Finding ‘Great Things’ in Disaster

On September 2nd, 2012, I saw a tall man with a priest collar at Aldi. When he passed me, my spirit kind of jumped – like “notice this guy”. A few seconds later he came back and asked, “are you born again?” “I’m sorry, what?” “Are you a Christian?” I said yes. He said “I thought so. I felt like I was supposed to come back and tell you, God’s about to do great things with you.” I said “Really?” He said “Yes. Be very attentive.” I thanked him and he walked away.

This was one of my lowest days. I was transitioning to music full-time and feeling zero traction and like a failure. I was sure God sent him to let me know I just needed to hold on, because I was going to impact millions of people soon with my music.

I’ve thought about that interaction almost daily for years. Many times, it’s all that’s kept me going.

Dead, Silent, Bare

Over the past several months, grieving our daughter, everything in our life has come to a halt. Our current season is winter. All is still. Dead or asleep. Silent. Frozen. Bare. It’s a season I never want, but one I am always grateful for in retrospect. In winter, things which don’t run deep are allowed to die. In winter, there’s clarity where there used to be noise, and priorities are a simple thing.

Without winter we’d suffocate under the thousands of layers of identity and unnecessary commitment and responsibility we heap upon ourselves during the rest of the year. We need winter to be clear on who we are and who we’re not. Who we are in summer, when we’re performing at full capacity, on stage with sound and lights – that’s not necessarily us. Who we are in winter, when everything is quiet and there’s nothing to hide behind and our weakness is painfully obvious to everyone – that’s who we are.

‘Great Things’ Happen During Grieving

Unfortunately, most people spend their lives avoiding winter at all costs. The highest cost is that they never get to know who they really are.

I will make music again (I have to keep saying this to myself every time I look out the window at the badly neglected band van and trailer), but that’s not what the Aldi preacher was talking about when he said “great things”. “Great things” isn’t wowing people from the stage, or a million iTunes downloads, or letters about how my music has changed someone’s life. Those are secondary results.

What are ‘Great Things’?

“Great things” is finding rest in disaster. It’s your kids seeing and feeling your strength and peace and trust in a situation where anyone else would have crumbled – their core being strengthened forever, because the battle you’re fighting is also for them.

“Great things” is when everything that should have created fear in you, doesn’t. It’s when it all falls apart and you’re still ok – when you realize for the first time that fear is the enemy, not circumstance, and now you’re free.

“Great things” is when we fight our inner battles instead of retreating to our addictions, and in fighting our battles, the community surrounding us is strengthened in their fight as well.

“Great things” is when fear has to give up, because the worst happened and we are still here – still moving toward each other and toward God and still allowing ourselves to fully trust, fully feel, fully hurt, and fully live.

Check out Nathan Peterson’s website: Nathan Peterson, Singer Songwriter | Official Website


Nathan Peterson

Chicago-based singer-songwriter Nathan Peterson has been creating music as Hello Industry for two decades. After four album releases and numerous iterations of Hello Industry’s live show, including their fully classical Black and White concert, Nathan has stripped everything down to only a guitar, his voice, and a song. Nathan is currently celebrating the release of two solo albums and two books — So Am I: Life, Living, and Letting Go and Dance Again: Grief is Healing — about the life and passing of his daughter, Olivia, as well as his latest Single Release, Masks: a song about finding togetherness in the midst of covid. During Nathan’s 20 years of writing, recording, and performing, he has created a body of work which invites our culture to rest, here and now, in the midst of the storms of life. Nathan’s words and voice invite us inward, toward our own Center, where our fear is the loudest; where our strength and hope are their brightest. Born in Chicago and raised in Germany, Colorado, and the cornfields of Sycamore Illinois, Nathan now lives with his wife and 5 children in Chicago.

More Articles Written by Nathan