“God was my an­chor in a storm of sor­row”

Steven Cur­tis Chap­man opens up about his great­est loss

Simple Grace - - Front Page - By Deb­o­rah Evans Price

5-time Grammy win­ner Steven Cur­tis Chap­man was liv­ing a blessed life filled with love and mu­sic, un­til a tragic ac­ci­dent changed him for­ever. Now he looks back on his grief and suf­fer­ing and shares how it drew him closer to the Lord in ways

he could’ve never imag­ined

With a lov­ing mar­riage, six chil­dren and a mu­sic ca­reer that had spanned three decades, Steven Cur­tis Chap­man’s life had been pic­tureper­fect. Then on a warm spring evening in May of 2008, it took a heart­break­ing turn.

His teenage son, Will Franklin, was re­turn­ing home when Steven’s 5-year-old daugh­ter, Maria Sue, ex­cit­edly ran out­side to greet her big brother…dart­ing right in front of his SUV.

Will slammed on the brakes but it was too late. Maria was LifeF­lighted to Nashville’s Van­der­bilt Hos­pi­tal, but de­spite the doc­tors’ best ef­forts and the fam­ily’s des­per­ate prayers, their pre­cious girl went into the open arms of Je­sus.

To­day, eight years af­ter the ac­ci­dent, Steven’s heart still aches from the loss of his daugh­ter, but he says he has also be­gun to see God’s pur­pose in the pain. Here, he opens up about his long walk through the dark­ness and how God was there ev­ery step of the way to guide him back to­ward the light.

HE KEEPS US AFLOAT

Steven and his wife, Mary Beth, have three bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren— Emily, Caleb and

Will Franklin. They also adopted three young daugh­ters from China—Shao­han­nah, Stevey Joy and Maria Sue. The youngest of their brood, Maria, had stolen Steven’s heart the mo­ment he’d met her. “Just af­ter we lost her, I re­mem­ber go­ing up­stairs to put away some lug­gage and sit­ting on the ground and just weep­ing,” he con­fides. “It was one of those waves of grief where you think, I’m not com­ing up from this—it’s too big; it’s a tsunami. I re­mem­ber say­ing, ‘God, I just don’t want to breathe again.’”

Steven ad­mits he didn’t know how he or his fam­ily could sur­vive such sor­row. “I just kept pray­ing, God, I have to drop my an­chor of hope in You be­cause things feel hope­less. I don’t know how to take the next step,” he re­calls. “I would just beg, ‘God, please carry us through this.’”

Early in the heal­ing process, one thing Steven found sur­pris­ing was that the ups and downs of grief were never the same for two peo­ple. “Mary Beth and I would en­cour­age each other dur­ing the dark times, but we learned that some­times by try­ing to lift each other up, you can do the op­po­site,” re­veals Steven. “Some­times you just need a safe place to crash. That be­came the ques­tion: Can we just be a place for each other to crash and love each other even in that? You have to say, ‘I’m not go­ing any­where. Your grief or anger isn’t go­ing to chase me away. I can’t fix the sad­ness in your heart, but I’m here.’ God loves us in the same way,” he adds. “He’s an an­chor, He’s a safe place to crash…and we can never chase Him away.”

HE’S THE BALM TO OUR HEARTS

As Steven and his fam­ily slowly moved for­ward month by month, year by year, he ad­mits there were many mo­ments when de­spair threat­ened to pull him un­der. His only com­fort was cry­ing out to the Lord. “Lov­ing God doesn’t have to be per­fect—it’s most pre­cious when it just pours from a wounded heart,” Steven says. “For ex­am­ple, in the Bi­ble David says, ‘God, you for­got me. I’m alone and hope­less. How long are you go­ing to leave me here?’ But then he takes a breath and says, ‘Lord I trust You. My hope is in You. Your Love is never end­ing.’ For me, that vul­ner­a­bil­ity and hon­esty is what a re­la­tion­ship with God re­ally is.”

HE’S GOT A MUCH BIG­GER PLAN

Al­though there will al­ways be a hole in Steven’s heart for his lit­tle girl, with time, he has be­gun to see the suf­fer­ing from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. “At Maria’s fu­neral, my son Caleb had said it was like God was paint­ing a huge mu­ral, but we were stand­ing too close to see more than a small part of the pic­ture,” says Steven. “Now af­ter years of dis­tance, the sad­ness is still there, but more of the Lord’s mas­ter­piece is in fo­cus.”

One of the bright­est rays of light that has helped Steven see beauty in God’s plan was when the Chap­mans opened Maria’s Big House of Hope in Luoyang, China. The fa­cil­ity pro­vides med­i­cal care to spe­cial-needs or­phans and is part of the their Show Hope or­ga­ni­za­tion, which aids or­phans around the world. “It’s so hard to see what good and beau­ti­ful things have come out of this ter­ri­ble thing,” ad­mits Steven. “But with each child that is given a happy life in Maria’s name, I see more of God’s work.”

HE’S OUR ONE CON­STANT

“To­day I see God in ev­ery­thing,” Steven smiles. “He’s in the good and beau­ti­ful mo­ments, but the chal­lenge for me is to keep my eyes and my heart wide open and watch for Him in ev­ery mo­ment—in­clud­ing the frus­trat­ing, painful and dif­fi­cult ones. The truth is that we’re all liv­ing with pain and bro­ken­ness, but I’ve learned there’s just no way apart from the grace of God. When we’re mis­er­able and con­fused and an­gry, if we keep trust­ing that God has a plan for us, we’ll get through it.”

“We’re all liv­ing

with pain and bro­ken­ness, but… if we keep trust­ing God has a plan for us, we’ll get

through it.”

“Maria [shown here] loved waf­fles,” says Steven.“She’d kiss me in the morn­ing and I’d taste maple syrup. It’s those lit­tle things you miss most.”

The Chap­man fam­ily in front of Maria’s Big House of Hope, in Luoyang, China, which pro­vides med­i­cal care to spe­cial-needs or­phans (ShowHope.org)

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