At the height of his career, Mark Stuart seemingly had it all.
The lead singer of the popular Christian rock band Audio Adrenaline, Stuart was on the frontlines when the Christian music scene exploded in the early 1990s. Known for hits like “Big House” and “Ocean Floor,” the group sold out stadiums all over the world, won Grammy and Dove Awards, and even celebrated an album going certified Gold.
But according to Stuart, something was missing.
“We were considered an A-list Christian band; we were headlining our own tours and festivals, we had just won two Grammys and sold millions of records,” the 51-year-old artist told The Christian Post. “But for me, there was always an underlying sense of doom.”
“I’ve never said this before, but I always had a fear that we were going to be found out as imposters, that we weren’t good enough, that there would always be someone who could sing better, or was more in tune with the Lord, or better able to deliver the Gospel. I always felt like everything was about to fall apart.”
In January 2006, Audio Adrenaline sent shockwaves through the Christian community when they announced that they had decided to split up after almost 20 years together. The reason for the decision, the band revealed, was devastating: Stuart’s signature raspy voice was giving out due to vocal cord damage caused by a disorder known as spasmodic dysphonia.
Around the same time, Stuart’s wife informed him their marriage was over. Within a short period of time, the singer said, “I lost control of everything: my music, my voice, my marriage.”
“God definitely used Audio Adrenaline; it was an incredible ministry,” the Tennessee native said. “But the whole time, I was under an illusion that it was something I had accomplished rather than living in the moment of ‘wow, look what God has done.’”
“When you’re living from a perspective of ‘look what I’ve accomplished’ or worried about what you can lose, you’re living from a small perspective. You’ve given your life to thinking about yourself rather than giving glory to the One who created it all. So when I lost it all, I felt completely undone.”
Desperate to find meaning in his life, Stuart traveled to Haiti to help with Audio Adrenaline’s ministry, the Hands and Feet Project. When the devastating 2010 earthquake hit, media learned he was present and sought him out for interviews.
“I jumped into that ministry wholeheartedly and ironically became the unofficial voice for Haitians,” Stuart reflected. “It was like God said to me, ‘Mark, I’m not done with you. You still have a voice. Audio A was one part of a bigger story, but it is not your identity. I am your identity.’”
For the next several years, Stuart focused on serving the orphaned and abandoned children of Haiti through the ministry the band had founded. “Everything flipped for me. I had the privilege of losing everything to gain perspective,” he shared. “God became bigger and more good in the midst of losing everything. For the first time in my life, God became bigger than me. My life became complete.”
Now remarried, Stuart and his wife, Aegis, adopted two children — Journey and Christela, both 12.
“My perspective has entirely changed,” Stuart said. “I’m not in control. My life is all His. All of a sudden, you begin to move through life as if everything is significant; not just a Grammy or singing for thousands. It’s about loving your wife well, being a good father. All of those things are infinitely more significant than success.”
Stuart shares his powerful story in his new book, Losing My Voice to Find It: How a Rockstar Discovered His Greatest Purpose. In it, he overlays his story with passages from the gospel of John, urging his readers to listen for God’s voice and find their own by embracing His big love that calls us into a big life.
“This book is my testimony,” he said. “I wrote it to give glory to God and to encourage people that through Christ, there is the power to change.”
“When we look back on our story, no matter what it entails, inevitably you can see the goodness of the Father. God showed up in my life and performed miracles. This book is not just about losing a voice; it’s about losing everything only to find out that on the other side, when you’re completely surrendered to God, there is an enormous life available to you. It makes your first life look minuscule.”
Stuart reflected on the lyrics to “Hands and Feet,” the iconic song he penned back in 1999: “I wanna be your hands/I wanna be your feet/I'll go where you send me.”
“It was a genuine cry from my heart,” he contended. “I had success, but I felt incomplete. It was almost a cry, like, ‘God, please bring significance to my life.’”
“At the time,” he added with a chuckle, “we had a Gold record.”
Stuart acknowledged God “moved Heaven and earth” to get his attention. “If I knew what was about to happen, the loss of a marriage and a band, I probably wouldn’t have prayed it at the time. But I’m so thankful I did. It’s crazy to see things come to fruition that we pray about," he said.
Today, the award-winning singer uses his platform to be a voice for underprivileged and orphaned children, a mission inspired by his own two children. While he is still aligned with Hands and Feet — “it will always be my baby,” he said — Stuart and his wife today partner with organizations that fight for families to stay together.
“I feel like my journey now is to be more of a voice as a speaker and storyteller, to be a voice for kids who don’t have a voice,” he said. “God used my children to stoke the fire for me to have a voice again. God used my son’s broken heart about how his birth mom died to break my own heart for what breaks God’s heart.”
Part of his mission is encouraging the Church to help fight poverty, both within the United States and internationally. “Poverty steals the innocence and childhood of kids all over the world,” he explained. “We strive to break the bonds of abject and extreme poverty so that families aren’t broken apart. A lot of kids are trafficked because families can’t afford them. That’s why we use our voice today.”
“The real lever to make a difference is to help end extreme poverty so kids aren’t abandoned in the first place. What I’m pushing for is a solution rather than a reaction. Orphanages and adoption are a knee jerk reaction, but it can exacerbate the problem rather than solve it. We’re always going to have the poor and rich, but if we can pull together and make a sacrifice to pull families out of the danger zone where they’re not giving up their babies, then we’re doing something significant.”
The significance of life, Stuart said, is not found in earthly success; rather, it is discovered “when you surrender control and realize that God is the author of your story.”
“And that’s what I want people to understand from my book,” he said. “You’ll cry a little, laugh a little, but ultimately understand just how big and good our God is, and that when you believe and you finally become aware that your Dad runs the universe, you can live life like a king or a queen.”