Heartbeat: After all these years, Steven Curtis Chapman still focused on trusting God

Article Date: Mar 20, 2014

One of our heroes came to town the other day.

Steven Curtis Chapman, a “young man” whose music has been with my husband and me since our 20s—rocked into Florida last month with his “Glorious Unfolding Tour” and delighted an audience I was gratified to see.

We first met Chapman long before he was a household name in evangelical Christian circles, but just two years after his song “Weak Days” had earned him a No. 2 spot on the Contemporary Christian Music Chart in 1987.

My husband, John, was a Christian studies major at Hannibal LaGrange University in Hannibal, Mo., and wrote special features for the school paper. He had questions for Chapman before a 1989 concert at the school—and I wanted to grab some close-up photos.

So we fed Chapman steak in the athletic center where John also had a part-time job as the school’s sports information director—and John asked great questions about when the musician met his wife, why he felt led to be a musician, and how his life was reflected in his music.

That summer night as we sat front and center at the concert, we prayed for Chapman and our hearts grew with respect for each passing album, each passing year as he racked up Grammy Awards and earned Songwriter and Artist of the Year Awards.

Photo by Joni B. Hannigan

It was thrilling to watch our children appreciate and be inspired by his music—and it was satisfying to know that even as we grew our family, he was growing his.

Then tragedy struck. Chapman’s youngest adopted daughter, Maria Sue, died after being accidently run over in the driveway of their Tennessee home by the Chapman’s youngest son, Will Franklin. It seems the world took a collective gulp, and mourned—and prayed. 

I was heartbroken. Trying to decipher the various news reports, sift through carefully worded press releases, and look at the visual images of his beautiful family—I wrestled with how to report this to our readers. 

In the months and years to follow, Chapman and his family have recovered in a way that brings honor and glory to God. He has recovered his voice and his ministry. 

At the concert in Jacksonville, Chapman gently sang, “Cinderella,” while images of his daughter, Maria Sue, played on a screen in the background, along with other members of his family. His humble offering quieted my own soul.

Chapman’s concerts—part music, part preaching, and part social activism for adoption and care for orphaned and needy children—are the positive result of a life fully devoted to God even in the face of tragedy.

Chapman represents the best of the passionate, artistic, and driven musicians of my generation. 

And even as I sat with tears streaming down my cheeks while he sang, “Beauty Will Rise,” I had to look away from the bright lights and cover my ears when afterwards he grabbed an electric guitar, changed the tempo, and shook off a few decades while flashing a huge smile.

The air sizzled and those of us in the crowd who have been adults longer than others have been alive could hardly contain ourselves! How fun to see one of our own “bridge” to multiple generations. And praise God and give Him the glory.

How wild to think of all the smart phones capturing vids, the Facebook messages posted, and the Instagram photos edited. I sent out a message and photo on Twitter. 

And yet in spite of all the high-tech lighting, sound, and state-of-the-art equipment—Chapman’s concert music was tinged with favorites that have endured the test of time, his words sprinkled with the unchanging Word. 

His universal challenge struck a chord: Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” 

Thank you Steven Curtis Chapman, for the reminder. Praise God, give Him the glory, and trust in Him—for He knows the future.


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