Regardless of who you are, at some point in your life you will encounter grief, pain and sadness. Pastors and musicians are not immune.
Dear friends of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association lost a loved one in a tragic accident earlier this year. Singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman and his family lost their youngest daughter and sister, Maria Sue, in May.
For the first time since the accident, the Chapman family has begun to talk to various media outlets about their grief process and how they have clung to hope in Jesus, one day at a time.
“Initially Steven talked about never doing any concerts or media ever again,” comments Jim Houser, Chapman’s manager. “But quickly God began to show Steven that if he ever believed the songs he was writing, singing and recording before May 21st and Maria’s loss, that they must still be true now.
“It’s the family’s hope that these appearances with serve as a chance to proclaim to a watching world what they know and are deeply convinced of even in these difficult days, the Gospel is true and faith in Christ is our hope,” says Houser.
Agony & Hope
In an interview on Larry King Live Aug. 7, the Chapmans shared the agony, the pain and the hope that they have experienced since May. When King asked how they have dealt with the loss, Mary Beth (wife) and Emily (oldest daughter) offered profound insight into their healing process.
Mary Beth shared, “I’ve been mad. I’ve been sad. I’ve jumped up and down. I’ve crawled under my bed. I’ve went in my closet. You name it, I’ve done it. And I know that I will never understand, this side of eternity, why Maria, why Will. I have a list of questions in my journal, you know, why.”
Emily, who is engaged to be married in the coming months, explained everything through the lens of being in a time of personal celebration and loss. “How do I explain this faith? … The day before the accident, I was riding home from buying my wedding dress. It was a great day.
“Not 24 hours later, I was sitting in the hospital receiving the news that my 5-year-old little sister had passed away. And I understood in that moment, I can’t explain it, but God’s mercies are new every morning. I woke up the next morning and He has sustained me since.
“I have planned a wedding with my mom. And I’m still getting married on the day I set, the day I got engaged. And the faith is – man, it’s just, God is so real. He says in the scripture, it says He’s near to the brokenhearted. And I have never felt it more – more in my life.”
Later in the interview, Steven admitted that part of the struggle and the walk of faith is dealing with uncertainty and the “why?” question. “I don’t think we’ll ever know. Caleb said something at the memorial service for Maria about how we’re looking at a picture, a painting so close…He was talking about how we look at a painting, a huge mural, and if we’re looking this close, it makes no sense.
“As we move it back further and further, we begin to see what’s happening, what’s going on there. Again, there’s a million theological questions. If Billy Graham stays with us, our dear friend, let’s let him come back and help tackle this one.”
Chapman reiterated the very necessary foundation of the family’s faith, saying, “But I believe, with all my heart or I wouldn’t say, or I wouldn’t be foolish enough to drag our family here and say, we still have faith and believe.”
Billy Graham on Grief & Suffering
Mr. Graham has certainly had many opportunities over the years to field questions about suffering and grief. Here are a few of the answers he has offered in response to these tough life issues:
- The death of someone we love is still painful to us, even as Christians–not because we fear for them, but because of the empty place they leave behind in our hearts. The Bible says we don’t ‘grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope’–but we will still grieve (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
- The more we loved someone, the more we will miss them–and the more we will look forward to seeing them again in heaven.
- One of the hardest experiences any of us will ever face in life is losing someone we dearly love–and I know it’s especially hard when death comes unexpectedly and we have no opportunity to say a final goodbye.
- Perhaps the most important thing I can say to you is that God loves you and understands what you’re going through. When Jesus stood by the tomb of His friend Lazarus, He knew that shortly He would bring Lazarus back to life–but the Bible still says that ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). This is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it reveals a great truth about Christ’s compassion for those who grieve. The Bible says, ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail’ (Lamentations 3:22).
- You will always remember your [loved one], and your grief over his death won’t go away quickly. But in time, your pain will lessen–and God wants to help you in this process. What can you do? First, take time each day to thank God for the years you had together. Thankfulness is like a healing balm to our souls.
- Ask God to help you reach out to others who are grieving. They need your encouragement–and you need theirs. Most of all, don’t carry your burden alone but hand it over to Christ. The Bible says, ‘Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall’ (Psalm 55:22).”
Finally, pray for those who are suffering around you. Pray for the Chapman family as they continue to deal with their loss. And run towards God, not away from Him, during times of tragedy. He is our loving Father and wants to comfort and love us in our darkest hours.
Steven Curtis Chapman has performed at numerous Billy Graham Crusades and Franklin Graham Festivals throughout the years.
Would you like to talk to someone? *Please call 1-877-2GRAHAM (1-877-247-2426)–24 hours a day, seven days a week–for prayer or to know more about Jesus Christ.