Although he was under strict orders from his wife, Steven Curtis Chapman just could not follow them. “Mary Beth warned me not to go back to China and fall in love with any more orphan girls, because we had no more room at the inn,” he said at an Orphan Sunday event in Nashville last month.
It was too late. The minute he laid eyes on little Maria, his heart immediately was taken.
God had a purpose for bringing Maria into the lives of the Chapman family, and also for taking her from them in a tragic accident on May 21, 2008.
“God’s purposes and plans for our lives are good,” Chapman told the audience. “If it’s not true, I better stop singing right now and shut down and never sing or say another word. That’s what God’s Word says. We don’t get to pick and chose the parts we like. It’s either all true or it’s all bogus. I believe it’s true.”
That truth has carried Chapman through an intense season of grief and fueled his passion to serve as a voice for approximately 140 millions orphans around the world through his organization, Show Hope.
In an interview following the show, Chapman talked about the road he has traveled since Maria’s death. Dipping at times into great despair, he has maintained his trust in God’s faithfulness.
“God had a plan for this little girl,” he said. “His plan included us giving this incredible gift and also being entrusted with an incredible grief and sadness that would, in many ways, redefine who we are.”
The God of All Comfort
I asked Chapman if he had any words to comfort those who are grieving this Christmas season, or if he had insights on how we can best help the hurting.
“The one thing my wife and I have learned,” he responded, “is that the most encouraging words we heard were the antithesis of anything profound. It was when someone would say, ‘There are no words for this. There is nothing that any of us can say.'”
Chapman feels that such a seemingly simple statement somehow honors the depth of grief. “The worst thing people can do is to throw words at pain. It’s like dropping a few drops into the ocean to help fill it up. It’s so vast. Grief and loss are so unique – the shape of that in a person’s soul – is so unique that only God can meet it.”
What the Chapman family has discovered since Maria’s death is that God truly is the God of all comfort. “It is something that God calls himself in scripture. But that doesn’t always mean comfort comes in the form and in the time frame that I wish it would,” Chapman added, “because there still are days when I don’t know how we’re going to survive. There are days when my wife wakes up, takes a breath and says, ‘OK – I didn’t want to wake up again, but here we are.’
“God’s mercies have been new every morning and God really is the God of all comfort. Those are not band aids that I ever would stick on somebody’s pain.”
If you are the one grieving right now, Chapman would tell you this: “Your pain is so unique, I wouldn’t begin to try to offer words of comfort or healing. But the God who created you, who knit you together, knows the shape of your soul. He knows the depth of your pain, and He knows the way to the deepest part of your heart.”
He would also tell you that because God knows your heart, He’s not afraid of your questions. “He’s not afraid of you pounding your fists on the floor and saying, ‘God how in the world am I going to survive this?’ Pouring our hearts out to God has been, in many ways, what’s kept our family breathing.”
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