Friday, August 8, 2008

Chapman Family Tragedy and thoughts on Grief, Burdens and Jesus' Yoke. (It's long but I think it's worth the read)

I don't know if any of you were able to watch Larry King Live last night but he hosted the Chapman family on his show. Steven Curtis Chapman- the famous christian music artist who lost his 5 year old daughter this past May by a terrible and horrific accident caused by his 17 year old son, Will Franklin. He struck her with his SUV on May 21st of this year, he of course did not see her as she was running toward him and it resulted in the most tragic thing possible. This whole family came on the air live in front of thousands upon thousands of viewers and shared their heartbreaking story of terror, tragedy, sadness, darkness, difficulty, and test of faith. I literally cried the entire length of the show as I listened to each one of them not only tell what happened in detail and share stories about precious Maria, but they also pinpointed sharing the importance and significance of their faith and hope during these dark hours. I was deeply impacted.

Will, the son who was the accidental cause of Maria's death spoke as well and answered a series of difficult questions. I can not imagine how hard that must have been for him- my heart breaks for him. Something that Larry King said at the beginning of the show stuck with me- he said, "Tragedy that would tear a family apart brought this one closer together". So true and why? Because of their foundation and unwavering faith in God. God is more than a creator and savior to them- He is the comforter in their times of distress and brokenness, He is the hope that they have that they will one day see their darling Maria again, He binds up their broken hearts and He is close as they mourn. I'm sure God is becoming more real during these dark days as He ever has been to this dear family. They do not simply grieve, as Steven puts it, "we grieve with hope, we say goodbye with hope because we know our goodbye is not the end". Do they have questions and misunderstandings? Of course. They are human and they are hurting and when submerged in an ocean of agony we sometimes do and say things that we don't even understand.

Just one week before this occured, their oldest daughter had gotten engaged, their other son was graduationg high school and there was much joy and celebration within their home and then they were faced with undoubtedly the most difficult thing they've ever faced. However, in the midst of all of this they pulled even closer together and were strengthened in their faith. One can't help but be touched by this story- there is so much more and I promise- it is impacting, heartbreaking and you will most certainly need a box of tissues if you plan on watching any of the videos made in memory of Maria, interviews or footage of the funeral.

One precious and amazing thing that they shared was a picture little Maria had drawn the day of her death. It was a picture of a small butterfly on the corner of the page and in big letters the word "SEE" was written across the page. On the backside of the paper she drew a picture of a flower with 6 petals and only one of the petals was colored in. Steven explained this as- they have 6 children and Maria was one of the 6 who went to be with Jesus. Therefore, as seen in the picture the one petal was whole- Maria is now whole and she wrote the word "SEE" (a word she had never written before) as if to show them- "See, I'm whole now- I'm okay". Now, if that wasn't God then I don't know what it could be.

Just months before Maria passed, Steven wrote a song entitled "Cinderella" and the song was written to his three little girls whom he adopted from China, Maria being the baby. The song was written after he had given the girls a bath and was quickly trying to get them into bed so that he could get working on some things- music and songs for his new album. He then realized that these were the most precious moments he had with his daughters and time sneaks away so quickly and soon those moments will be gone. This inspired him to pen these lyrics...

"I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
Cause I know something the prince never knew
I will dance with Cinderella
I don't wanna miss even one song
Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone"

Little did he know that just a few short months later he would lose his dear Maria. I can imagine that this song has taken on a much deeper meaning than when it was even first written and it has recently topped all the charts for christian music.

You can watch the music video here. Warning:- it's bound to make you cry.

You can read Maria's story here...

The tears were flowing as I sat and listened to them present the gospel in such a real way to thousands of people on Larry King Live! How amazing it is that through this awful, terrible tragedy that God is still being glorified, and on CNN! I pray that those who tuned in last night were touched and moved within their spirit and that God drew them close to Him through their own pain and grief. This world is so filled with sorrow, grief and hurting. We are constantly surrounded by a sea of people who are probably experiencing a tremendous amount of pain and yet we look past their searching eyes and do what we need to do to get by. What if we stopped to comfort those who are mourning, to mourn with those who mourn and to share hope with those who are hopeless?

I, myself desire to be used as an instrument by God to show compassion and to share my hope and faith even in the smallest ways. My sustainer, life-giver, provider, creator, pursuer of my heart, father, all sufficient, faithful, merciful, gracious, and everlasting God is my solid foundation and He has proven himself to be faithful, not only in my life but in the lives of others. Why does He allow horrible things to happen? I do not know, we will never know but He never makes us walk through any of it alone. And when he does allow you to bear a burden so heavy that you feel you will break any second, He is only waiting for you to say, "Here, take this Lord- I can't handle it, I need your help" and He will sustain you. He is near to the broken hearted. His scripture says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”- Matthew 11:28-30

A song that has kind of been my lifesong the past two years is entitled "Everlasting God" and well I'm just going to put the lyrics here and you'll know why...

Everlasting God- New Life Worship

One thing I know that I have found
Through all the troubles that surround
You are the rock that never fails
You never fail

One thing I know that I believe
Through every blessing I receive
You are the only one that stays
You always stay

You never change, you stay the same
You are the Everlasting God
You will remain after the day has gone
And things of earth have passed
Everlasting God

I love this song (again, you should look this one up on their music myspace- New Life Worship because it's just a gorgeous song and it always brings tears to my eyes).

