What I Learned From Mandisa

You can stream Mandisa’s Celebration of Life service Saturday morning at 11am CST here. More details: 

If you haven’t already heard the news, our beloved friend and WayFM artist, Mandisa passed away on Thursday. Most people know Mandisa from her amazing songs, “Good Morning,” “Overcomer,” and “Stronger.” When I heard, I immediately thought about a special moment I once shared with her.

“Ladies, can you come over here and help me pray for Joy?”

I was hosting Mandisa’s first “Girl’s Night Live” event as her tour kicked off. She pulled me back stage with her big smile and asked how I was REALLY doing. She was that kind of soul. When I shared about some struggles, she went into action. Calling the other women on the tour around me instantly, they started praying.

Mandisa was such a ray of light and her laugh was contagious! She was rarely without her personal fan or her sweet pup, Kiya! I am finding it hard to talk about this powerful woman in the past tense.

We met Mandisa on American Idol when she forgave Simon Cowell for critical, unkind words about her body. Obviously, America instantly fell in love with her! In many ways, she was the brave we crave to be. Even though she finished ninth that season, she went on to win a Grammy for her album, “Overcomer.” 5 albums and countless tours had us all singing songs like “Good Morning” and “Overcomer.”

There is so much to be learned from knowing Mandisa, but here are 3 thing that I will never forget.

  • Someone does not have to apologize for you to forgive them.

With the world watching, Mandisa was humiliated by Simon Cowell’s comments about her body on American Idol but responded with poise and kindness. She was vulnerable in sharing that his words hurt her and caused her pain. She didn’t dismiss what he did but then also said, “If Jesus could die so all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you.” On a national stage, she took her own pain and used it to highlight Jesus! Everything Mandisa did was guided by her faith and this moment was no different. I was inspired by her instantly! Simon’s behavior did not seem to show much remorse and yet she shared that an apology is not necessary for forgiveness to take place.

  • If you know someone is struggling, relentlessly pursue them with love.

Mandisa’s album “Out of the Dark” was released in 2017 after she faced a particularly dark season of depression. Her faith was shaken but did not crumble. The album was filled with lyrics like:“I’m just unfinishedSo I’ll celebrate the truthHis work in me ain’t through”

The open to the album was a collection of voicemails from Mandisa’s friends who were checking on her and worried. They called and called. They visited her home. They covered her car in post-it notes. They did not give up on showing her love.  She was very honest in this interview about how God used them to save her when she was sinking in her own depression. Mandisa’s life was a true example of how important it is to check on those we know who are struggling. She once said, even if they never respond to your calls or texts, they see them and that matters.

  • Being honest about your struggles allows them to be used by God to inspire others.

As someone who struggles with mental health myself, I was so thankful Mandisa talked openly about her struggle. It takes incredible strength to say to a watching world that you love Jesus and still find yourself in the depths of depression. Mandisa was an open book. I loved having her in for interviews because nothing was off the table from body image, to racism, to singleness. She was willing to talk about all of it from an honest, faith filled place. This is why many of us feel like we knew her deeply. She once said about our struggles, “Don’t keep those things hidden. You aren’t doing God any favors by not talking to Him about it.”

Mandisa’s beautiful vulnerabilty even created a mantra for many in the song, “Overcomer.” It helped people through some of the hardest seasons of their lives and many cancer patients claimed it as their own fight song.

“You’re an overcomerStay in the fight ’til the final roundYou’re not going under (you’re not going under)‘Cause God is holding you right now”

I still hear her laugh in my mind as I remember our moments together. With a smile so big it was infectious, she will be so missed as the woman we rooted for and loved. May we all continue her legacy by forgiving, pursuing those who are struggling, and being honest when we flounder too. Jesus was all over her life and the angels up in heaven gained one powerful alto to add to the choir. She will be missed.

Here is my last interview with her from last year.

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