Have you ever felt trapped in a cycle of sin? Have you ever felt helpless when a loved one is struggling? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, Luke Smallbone and his wife Courtney’s story of addiction and healing might inspire you.
In the mid-2010s, when the band for King & Country was enjoying career success and playing on tour for thousands of fans, Luke, member of the band for King & Country, received a call that would change his life forever.
His wife, Courtney, pregnant with their second child, called him and asked if he could come home right away. This call surprised Luke, but he knew he had to put his wife first and leave the tour. The singer flew back as soon as he could, but he discovered that the problem was much worse than he thought.
As Courtney had described to Luke over the phone, the pills she had been prescribed for her pregnancy symptoms of morning sickness were taking control of her. She had developed a reliance on the pills after their effectiveness began to wear off and her doctor increased her dosage.
When Luke arrived home, he was stunned to find his wife was shaking and hallucinating, convincing herself she needed more of the medication. As Luke watched his wife battle the urge to take more pills throughout the night, he knew he would have to take drastic measures.
The next morning, Luke drove his wife to a psychiatric facility where she would complete an outpatient program during the day for two weeks. Luke, however, was not allowed to be with her during this time. He was forced to drop her off and leave. He described it as one of the most isolating experiences of his life.
Imagine watching your spouse or a loved one battle addiction and not being able to help them on their road to recovery. In that moment, Luke felt alone and helpless.
However, Courtney excelled in treatment and finished within the recommended two weeks. She would still need to watch her habits to avoid relapse, but she had done well and no longer needed to receive treatment at the facility.
Still, Courtney’s battle with addiction was far from over. Luke recalls that one day, she approached him with the bottle of pills in her hand and told him she needed to flush them. She needed to get rid of them so that she could leave the hurt and addiction behind her.
In that moment, Luke remembered something: an old story about a man who had hoped to explore the new world, but some of his men refused to jump off their ships and follow him into the wilderness. So, as a last resort, the explorer burned all his ships so that his men would have to follow him into this new world.
This feeling and this experience with his wife was exactly what Luke wanted to channel for the band’s song, “Burn the Ships.” He wanted to capture that joyous feeling of leaving our old sin habits behind us for a new and unknown future. Like it says in the lyrics to their hit song, “Burn the Ships”:
Burn the ships, cut the ties
Send a flare into the night
Say a prayer, turn the tide
Dry your tears and wave goodbye (“Burn the Ships,” for King & Country)
Courtney wanted Luke to tell this story in song, even though their story is hard and previously caused them to feel ashamed. Courtney felt her story could help others living in bondage find release.
What started out as a very personal song quickly turned into an entire album meant to touch the hearts of listeners. This song, “Burn the Ships,” inspired a whole album based on believers who have real-life stories to tell about their struggles.
The band for King & Country wanted to reach people of all backgrounds right where they are, so they collected stories from around the globe about believers who have overcome their daily struggles with the help of Christ.
They believe this album is their most personal album yet, with songs like “God Only Knows,” which has nearly 60 million streams on Spotify, and “Joy,” which has 48 million streams. They hope these songs will inspire listeners and reach them on a heart level.
For Luke and his wife, burning the ships meant flushing those pills. Leaving behind the addiction, the guilt, and the shame.
What would life look like without the medication? Luke and Courtney would have to discover that together, like the men on the explorer’s ships who had no choice but to venture into the unknown:
So long to shame, walk through the sorrow
Out of the fire into tomorrow
So flush the pills, face the fear
Feel the wave disappear
We’re comin’ clear, we’re born again
Our hopeful lungs can breathe again
Oh, we can breathe again (“Burn the Ships,” for King & Country)
Our world is a broken place full of fallen people who struggle with sin and shame. We all battle sinful habits in life, but some sins have a hold on us like no other. We find ourselves in bondage to social media, selfishness, anger, pride, gluttony, materialism … the list goes on.
It can be hard to watch those we love stay trapped in a cycle of sin and shame, hurting themselves and those around them in the process. Sometimes we don’t quite understand what’s holding them back from experiencing the joy and freedom Christ offers.
However, it’s never good to look at others and point fingers. There will be times when we also find ourselves trapped. We feel isolated and ashamed because we don’t know how to escape and change our ways.
Breaking those chains and completely abandoning the life and behaviors we’ve known is impossible without God. Sometimes we just stay in our fallen state instead of reaching out to Christ in our times of distress. We sit in our sin, and we wonder what could have happened if we found the strength to leave it all behind.
Christ does not want us to stay in our bondage. Instead, He wants us to abandon our past completely in pursuit of the freedom only He can offer. As it says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Still, when we struggle with sin and addiction, we often feel stuck. Although we experience immense hurt and shame, we can feel powerless to disconnect from those sins. After all, leaving behind the familiar, no matter how disgusting our past is, seems impossible.
We may even question what the future will look like when we leave these sins behind. What will abandoning our unhealthy habits do to our daily lives? How do we know what waits for us once we’ve left these behaviors behind?
However, when Christ calls us to His Kingdom and His purpose, we shouldn’t go back to the old lives we were living. The old part of us, the shameful sinner with no hope for redemption, is dead and gone: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We don’t have time to stay and mourn what once was. We need to accept our new hope and future as chosen and redeemed children of God.
What may feel comfortable now might not be what is best for us. The sinful habits we can’t seem to let go of are only holding us back. We were once prisoners to our sin, but it’s time for us to burn our ships and run to Christ with open arms. Then, we can experience true freedom.
The Lord tells us in Scripture that His plans for us are good: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). He may lead us into the unknown, but we have to trust in His faithfulness. And often, what He has in store far surpasses our wildest expectations.
So, are you willing to jump off the ship? Will you follow the Lord to a new hope and future, even when you’re facing the unknown?
Step into a new day
We can rise up from the dust and walk away
We can dance upon our heartache, yeah
So light a match, leave the past, burn the ships
And don’t you look back (“Burn the Ships,” for King & Country)
Luke Smallbone hopes that people hear his and Courtney’s story and feel encouraged in their own battles with sin and shame. Tune into 98.5 KTIS to hear more for King & Country songs, or you can listen to “Burn the Ships” on our website. If you or a loved one are seeking release from something that is holding you back, visit PrayerWorks to receive prayer and pray for others in similar situations.