Now, sometimes we wonder, "God why me?, Why this?, Why now?" A lie that I want to confront is the lie that by living a Christian life you will inevitably be joyful, prosperous, safe, respected, comfortable and just live perfect lives 100% of the time. This is far from truth. Over and over in the scriptures we see that God calls people to live recklessly in following Him and abandoning everything. God never guarantees our safety or comfort or even respectability. Instead He asks us to give up absolutely everything in order to follow where He leads. Just read the book of Job. There is suffering involved. Sometimes it seems like God’s not doing His part. There’s not enough money to pay the bills. Your car breaks down. You lose your job. Someone close to you suddenly dies. You feel as though your entire world is crashing down all around you and there is nothing you can do except crash with it. You don't feel like God is going to cover you and it's all just something you've believed in for no reason because at this point there is no sign of God anywhere, only destruction and calamity.

This is, I think where Jesus’ yoke comes in. Just a couple of verses before the famous yoke verse, Jesus prays to his Father, “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth because you have . . . revealed [these things] to little children.” (Matthew 11:25) It comes down to a pure and innocent child-like trust. This is Jesus’ yoke. You know when a little child is in trouble and they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what has happened or what they've done they can find refuge and comfort in their father's or mother's arms?- They know beyond a shadow of a doubt that their father will come to their aid whether it be instant or enduring. They have no doubt that they can depend on their father for their every need. Even in the midst of disaster and trials, we can trust that God is in charge, that He has a purpose for what is happening. Or if it is an attack of the enemy that He will aid us in the battle so that we can overcome and defeat the one who has enforced such unthinkable things. So you trust. You don’t despair, you don’t curse God or your lot. You simply trust as a child puts all their hope and trust in their father. If you allow the Holy Spirit to work, you will even find that the fruits of the spirit continue to grow. Instead of anxiety, there is this joy and peace and you can't understand where it is coming from because it is a light burden and it just doesn't feel right.

Sometimes we struggle with this yoke because it is easy and light. We’re like oxen who have been trained up under too much weight- always having to lean into it, tug and pull and huff and puff at the exertion of carrying this heavy yoke. And then Jesus comes along and gives us His yoke. But it just feels wrong. It’s so easy and light. It can’t be right. So a lot of us go back to our old, heavy yokes. They’re painful, but at least they feel like they fit. And we continue with this weight on our shoulders.

And then all of us Christians who have taken back our yokes (if we ever actually took them off to begin with - most don’t), sit up at night and worry just like everyone else. And we live just like everyone else, because God can’t really think I’d be able to go there or do that - He knows what an unreasonable burden it would be. That’s for saints and missionaries, not for everyday Christians like me who are just trying not to get into trouble.

And this is exactly how we lose our saltiness. Then we wonder that Christianity is seen as fit for nothing more than to be trampled underfoot. But Jesus’ yoke is easy. His burden is light. That’s a good thing too, because there’s no way we can go to the unthinkable places God wants to send us carrying our own yokes. We just have to be willing to trade our grief, worry and sorrow for His peace and joy in the midst of our trials. Give up our safety and respectability for gentleness and humility. And trust that God will cover us. And He will, He always does. He is faithful to the end, He is the Everlasting God.

His mercies are new every morning and He provides the strength for us to get through yet another day, another trial, another difficult situation whether huge or seemingly insignificant. He is the portion of my life and my source of solidity. I cannot explain my faith to you as if it were an answer to a math problem or scenario, I cannot convey to you how it has kept me in the midst of pain, anger, sorrow and grief. I just know that it has and that it is real, so real. I can't give you a broken down theology lesson about my God and why He is the way that He is but He is , He was, and He always will be. No matter what life throws at me. I love my God and my faith and trust is in His name. He has proven Himself to be faithful time and time again and just when I think I've lost all hope, I'm reminded of his steadfastness in my life. He is my constant in the chaos and though I've been angry and misunderstanding of Him- it always leads me right back to being awestruck at how much He loves me and How much He really does care. He is shaping me with each crack, burn, break and shatter. He's walked with me through the fire, He's calmed my raging seas and I trust Him. I love Him, I know Him, and I do not doubt His character.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. Romans 8:38

-Amber Denae Collins

Larry King reflects on his emotional interview with Steven Curtis Chapman and his family who endured a tragic loss. Click the link below to see.

**Also, if you want to know more about the Chapman family, their adoption funding program or anything else you can go to... or


Andrea said...

I was bummed that I had to miss the Chapmans on Larry King but I actually just got to watch it now on YouTube.

Like you, I cried like a baby. It's so sad yet deep down I'm in awe of God's matter how much we question or wonder why God allows these things to happen, there's still a part of me that sees nothing but God's fingerprints on this situation. I have a hunch so much good will come out of this tragedy. Just watching Larry King on "about last night"..he said he "wishes" he had their faith. Seeds are being planted and God used this wonderful family in his plan. They will be richly blessed.

I often times wonder how I would get through something like scares me just to imagine losing someone so close to me but all I can do is remember God does not tempt us with more than we can handle and he promises to give rest to those who are weary and tired.

Andrea said...

Oh! And I also wanted to mention that I've been in a major funk today over something silly. I knew it wasn't something worth fuming over, yet my heart remained hardened and cold. So cold in fact that I refused to bring it to God and just stew all day long. I knew I should ask God for perspective on this situation but I kept putting it off.

Watching this tonight was exactly what I needed. God still answers the prayers of our heart even when we don't have the strength to ask...or when we are too stubborn to ask.

He's good! And I love nothing more than having him put me lovingly in my place.