Singer/Songwriter Aaron Shust; learning to trust God in the darkest times

aaron shust“I am not skilled to understand/what God has willed, what God has planned/ I only know at his right hand/ stands One who is my Savior.”

When singer/songwriter Aaron Shust penned the words to his award-winning song, “My Savior, My God,” he never expected that – within a few years – they would become the defining statement of his life.

In 2010 and 2011, Aaron and his wife Sarah watched as their second son Nicky was in and out of the hospital with rare and life-threatening conditions; at one point they thought they were going to lose him. They learned to not only trust God for healing and deliverance, but also for peace in whatever His perfect will was.

In a recent interview, Aaron shared with Paula K. Parker how they would have to trust God for healing again in January, 2012, when their third son, Michael was born.

Aaron and Sarah Shust with son Michael

Aaron and Sarah Shust with son Michael

Paula K. Parker: Tell me Michael’s story.

Aaron Shust: During her pregnancy, Sarah was high risk for several factors, so she was going in quite often for checkups and multiple sonograms. Ironically, we look back and are mystified. Michael’s measurements were always right on track with where he was supposed to be. Even his heart. I remember one time when the nurse doing the sonogram pointed to the screen and counted the four chambers of his heart. “Looks good,” she said.

About four minutes after Michael was born, one of the nurses told us,“We are seeing signs that may indicate that he has Downs Syndrome.” Within a couple of hours, we learned he had a major heart defect. He did not have four chambers in his heart; it was more like one big opened one; valves missing, walls missing.

He needed to have open-heart surgery imminently. They wanted him to gain as much weight as possible; when his heart began to fail, that would be the indication that we would have to rush him into surgery. He went home with an apnea/heart monitor. He would stop breathing in the middle of the night; he would turn blue. It was pretty scary.

(L-R) Daniel, Nicky, Aaron, Sarah and Michael Shust

(L-R) Daniel, Nicky, Aaron, Sarah and Michael Shust

He had surgery the day after Mother’s Day when he was four months old. His skin immediately got a little more pink and healthy looking. He had another heart surgery a few months ago, because his aorta was misplaced and was smashing his trachea, making it hard for him to breath.

We found out shortly after that first heart surgery that he was deaf. He was profoundly deaf in one ear and severely deaf in the other. We had multiple hearing tests done in 2012; all of them were flat-lined in both ears.

We decided to do a cochlea implant and were scheduled to go in for a test to determine what type of implant to use. A week before the surgery, Sarah felt strongly that she needed to go to this prayer meeting in New York City. She took Michael down to the front for prayer. He began to show signs over the next couple of days that he might be able to hear. We took him in for a hearing test and found that his hearing was perfect; a full-range in both ears. That was a miracle.

This gives him hope to be able to speak. He has physical therapist, occupational, speech and hearing therapist that came to the house each week. We were able to cancel the hearing therapy.

(L-R) Nicky, Aaron, Michael and Daniel Shust

(L-R) Nicky, Aaron, Michael and Daniel Shust

For us, it was an indication that God hears, that God knows, that God cares about our situation. That God loves Michael so much that He would step out of eternity, so to speak, and touch us with a little bit of infinity. That gives us faith and encouragement to know that, even when things are not realized the way we would pray – that healing would take place, to avoid another surgery – that God has a plan, that God knows what is going on.

PKP: I understand that someone contacted the state and made an accusation against Sarah?

Aaron Shust: In April 2012, a person made an anonymous call to the State of Pennsylvania and made an accusation that Sarah was neglecting and/or abusing Michael by not feeding him and ignoring the doctor’s orders for Michael’s care.

Michael is very small; that has a lot to do with his Down Syndrome, and a decent amount to do with the size of his parents, and with the fact that his aorta was crushing his trachea. His trachea was 70% closed; it took great effort for him to swallow. A lot of calories were being burned.

When someone makes an accusation, a case has to be opened and someone from Child and Youth Services came to the house. I was on tour and my parents – who live in Georgia – were visiting Sarah and helping with the children, because the day this happened, Michael was in the hospital going through surgery to have the aorta/trachea issue fixed, so he could gain weight.

Sarah and Michael Shust

Sarah and Michael Shust

The case worker gave us three options. One: our three children could be removed from our home. Two: I could leave the road – which was my job – come home and be the primary care-giver. I remember telling the CYS agent over the phone, “For me to do that seems to indicate that I believe that Sarah is not capable. The truth is, she is capable; I trust her more than I trust myself. The third option was that somebody else stayed. My mother chose to stay with us in Pennsylvania for a month.

My mother is a wonderful, godly woman and the month she stayed with us was a special time, even amidst circumstances that were ugly. But it was difficult and it has taken a toll on Sarah; she was branded with this stigma, this accusation was almost the worse thing she ever had to bear.

There were documents that were requested from the hospital at the beginning of this whole thing. They were released about four weeks later that indicated that Sarah has done nothing but co-operate with every one of the doctor’s orders. Every suggestion on how to feed or care for Michael, she followed to the letter.

We’re looking in the very near future to have no more CYS visits. We’ve had an opportunity to get to know these case workers and they assure us that our situation is very different from other situations they deal with. We tell them, “We firmly believe in what you do and it’s sad that you have to waste your time on us.” Statistically, Michael had less than a 1% chance of survival since he was born. Sarah has said, “If we had wanted him not to survive, all we had to do was not run into the nursery when the apnea/heart monitor went off.”

So, we’ve seen this from the very beginning as an attack from the enemy and as a spiritual issue. We don’t know who the person is who made the accusation, but we’ve forgiven them already.

PKP: Turning the other cheek reads beautifully in Scripture, but walking it in real life has to be difficult.

Aaron Shust: It is, and I think we’ve been through enough situations, large and small, that we can see the future benefit of forgiving. You always hear that when you don’t forgive, you are poisoning your own soul. Forgiving is an opportunity to release that poison. There is a part of me that hopes that one day I do find out who that person is, so that I have another opportunity to share the love of Christ in that moment.

Today Michael is growing. He is teething – which is something they said he might not do. He is crawling around the house. [laughs] He loves to tear up magazines. He is such a joy.

Morning RisesPKP: Tell me about your new album, “Morning Rises” [Centricity Music].

Aaron Shust: One thing that I am excited about this album is that my road band played on it. We went in a week before Christmas and recorded this album live. It was such a great opportunity to be in the studio for a week solid, as opposed to layering the drums, then a few weeks later layering the guitars and so on. We did it all at one time. So these songs were coming to life right there in the room while I was singing them.

The overarching theme of the first album – and the title of the album – is from a line in the first song. “God of Brilliant Lights;” Like the morning rises/your light is shining over us.

I think of Christ as the Light of the World. Zachariah, in the book of Luke, sang a song of praise after his son John the Baptist was born; “The rising sun will come to us from Heaven to shine on those living in darkness.”

I love that imagery. I love the promise that we have in the illustration every day as the sun rises and breaks through the darkness. Whatever situation – the darkness of our soul, the darkness of our sin and depravity, the darkness of the world around us – we have the hope in the Light of the World. He penetrates that darkness. The light of God, the attributes, the characteristics of God, the Fruit of the Sprit – God’s love, God’s joy, God’s patience – can be ours. All those attributes of God, that’s what breaks the darkness.

It’s an album that celebrates that Light, how He breaks through our circumstances. It’s an album of praise, like Job praised on his darkest day, when he dropped to his knees and said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Even in the darkest situation, I want to be able to respond with praise.

For more information about Aaron Shust, visit his website or LIKE Aaron’s Facebook page