For a young hard working man, Erik Michael earned a steady, comfortable income in sales as well as achieving a platform in music and ministry many might envy. However, life has a way of peeling away what symbolizes our security. Soon, Erik met an empty refrigerator each night. The choice to pursue helping a church plant while supporting himself with contract work stripped away his independent streak. His pride was punctured. With the weight of life’s circumstances on his shoulders, “Why God?” became an honest prayer. This all came to a point when reversing circumstances in life plunged Erik from platforms of rising notoriety to the shadows of hiddenness and insecurity.
Feeling the fire
Where before he was surrounded by friends and colleges and seemed to be on track to be taking the Christian music world by storm, he had now found himself betrayed and left alone with nothing but his broken pride and empty expectations. Life is fair in that one day we all experience the heat of fire under us. It doesn’t matter whether we caused all of it, part of it, or none of it. If we are fortunate, we each face our fragility. We might whine, live in denial, or minimize such periods in life. Or, we may very well find peace in embracing the good that a refining heat has to offer–in the long game, that is.
Erik often says, “What is always good may not always feel good.” He adds, “You have to go through things that are painful at the moment to have a healthy and good outcome…for our growth and his glory–a refining process, like gold.” Being refined may not feel good, but its something Erik is endeavoring to embrace. Rejoicing in tough circumstances is where the song from his new single, “You Are All I Need” comes from.
In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV)
Love doesn’t always feel good
Why did Erik write this song? He wanted to “blow out the myth that the Christian life is all peaches.” God doesn’t cause our pain, but he does allow it for our good. “Love doesn’t always feel good,” says Erik. Does God have our back? He explains the song gives us permission to acknowledge that we don’t always have things put together.
We go from self-focused to Christ-focused. It is not typical to sing praise in the context of sanctification, but surely appropriate for any honest prayer. Do we invite God to refine us, or merely expect our prayers to hype us to the fake-it-till-you-make-it moment? Erik and his co-writer, Charlotte-based writer-producer Kevin Winebarger, offer us more than hype.
There is a hymn-like quality in how the writers of the song build the verses to the refrain. The song walks us from the dangerousness of walking with God in verse one. Erik explains, “When we walk through life things don’t always look OK…and are scary like (King) David in the cave or Gideon being outnumbered.” In verse two, we acknowledge the moments we lack answers to our questions. Even in such times, God is for us. He’s on our side.
Singing and praying with honesty
It is difficult in the middle of heartbreak or not having enough food in the fridge to say “You are all I need.” Erik says that the chorus requires the worshiper to be in a place of honesty to really sing it. The hard financial times, personal betrayal, and insecurities about who he was as a worship leader all required a prayer that was honest–one that won’t gloss over current realities. Erik calls this a refining process, like polishing us to be a better mirror to reflect Christ. “It’s not just a victory over sin, but a victory over the stuff in life.” Erik reminds us, “What is the character of God? First, he loves us. Remember, love, isn’t always good feelings.”
As far as production, “You Are All I Need” comes out of the Old Bear Studios in Buffalo, New York with production credits by Chris Hoisington and Erik Michael. The textures and mix are truly natural and fresh while being compellingly familiar. Achieving a balance like that is not easy, for sure. Erik Michael currently serves as worship pastor at the newly planted “The Uncommon” in the Albany, New York area. Erik’s appearances as an artist have included sharing billing with Casting Crowns, Elevation, Anthony Skinner, Brothers McClurg, The City Harmonic and many others.
The single “You Are All I Need” is part of a full-length recording set to release in the summer of 2019 entitled, “God of the Unknown.” You can get his single free as of today, October 5, on Noisetrade.com.