Skillet’s Jen Ledger is nothing short of a powerhouse when she performs: with soaring vocals and a gift for drumming like the rockstar she is, she gives the band a heartbeat to rely on. But if you asked her how she got to be so confident while performing, she’d tell you that it was—and sometimes still is—a daily struggle. Read on for the details of Jen’s story and journey of faith as excerpted from her appearance on This Grit and Grace Life podcast, episode 44: Skillet’s Jen Ledger Shares Her Faith, Her Fear and Her Strength.
I had actually come to America to do a Bible music school called The School of Worship. It’s only like 14 people per class in the middle of Kenosha, Wisconsin. And I happened to be in Kenosha in that school when the previous drummer was leaving Skillet. However, I quit the drums all together. The teenage angst and insecurity had hit me pretty big time, so I used to feel sick playing on a Sunday and that was only 200 people. So I was like, “I’m done. Drums obviously aren’t for me and I’m obviously not very good at them.”
So I turned 17 and Skillet actually asked me to try out, because the lady that started the school I was in is Korey Cooper’s sister. They had heard that I was a drummer and they asked me to try out and I said no, because I was like, “there’s no way I’m good enough to play drums. I suck at this and I’m done with them.” But I was praying about it and really felt like God was leading me to try out, even though it felt kind of ridiculous. My family was like, “You’ve got to go for it!” I told them that I really kind of strangely felt like God was asking me to do it, but I was so convinced I was bad at the drums.
It came to the audition and it went really well. I was like, “Oh no, they’re going to think I’m this really good drummer and I don’t know if I want to play in front of people!” So I had a great audition and then I definitely tried to sabotage myself in the interview following. I was like, “You know, I actually quit the drums, I don’t like practicing, I get really nervous, and honestly, if I don’t get into this band, I’m never going to play ever again.” But then I did say, “You know what though, if this is something that God has for me, I will give my all to it.” But I just wanted to be really upfront with them because I hated the idea of getting into a band and them thinking I was one thing, and then being disappointed with what I actually was.
A couple of days later, they called me and it turned out that I had the job. It was just so clearly the Lord lining it all up for me. Even the fact that I was in the states, the fact that I felt like He was speaking to me to try out, even though it looked ridiculous. I had teachers and friends telling me how small of a shot I had.
But it was just like when God lines up a million details and it’s so clearly Him, that I’ve really stepped forward in faith that He would help me. He seriously has helped me, because I was just a deathly timid and afraid person and that’s why I didn’t want to try out. I didn’t want to be in front of people. But instead, the one thing I felt that was unusable about me, the thing that I thought I was really weak in was my drumming, and it’s been the very thing He’s used in my life to display His glory. It’s been such a platform for me to speak about what He’s done in my life and He’s used it in crazy ways.
I kind of came to America reluctantly, but feeling like God was leading me there. It’s when I became a Christian; I came at 16 and it was like, oh my gosh, this is real. I definitely gave my life to Jesus and got serious about my walk with God and it was like He was breaking chains off me and blowing my mind. Then it was within 13 months of giving my life to Him that I was in a touring platinum rock band.
That first show I ever played was Winter Jam. I’d gone from church for 200 people, just turned 18 years old, and now I’m playing Winter Jam, which is sold-out arenas of 20,000 people. It was a horrible feeling to step into something where you feel not only incredibly vulnerable, but like, if God doesn’t help me, I could wreck this. There’s a lot of pressure on you! I remember the soundcheck before I played, I was just so nervous that my hands were shaking so bad and I couldn’t stay on the click; I couldn’t play with the band properly. And the whole band was kind of like, “Oh crap, what have we done here?”
So we were praying before we went on stage, but God met me and he gave me peace that first show. I would never have imagined that I would have been able to play with that much peace in my heart and I know it’s because He met me. Honestly, every single time I get up to play, I still remember that feeling of “I’m only here because He’s put me here.” I know that it wasn’t me that lined this up for myself. And though it was really stretching to feel so dependent, it’s also been incredibly beautiful because there’s not been a moment in my life where I’ve been able to forget that it’s only because of Him that I’ve ever been able to do any of this. It’s really like He has changed me and transformed me into something that I could never have been without Him.
God doesn’t choose perfect people; He doesn’t choose the angels to do His will and to display His glory on the earth and bring His kingdom. He chooses people. And not only that, there’s a Scripture that says He chooses the weak to shame the strong, He chooses the foolish to shame the wise. It’s clear that God loves to display His glory through our weaknesses. So, the more impossible it looks, the more awesome it is when He comes through. One of the things that I’ve been learning is it’s actually okay if I struggle and it’s okay if these things feel too big for me because then not only does it keep my perspective good when I step into it, it reminds me how much I need Him. It keeps me dependent on Him. It keeps me humble but also displays all the more glory when you know it’s nothing to do with you.
When you are stepping into those things that feel massive or just feel way too far, rejoice in the fact that if God’s leading you there, He’ll do the rest. It wasn’t Moses’ job to part the Red Sea when he stood before it. God had led him there. All you have to do is have the faith and be willing to step out.
The song that’s the dearest to me (from my EP, Ledger), and very much so from an incredibly vulnerable place is the song “Not Dead Yet.” About a couple of years ago, I went through this really unusual season. I’ve never been through anything like it since or before it, but I basically went through a short season where I was struggling with panic attacks and I was waking up in the night with (not) just fear, it was like I was waking up terrified. It was a really unusual, disorienting feeling. I was like, “Who am I and what is happening to me?”
After wrestling my way through that season, I remember last year thinking, “well, I’ve had victory in that now. Surely that’s something I’ll never have to face again after going through something that intense.”
But I was on stage with Skillet and I kind of felt some similar feelings of panic start creeping into my heart and I came off stage just so defeated because it was when I was praying about stepping out into a solo career. It just felt like, “Are you serious? After all these years, you’re panicking on stage?” How could I ever step out into this calling when I’m panicking this much just in the back as a drummer, playing songs I’ve played for years?
I felt so incredibly defeated and I cried to Korey Cooper after the set. I was like, “I started having those feelings again and I just can’t believe after all this time and after wrestling through it so intensely, I can’t believe this started to come back. Like, what if this is something that never totally goes away?”
And Korey looked at me and she said, “Then you fight, Jen. You fight well. There’s breath in your lungs and until the day that you die, you fight. You never let fear rob you of your life or stop you from stepping into what God’s calling you to.” And that was what the whole song was basically birthed out of, was that conversation with Korey. It was the realization that it’s actually okay if you are going to have struggles. It’s okay if you’ve battled something and it comes back again. It’s not what actually disqualifies you from God using you. God can use you as a broken person and He has victory for you. But the one thing you can’t let happen, is you can’t let it stop you completely and you can’t let it take you out. That’s what fear wants to do, it wants you to give up and not even try. So (that’s what) the song “Not Dead Yet” is about: I will still step into these things even if I’m broken and even if these things aren’t completely gone away.
I really hope it can empower people who have struggled with anxiety or things feeling too big for them or feeling too scary. But with God, you can step into those things. It’s okay if you have struggles. Just choose to fight them and ask God to meet you in them.
Can faith bring hope to everything, even anxiety? Watch this:
Ask Dr. Zoe – Coping With Anxiety Biblically
Ask Dr. Zoe – Anxiety, When Is It Beyond Normal?
Overcoming the Waves of Anxiety and Panic Attacks
3 Ways Positive Self-Talk Can Improve Your Life
Bible Verses From the Grit and Grace Team on Anxiety
10 Ways to Boost Your Confidence
Have You Ever Said It? “I’m Not Good Enough.”
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