It was 2014. They had just purchased a home. Then their world was turned upside down when an unexpected change pulled them out of a community they loved.
Justin Kintzel wrote the first line of his new song — “In all this we know that you are good” — right after he and his wife, Ashley, were pushed out of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. At that time, Justin said he “didn’t really believe it.”
The Kintzels spent years in Lynchburg, where Justin served as the worship pastor for Liberty, one of the largest Christian colleges in the world. But when staff changes were made, their home began to fall apart.
That sent the Kintzels on quite the journey, complete with a series of moves, major financial concerns, a life-altering health scare with their daughter Nora, and a crazy spiritual battle that upended their entire world.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and that’s definitely the case with the Kintzels, who now live in Arvada, Colorado, where Justin serves as the communications and worship pastor for Applewood Baptist Church. Having survived the trials they faced, Justin told Faithwire he can now see how their struggle to handle suffering well caused him and Ashley to “turn on each other.”
At the same time Justin left Liberty, he and Ashley found themselves seriously cash strapped and at the precipice of what could have been a devastating loss: their little daughter Nora — who is now much healthier — was diagnosed with a handful of health complications.
And in the midst of all they were experiencing, Justin was losing his faith. Standing on the stage as he led congregations in worship, he was becoming an agnostic.
“I was really dejected,” Justin said of his season battling unbelief. “But there was one thing that really sort of kept me in.”
Even as he was struggling to keep the faith, Justin found himself deeply bothered by opportunistic religious leaders and prosperity gospel preachers who are “teaching false theology on purpose for gain.”
Justin was intrigued by the fact Scripture predicted there would be false teachers who claim to preach the Gospel but whose words don’t line up with the Bible.
“To me, if there was nothing to it, I could see how it would’ve just fizzled out a long time ago,” he said of Christianity. “Israel wouldn’t even be a place anymore. All of these things that are foundational to the Christian faith probably would’ve dissolved over time, and they haven’t.”
It all came to a head for Justin when, while he was serving as a worship pastor for a large church in Oklahoma, he found himself rushing out of an all-staff event and onto a hill, where he started shouting at God, challenging him to give him a sign in that moment.
Nothing happened. Justin was disappointed, but not surprised.
Then he went back inside, where the lead pastor moments later announced the church would be hosting a popular prosperity-style preacher for the next couple weeks — that, Justin recalled, was his sign.
“In one moment,” he said, “everything slid into place.”
As his faith was restored and he and Ashley’s struggles redeemed, Justin said he began to realize God, “in his love, brings hard things into our lives to wean us off of the world.”
“I had lived a very charmed life,” Ashley agreed. “There are three reasons why we suffer: it’s either our sin, it’s somebody else’s sin, or it is an attack of Satan that is permitted by the sovereign hand of God.”
Their experiences over the last several years, she said, have revealed to her God has purposes for the suffering he allows in our lives.
“We live in a culture that’s all about Christian maximizing,” Ashley added. “And Jesus is actually the de-maximizer. He sees the crowds following him and he turns around and says, ‘If you can’t pick up your own cross and follow me and die to yourself, you can’t be my disciple.’”
In a world that tells us everything is about us and crowns us authors of our own destinies, Justin and Ashley have learned together that just isn’t the case. One of the lines in Justin’s new single, “In All This We Know,” is, “When it all falls apart, we trust your heart, because you are God, and we are not.”
Their journey has, in part, made clear to Justin “the most offensive message in the universe is ‘die to yourself,’” he said, a reference to passages like Galatians 2:20, which reads, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”
Now, five years after leaving Lynchburg, Justin and Ashley are sharing a part of themselves — and how God has restored their lives — with a brand new single, the first song Justin has released in as much time.
That short lyric — “In all this we know that you are good” — had been tucked away for years in a file folder on his computer, Justin recalled, when a few months ago Ashley told him it was time to share his journey out of unbelief.
“So I did,” Justin said. “It’s been a vulnerable thing over time, but I think the confirmation has been that people have responded with, ‘Me too.’”