John Crist and Michael W. Smith Share Their Struggles With Substance Abuse and Shame

In 2019 John Crist’s worst mistakes were publicly exposed. On one of John’s darkest days of shame, he received a grace filled message of encouragement at exactly the right time from Michael W. Smith.

Michael sought out John’s number to message him and say:

“We love you. We care about you and you are not alone.”

Fast forward almost 4 years, Michael W. Smith sat down recently on John Crist’s podcast “Net Positive” to talk about the shame they’ve both experienced in life, shame that came as a result of living life in a way that was against God’s plan. Their conversation is full of grace and honesty and can teach us all a lesson on how to respond to our own shame and how to support a friend who has lost their way.

Before Michael W. Smith was in the spotlight as a Christian music artist, his life changed when God pursued him after a struggle with substance abuse and depression. He believes it was the persistent prayers of his parents that brought him through. Knowing they would always be there for him gave Michael the desire to show that support to others.

John Crist, who you know for his viral videos that share hilarious perspectives on Christian culture often pokes fun at hypocrisy in Christianity. John points out the irony in this because the biggest hypocrite was himself.

John lived life in constant fear of what would happen if people found out who he really was. What would happen if the darkest parts of his life were exposed? Then one day, it happened. John was accused of sexual harassment by several female fans and the news of this soiled John’s reputation in the Christian community.

John cancelled the remaining dates of his 2019 tour and devoted his time and energy to getting healthy spiritually, mentally and physically. He sought professional counseling and treatment, accepting full responsibility for his actions. John says after the four months he spent in treatment he came away with this realization:

“There’s a God that loves you and He cares about you and He’s not mad at you.”

Sounds a lot like the message Michael had learned as well and was quick to text to John when he needed it. John had been convinced that the Christian community would want nothing to do with him, but was surprised at how many people related to his story. So many people reached out saying they knew what it felt like and were supporting his recovery. John stayed away from social media for 8 months, giving himself room to learn and process what had happened.


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John’s experience has inspired a book called Delete That (And Other Failed Attempts to Look Good Online) where he talks about the carefully curated life we attempt to present to people on social media. In the book, he also exposes how his own life didn’t line up with the online image he had created and encourages people to stop worrying about what others think and live life!

As John emerges from this season with new perspective, he is overcoming the fear of appearances and the taboo nature of discussing things that real people struggle with every day. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we are perfect. It means we have a perfect God who is working on us every day, gracefully shaping us into the person He created us to be. Both our victories and our mistakes are all a part of that journey.

The most powerful stories of redemption would never be told if people like Michael and John weren’t honest about their shortcomings, mistakes, and regrets. Because of their openness, it encourages us to to do the same. When we do, we realize that we are not alone. There are other people going through the same things we are.

Because Michael’s parents supported him, he reached out to John and that kindness has led John to do the same for others. Do you know someone who is in a hard place today? Why not share the love of Jesus? A simple text could change their life.

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A Sister in Christ
A Sister in Christ
June 15, 2023 8:43 pm

Amen! What a beautiful story of God’s redemption and beauty from ashes!!!!

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