As Christians, we know we’re on a lifelong journey to heaven.
But do you ever feel like you’re walking through a desert?
Our travels through this world can sometimes be discouraging and we need reminders that God is with us all the way.
That’s the theme of Rivers in the Wasteland, an album by Needtobreathe.
Needtobreathe is a Christian rock band based out of South Carolina. Since their inception, the band has released several popular albums: Daylight (2006), The Heat (2007), The Outsiders (2009), The Reckoning (2011), Rivers in the Wasteland (2014), and Hard Love (2016).
The band underscores thoughtful, reflective lyrics with creative, bass-heavy beats that are still friendly even to the ears of non-rock fans.
One of their more recent offerings, Rivers in the Wasteland, captures the idea of the Christian life as a journey. It’s a reminder of hope, fragility, and the constant of God’s presence.
The album’s title track, “Wasteland,” begins somberly. The band’s lead singer, Bear Rinehart, confesses that the road to heaven seems long and discouraging.
But the song doesn’t stop with that thought.
“Oh if God is on my side / Who can be against me?” Rinehart asks, clinging to the comforting reality of God’s presence and choosing to find the moments of light amid the dusk of a wasteland.
“Yeah in this wasteland where I’m livin’ / There is a crack in the door filled with light / And it’s all that I need to get by / Yeah in this wasteland where I’m livin’ / There is a crack in the door filled with light / And it’s all that I need to shine.”
As long as God is walking with us, there is hope. But that doesn’t mean the road is always clear.
The next track, “State I’m In,” confesses confusion. This upbeat song serves as a sobering reminder that even though it’s possible to get lost along the way, we can never stop pursuing God.
“I’ve never been this lost / But I don’t wanna have to stay,” Rinehart sings. “In the morning I’m leaving / And I don’t know where I’m going.”
This thought leads straight into the next track, “Feet, Don’t Fail Me Now.” In this fast, funky song that’s reminiscent of classic country music, Rinehart prays that his “feet won’t ever slow [him] down” on his way to heaven.
But there are still moments of rest, the album reminds listeners. In “Oh, Carolina,” the band pays tribute to one of their favorite places on earth.
It’s a warm, joyful anthem to the people and places we encounter on the road of life.
“Oh Carolina / Yeah, when I get back home to you we’re gonna start a fire,” Rinehart sings. “Oh you know I miss you / And when we get back home to you I got a story to give you.”
While these waypoints and moments of rest may be few and far between, it’s important to cherish them, this song reminds us. After all, the rest of the journey can be discouraging and exhausting.
After the cheerful rhythms of “Oh, Carolina,” the album moves into an exploration of the human weaknesses that often hold us back on the road home.
Tracks like “Difference Maker” and “Where the Money Is” grieves the sins and selfishness that weighs us down, while “Rise Again” acknowledges the moments of deep pain and sorrow that makes us feel alone.
But through it all, there’s a thread of hope found in the knowledge that God never leaves us and is even redeeming our struggles for His glory.
“Oh I know I’m gonna rise again / Set my sights on where I’m going / And my goodbyes to where I’ve been / Oh I know I’m gonna rise again,” sings Rinehart.
The album concludes with two interconnected thoughts. “Brother” admonishes Christians to lean on each other and make this lifelong journey together, and “More Heart, Less Attack” gives a glimpse of the joy to be found in this journey—and the glory that’s coming.
“I’m near the sanctified, I’m near broken,” Rinehart sings reverently. “I’m down the river, I’m near the open / I’m down the river to where I’m going.”
It’s a peaceful ending to the album, much like the opening lines of “Wasteland.”
One of Needtobreathe’s greatest strengths is their willingness to explore a wide variety of musical styles and Rivers in the Wasteland is no exception. From rock riffs to soulful piano solos, the band covers a broad range of sounds—and emotions.
If you’re new to Needtobreathe, this album is a great place to start! You’ll enjoy the band’s poetic lyrics and inventive orchestrations, and you’ll be encouraged on your own journey of life.