I read an article today that I saw friends reposting with the promise to have me in tears by the time I was done reading it. That’s a bold promise – as a battle-tested news veteran, I am not easily reduced to an emotional heap at the keyboard.
Yet, here I am, typing with soggy eyes and tear-drenched hands. I can confidently say that by the time you are done reading this article and watching the video, you will be reduced to ugly tears as well. If you don’t, head to the doctor because there’s something wrong with your heart.
Meet Kalifa Wilson, 19, from South Carolina. She’s affectionately known as “Kai the Singer” and performs at her local church. On the outside, she seems like the ordinary teen – but she’s anything but. Money has always been a struggle for her large family, and tears filled her eyes as she described some of the hardships they have faced together. She explained how her family hopped from shelter to shelter, how they don’t have enough beds for all of her siblings, and even how they lived out of a car at one point during her tumultuous childhood.
They featured her backstory during her audition on American Idol, and as she described her life circumstances I was left in awe of her faith despite everything she’s dealt with. Most young people, especially today, see their faith in God crumble at first glance of hardship. How can there be a good God if I’m sick? If we can’t pay the bills? If I don’t have a home? How is He a loving God if we have to tuck ourselves into bed at night in the backseat of the family car, or the floor? I thought God provided for His people?
These are natural questions to ask and you’d hardly be human if you were going through one of those situations and didn’t ponder such things. But that’s where faith comes in. That’s where trusting His promises comes in. That’s where believing in a mighty, sovereign, loving, giving, forgiving God can provide joy even in the worst circumstances we can possibly face.
God never promised a life free of obstacles, grief, setbacks, stumbling, trials. To the contrary, they are practically a guarantee. It’s how we handle them that is the mark of a true believer, and ultimately how we will grow as Christians.
As I watched this young woman explain her story, I immediately thought of James 1:2-4, which says “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”
When she mentioned living out of the car, she immediately said she “thanked God for that car” despite the trial. As she explained they don’t have enough beds for her siblings to sleep on and she simply curls up in a blanket to go to bed, she was clearly getting emotional but added “But, it’s ok. I’m thankful for it.”
We look at our material items as blessings, and they are — but they can also be a hindrance. They can obstruct our view of something greater – the realization that everything comes from God and we need him. When we lose our bearings and forget we need him, that’s when the door opens for control and fear and worry and anxiety to creep in. Because, subconsciously, we falsely believe the burden of providing falls on us. Sometimes our material comforts need to be stripped away in order for us to understand this.
When we’re all out of worldly options, we have no choice but to trust.
But that doesn’t make it easy. “You kinda get tired of seeing your family struggling, it’s like, everyone wants you to go to college and wants you to be something but it takes money to go to college, and I’m kinda behind on that. But, if this could like, just blow up, that would be nice,” Wilson said.
After her first performance, it was clear she was nervous as a few of the notes didn’t quite connect. The judges asked her to take a deep breath and try one more time. She headed for the piano and unleashed a stunning, original version of ‘My Girl’ by The Temptations.
Artist and American Idol judge Luke Bryan said, “I don’t know how kids like you pony up and make it here.”
“My church,” Wilson responded, explaining that they basically sent her right after the service.
“You are here for a reason and a purpose. God can only do for you what He can do through you,” American Idol judge and music icon Lionel Ritchie said to her.
A beautiful story, one that we can all benefit from. And one that’s guaranteed to pull a few tears. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!