Didn’t She Almost Have It All?

This originally appeared as the weekly devo on whillschurch.org.

I wish I could say that Whitney Houston’s death came as a surprise. When the news broke, I thought to myself – this is going to play out with typical Hollywood shallowness. Sure enough, the Grammys became part love-fest for Whitney. I wonder how many of those people really liked her. Just the night before, Whitney was escorted away from a party due to her own abrasiveness.

The real tragedy in Whitney Houston is we have seen this before, we will see this again. An artist or star who blows us away with their craft and their talents, all the while on the inside they are slowly decaying. They have this sense of longing or inadequacy that needs to be fulfilled. They are not limited in their resources in searching for this something to fulfill this void in their life. No matter how many movies they make, hit songs they sing, or famous they get, that empty void still haunts them. Since they are not limited by resources, they will try anything to fill this void – sex, drugs, cars, houses, charity, business. And for some of them, the search will kill them.

Whitney Houston’s voice was unmatched. Her rendition of the national anthem for Super Bowl XXV in 1991 will leave you speechless. In fact, I think they should just play this version from now on, I doubt any artist will ever come close to matching that performance.

As pure as her voice was, what was going on inside her wasn’t. She shocked the world with her marriage to bad boy Bobby Brown. She shocked us again by telling us she wasn’t all that different from him. Then their reality tv show removed all doubt that the Whitney image of the 80s was just that – an image. Her rocky marriage, the drug and alcohol abuse, and the violence just made most of us extremely sad for her.

And Jesus loved her.

Houston always said that was her favorite song – Jesus loves me. Despite the profane lifestyle, the failures and the escapades – she consistently said that “Jesus Loves Me” was her favorite song.

Why couldn’t she grasp that in a deeper way that translated into a different lifestyle? The same reason so many of us can’t. It is difficult to see Jesus among the deadly distractions this life has to offer. My distractions may not be prescription pain killers or alcohol, but I’ve got them. And so do you if you are honest with yourself.

One conversation my kids and I constantly have when an artist comes on tv and mentions God is – “So you think he’s a Christian? You think she’s a Christian?”

It breaks a parent’s heart to tell their kid that their hero or favorite artist is just a broken, messed up person trying to figure out life. The only difference is they have the money to make some really, really bad mistakes that last forever. But if the music and entertainment industry has taught us anything – that is it. Fallen, messed up people are fallen, messed up people no matter what their income is.

And one of Houston’s songs seems to sum it up fairly well – Didn’t We Almost Have It All? Almost is still NOT having it all. Houston’s distractions cost her life. For whatever reasons, it never seemed she allowed Jesus to have the last word in her life. It’s easy to see this in her life, harder to see it in our own. But are our distractions of kids or marriage or success or titles or houses or money any less deadly? Is our obsession with our own happiness any different than Houston’s?

Scale – maybe. The question is still valid for us all – What does it profit a person to gain the whole world but lose his soul?

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:35 NIV)


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