Hardships generally produce sorrow and heartache, but sometimes there’s unexpected joy in life’s trials for those who are willing to look. Just ask Aaron Shust. The past few years have been an emotional rollercoaster for the father of three young sons, yet amongst the challenges there have been miracles with each trial and tribulation. Each crisis led the Centricity Music recording artist to lean more firmly into his faith and the result is Aaron’s new album, Morning Rises, a potent collection of songs that are worshipful, life-affirming, and absolutely celebratory.
“It’s therapeutic to my soul to sing these words when life is tumultuous,” Aaron says. “I need to write and find songs that I want to sing, songs that proclaim God as faithful, songs that proclaim God as larger than our situation and our circumstance. I want to sing songs that glorify Him and lift His name up.”
Aaron has built a successful career on such songs. The Pennsylvania native earned the Gospel Music Association’s Songwriter of the Year and New Artist Dove Awards in 2007 and his song, My Savior, My God was named Song of the Year. Aaron has developed a reputation as a songwriter of considerable depth and substance, and a worship leader with a passionate heart for serving God and bolstering community.
Those qualities reverberate throughout his fifth album, Morning Rises. On Cornerstone that was first recorded by Hillsong, Aaron sings, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Framed within a glorious melody and brought to life by Aaron’s evocative voice, Cornerstone is a powerful statement of faith and celebration of God’s sovereignty that has become a favorite at Aaron’s home church in Pennsylvania where he leads worship.
Deliver Me is a poignant plea for God to break chains and show His strength. In a voice both vulnerable yet teeming with resilience, Aaron shares the song as a humble prayer. Mighty Fortress is a compelling song Aaron co-wrote with Paul Baloche. “The first verse says, ‘He won’t abandon. He won’t deceive,’” explains Aaron. “In the second verse, we change it from a horizontal approach speaking about God to a vertical approach where we sing to God directly and say, ‘You won’t abandon. You won’t deceive.’”
Produced by Ed Cash, Morning Rises marks the first time Aaron has recorded with his touring band in the studio. “There is a risk involved when you use a road band, but these guys nailed it quickly and quite efficiently. They did a great job,” says Shust, who felt the studio became a reflection of their life on the road. “We love leading worship. We’re a worship band and I’m a worship artist. We love to do that. One of our favorite groups to play for are pastors at their conferences. When they get together and they don’t have to preach next, those boys can sing! They jump right in the deep end and those are always rewarding.”
Morning Rises also includes two songs Aaron refers to as “Throne Room” songs—Rushing Waters and Great Is The Chorus. “The idea is the chorus that surrounds the throne,” Aaron says of the song he co-wrote with Matt Armstrong. “The chorus is raised by the voices of the saints, the angels, and the elders and is constantly happening. It’s happening right now, praising the almighty God, and we have the opportunity when we gather to join in that chorus. We’ve sung that at my home church and it’s been embraced.”
God of Brilliant Lights is a joyful anthem that celebrates God’s shining presence penetrating the darkness with His unconditional love. A line in the song provided Aaron with the album’s title. “This is an album about how God is faithful. God is steadfast. God is the same,” says Shust. “Whenever our life goes crazy we can say, ‘God is faithful.’ If you believe the verses that we memorized as kids or in our early Christian lives, that He has a plan for us, that He’s never going to leave us, that He’s never going to forsake us, then that rings true. You need those truths in the dark hours.”
Those truths became even more precious to Aaron and his wife Sarah when they became parents. Their second son, Nicky, was extremely ill as an infant and then when their third son, Michael was born, they faced a new set of challenges. He had a heart condition and was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. “He was born at 4:17 in the morning on January 13th and that was a rough day,” Aaron says. “We found out he had a major heart defect that would require open heart surgery. A lot of tears were shed and it was just a long day, quite literally and emotionally. When the sun rose on the morning of the 14th there was that ray of hope. It was a new day. We were veterans of one day. God is with us. The sun is rising and God’s mercies are new. He’s never early. He’s never late. He doesn’t leave to come back. He’s with us. He called us to this.”
In the midst of the trials they endured with both Nicky and Michael, the Shusts have seen God’s power at work. “Nicky was in a really bad place at one time,” Shust says of his son’s illness. “The disease went from almost taking his life to being completely not in his body at all. Clinically, medically, certifiably it was gone.”
They’ve also seen a miracle in little Michael. He survived open heart surgery five months after he was born and just as things were looking up he was diagnosed as deaf. “Multiple tests came back completely flat lined. The doctors said he’d probably never hear,” Aaron says. “My wife Sarah felt led to take him to a prayer conference in New York and they prayed over him. When we took him back to the doctor those tests came back with a full range of perfect hearing. Miracles happen and it’s just amazing. Our little boy can hear. It bolstered my faith.”
When Aaron lifts his voice to praise God on this album and when he leads worship in his home church or in concert somewhere far from home, he’s singing with a renewed passion, a revitalized conviction that comes from life experience. “Sometimes He chooses not to heal and I don’t know why, but we just need to trust that His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and that He’s still good and He’s still God. He will one day make all things right like He promises. It’s a strong balance of saying, ‘Hey praise God because he heals and praise him even when he doesn’t.’ That’s what this album hopefully covers. Morning Rises, to me, represents hope. Morning Rises represents promise.
“I feel like every day is an adventure. Every day presents a challenge. How do we tackle this one? How do we approach this one? The answer is by the grace of God. In everything that comes our way, whenever we start to find ourselves overwhelmed, the mighty hand of God reaches down and picks us up. I feel that. His hand sustains us and we feel very lifted.”