘This is the first time I’ve been drunk since it all went down.’ And as soon as I started thinking that the slide show popped in. Started sobbing, I was shaking. Pulled out my gun, put the gun up to my head. That’s when I had a thought. It was outside of my own consciousness is the best way to describe it, but the thought was, ‘This is the way to rest.’ I recognized that there was an enemy speaking to me. I said, ‘Jesus, save me, please save me!’ And the slideshow stopped. I dropped the gun onto the floor and fell asleep in peace. That next morning was day one of a new journey for me. Who is Jesus? Who is He really? Not just the One I talked about in Sunday school and not the One that I claimed as a cultural Christian, but who and what is the power of this Man, of this Name?”
Granger looked online for the one preacher whose name he knew off the top of his head, Billy Graham. He listened to more than a hundred of Graham’s sermons over the next several weeks.
“I loved it,” Granger said. “It was watering that seed in me.”
Then it all came together.
“I was driving in my truck just randomly going through this sermon,” Granger said. “He was speaking out of John 14. ‘If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’ My eyes were opened. The first reaction through the tears was, ‘Lord Jesus, rule my life. Take control. I give everything to You. I surrender. I turn from my sin, let me serve You. Let me serve You, everything else is rubbish.’ I started learning who He is, the One that saved me. I learned who He is through His word, through absorbing His scriptures, just pouring them on me and it started changing me.”
On August 26, 2023, Granger performed his final show, leaving his 24 years in music behind to focus on studying the Bible and sharing the love of Jesus with all those who’ll listen. His family was also blessed with another child, Maverick, and he recently wrote a book, Like a River, hoping to comfort others through his story of loss and redemption. Granger says he found a new purpose in Christ and that by trusting Him we can all find healing.
“I didn't need the weed pens, I didn't need the meditations,” Granger said. “Now I knew what would save me, and it wasn't in myself. It was in Christ. And the slideshow didn't stop, but it lost its sting. I felt peace. I felt joy. I felt rest in the surrender. Praise be to God that He broke me. That He completely broke me down to nothing so that I could rely on nothing but Him. Praise God that He did that, I can’t take credit for it. I miss River, but I know I’ll see him again. That's the new feeling now. That's the grieving with hope that Christians are promised.”
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