In this City Radio interview, Darlene Zschech shares about the beauty of revelations received in the dark valleys of life and the message behind her latest album Here I Am Send Me (Hineni).
Interview conducted by Mervyn Lim, transcribed by Lim Jun Yun
Speaker, author, pastor and worship leader Darlene Zschech has written over 100 anthems, sung by millions of worshipers all over the world. Hope in God, His goodness and His power to save have always been key themes in her songs. When she was diagnosed with cancer in December 2013, everything she had sung about was put to the test. City Radio caught up with her to talk about her newest project, Here Am I Send Me, her first project since that diagnosis. The album features new songs penned by Zschech and worship team members at Hope Unlimited Church in New South Wales, Australia, along with guest collaborators Martin Smith (Delirious?), Paul Baloche, Jenn Johnson (Bethel) and Leeland Mooring.
Bringing hope to the poor has long been an important theme for you and your husband, Mark, through your work with relief agencies including Hope: Global and in your place of ministry in New South Wales. How would you say your understanding of hope has been shaped by your experience with cancer?
Oh, I tell you, it’s gotten deeper, that’s for sure. Mark says ‘Hope is a person. His name is Jesus.’ And we say that a lot. The Bible says hope is an anchor. It’s not an emotion. Faith is the substance of things unseen, things that are hoped for. You can’t see it but you can hang your life on it.
I feel like I’m am ambassador of hope. I can see it everywhere. Even when I was feeling like I wouldn’t make it, I’d sit with people who were at various stages of treatment, talk to them about clinging to Christ rather than to their fears. The reality of hope… I can hold it, touch it, feel it… rather than cross my fingers and hope it’s there. That’s how real hope is to me.
People ask me, ‘Did your faith get tested?’ And to be honest, I can’t think of anything further from where I’d been. Without faith in Christ, I can’t imagine how people make it. He’s what I cling to. We trust God in our life and we trust Him in our death… Facing these big things, Jesus is bigger than all of it. Hope is everything.
For those who might not be aware, can you give us an update on your health?
I’m doing really well. Of course, I’ll have very frequent follow-ups for another nine years, and I’m still on medication that’s hard on my body, but I feel the grace to take it for now. Cancer is a funny thing. The medical world doesn’t like to say the word “healed”. They like to say the word “remission”, but I’m believing God’s report over my life. I speak Psalm 91 over myself every day. I take my medicine, and I take the Word of God, and I do my best with what I can do in the natural and trust God with those things over which I have no power.
I negotiate a lot of pain every day… The frustration is that with a weakened immune system, I have to be careful where and how I travel. With our heart for the developing world, that’s difficult. So we’re just trusting God through all of that. If anyone wants to pray for me, pray I’ll have wisdom about what to say “yes” to and “no” to, what injections and immunizations to take, what to leave behind. That’s my every day world now.
Share with us the overall theme of the album and the title track for Here I Am Send Me.
You know, for me, there was no way cancer was going to have the last word. I needed to release songs that God had been speaking to me during that period of time.
“Here Am I, Send Me (Hineni)” comes out of Genesis 22—the first mention of worship in the Bible—where God calls to Abraham, and Abraham says “Yes Lord,” which is translated in Hebrew as the word “Hineni.” It means, “Whatever it is you’re asking, my answer is yes.” Before He asks, my answer is “Yes.”
And even for the other songs such as “You Will Be Praised”, with the chorus, “In death and in life I will not be afraid, In joy or in pain, You will be praised,” it’s a real declaration of faith. It doesn’t matter what’s going on, the praise of God will continue and that’s our faith journey—stand up and declare His Name regardless of what we see.
What advice would you share with others who are trying to keep the faith while facing serious life challenges?
There is a little book that I carry with me everywhere, it contains the promises that God gave me along the way, and you know, I think you’ve got to keep the Word of God in front of you. You’ve got to keep it on your lips. You’ve got to keep it where you can see it. It’s alive, it’s living, the Word of God is transformational.
The other thing is that the people you have around you is really important. I became quite vigilant about who I let come close to me—I needed people around who could speak life and hope and not bring all their fears, because when you are fighting for your life, you need hope around you. So I would say, get into the Word, be in the Word, make sure you got people of faith around you who keep on reminding you of every promise from God, declaring life over you.
Your daughter Zoe is featured on the album. What was it like having her involved in this project?
It’s so good (laughs). If you watch the DVD, you’ll see there’s a lot of love in the room, and when Zoe steps up to lead a portion of the song, you can see that she’s really treasured in the team, and you know it’s not just me raising her up, it’s been the community of faith she’s in raising her up in the things of God…it’s beautiful when we watch our children step into their calling, I feel so blessed to watch this process of God in them.
What would you say worship is?
It is the vehicle that God has given us to declare His greatness. Worship is more than a song, but songs help give our worship a voice and take us to where we need to be—in God’s presence. I worship God with my life 24/7—that is the goal of Christ followers. It’s as (Christian preacher and author) A W Tozer said, “I want my life to be lived as a head-to-toe hallelujah,” and I really like that! Songs help take us to the throne of God and get the noise in life to quiet down for the truth of the Word to come out. Songs are powerful, but worship is really about the whole of our lives.
Is there something you can share with your fans here at City Harvest Church? We’ve been singing many of your songs during service, and they have really helped, as you said, give our worship a voice during some pretty turbulent times!
I want to tell you all that you are really precious to God. You know, there are so many things we don’t understand, but we need time to learn to trust the Lord. And, actually I think some of the things we learn about God and His goodness are not all found on the on the mountain tops; some of the dearest, more treasured times are found in the deepest valleys.
Don’t let your head hang low, keep your head up before God, He is the glory and lifter of our head. Keep it simple in your heart, just love the Lord with everything you have gotten, and receive His previous love to you, and I am sure you will find things about the love and faithfulness of God in your life that you never would have dreamed of discovering on this journey.
Catch the audio interview with Darlene Zschech as well as songs from her latest album Here I Am Send Me on City Radio Air in July.