Singer Danny Gokey's life story is one that is characterized by both intense personal pain and monumental triumph. Gokey, who came in third place on season eight of "American Idol" and who has since had a successful professional music career, most recently released a Christian album titled, "Hope In Front of Me."
He dropped by TheBlaze newsroom last week to discuss his faith, struggles and musical success.
Before becoming a professional singer, Gokey, 34, drove an eighteen wheeler semi-truck, but that all changed after his first wife, Sophia, encouraged him to pursue his dream of making music. Tragically, just weeks before he auditioned for "American Idol," Sophia died unexpectedly during a routine heart surgery — an experience that shook Gokey to his core.
[sharequote align="center"]"It caused me to question everything, because you’re taught...God is a healer...he’s a refuge."[/sharequote]
"It caused me to question everything, because you’re taught in church that, you know, God is this — he’s a healer, he’s a helper, he’s a refuge," Gokey told this author on the Freefall podcast. "And then I go, and I pray and I believe God, and she’s praying and I’m praying that God would heal her, and that doesn’t happen. And so, it called everything that I believed into question."
Watch Gokey discuss overcoming loss, his faith and his music career below:
He said that the painful experience didn't immediately call his faith into question, recalling the moments of darkness that he said crept up during the healing process.
"You know, at the time, you’re in a terrible, emotional state, and you’re just wanting God to use it because all things work together for the good," Gokey said. "But, then as you’re kind of sitting and you’re walking through it, and the questions come and the dark times come and you’re by yourself, and you’re not on a high moment, you’re in a valley."
He added, "You know, you’re trying to figure out, 'Well if you’re so good, why did you not do this or that? And how come I feel like you abandoned me in the moment I needed you?' And so… that loss caused my faith to come into question."
In the end, though, Gokey said he believes it was the "grace of God" that actually brought him through the pain. Just four weeks after Sophia's death, he found himself taking to the "American Idol" stage, where he captured hearts with his story and progressed through the bulk of the competition, finishing in third place.
[sharequote align="center"]"I did not expect 'till death do us part' to be so fast."[/sharequote]
Gokey said that, despite the show's close proximity to his wife's death, going on "American Idol" was the "best thing" for him at the time.
"When we live in our own towns and cities, we have our own connect group, you know, whether it’s through our church, our family — your world is that," he said. "When I was taken from that and put on a world-stage, my world became bigger, so my perception of my situation became smaller, and so at that moment, the loss didn’t have such a[n] effect at that point. But it has its ebbs and flows."
Years later, the singer is remarried and has two small children. With a family and a flourishing music career, Gokey said that his end goal is always to stay centered on God and to make music that people can relate to, while also helping fans to "feel something when they hear it."
He continues to honor the memory of his late wife through an organization called Sophia's Heart Foundation, a nonprofit he founded that serves the poor in both Nashville and Milwaukee.
"I did not expect 'till death do us part' to be so fast, and so I wanted to carry and keep her legacy alive," Gokey told TheBlaze. "And it all kind of budded from an insurance policy ... I didn’t know was there. Her boss gave it to me, and when I got that check, I said, you know, 'This is going to start something to keep her legacy alive.'"
You can read more about the foundation's work here.