Right now, I’m listening to the title track of Steven Curtis Chapman’s latest album, titled “Beauty Will Rise.” For anyone not familiar with SCC, he’s been an icon in Christian Contemporary Music for.. quite a while. I think it was within the last year, though, that he lost one of his children in a tragic car accident. A month later, Chapman wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to sing again. His latest album has shown that not to be true. But now… now his songs have a depth they didn’t have before.
“It is weird for me to even call this a record because it is just my personal psalms from this journey that we have been on,” says Steven. “After we lost Maria, I did not know if I would ever write anymore songs or if I would ever sing again. The last thing I wanted to do is turn any of this into a song. Then you realize “God, this is what has happened to us and now what would you have me to do with it?” Slowly songs began to just come out as ways for me to try to process what I was thinking and feeling and what my family and I were walking through.”
Knowing that things would never be the same, Steven and his family began navigating what they”ve come to refer to as the “new normal.” In doing so, Steven began writing once again. “The first song was “Just Have To Wait” and I think the next one was “Questions.” They were all just songs that were literally praying and wrestling with God and asking, “What am I going to do with this? What do I really believe now? How are my family and I going to journey through this and walk through the rest of life with these holes in our hearts? What is that going to look like?”” Steven says quietly. “Music has just always been one of the ways that I have processed whatever is going on. These songs were just my wrestling through it and being as honest as I could possibly be about that process. That is where these songs came from.”
These comments remind me of my own “dark night of the soul,” a time of desperate hope and incredible doubt. (For me, though, it was a really rough breakup, not the loss of a child. Only those who’ve wished for death after a breakup can understand that). Chapman’s songs “Beauty Will Rise” and “SEE” have this sense of white-knuckled clinging, hoping against hope that everything he believes is true, because, as I have observed before, “If it’s not true, I’m screwed.” I now have “answers” that can’t be explained, or even expressed, without a story, and words that don’t make sense to the “victorious Christian.” (Or maybe redefine “victorious Christian”) I recognize his usage of the phrases “Holding on” and “You are faithful.” It’s a grasping at the only hope for – not just a fallen world, but more specifically a world fallen down around YOU. When reality no longer makes sense, cliché theology goes out the window, and reality gets a re-evaluation. Did God really mean all those things He said? If so, what’d He mean by them? Chapman asks in another song called “Questions, “Who are You, God?” “Where were you?”
His questions are a comfort. And so is that one core, that one desperate hope: That God is there, and God is good. That He will make everything work together for good. That pain isn’t the end. That the story doesn’t end on Good Friday. That Sunday is coming. This resonates, at least in me, because I have been there. I don’t know if it will resonate with others who haven’t been there (if such Christians exist), or if it will resonate with unbelievers… but it resonates with me. In Chapman’s newest album, I hear two things: Epic doubt, and bedrock faith. Faith that’s all that’s left when life has strip-mined everything else away.
“I know God wouldn’t let anything happen I couldn’t handle. I wish God didn’t trust me so much.” —Mother Theresa