This morning, I received the tragic news of the untimely death of Steven Curtis Chapman's 5-year old daughter, Maria [news here]. The sweet little princess was the Chapman's youngest of three adopted Chinese daughters. Even more gut-wrenching is the fact that she was struck, in her driveway, by a car driven by one of the Chapman sons. Sadly, the family was hours away from their son's high school graduation party and their older daughter had recenlty announced her engagement.
Can you feel the trauma?
So many questions, the greatest of which is "why?" Suddenly, my disappointment over the hit and run driver who backed into my wife's SUV this week dissipated. My difficulties pale in comparison. It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?
As I grieve with the Chapman family [Steven is one of the top Christian musicians in the world and has become a leading advocate for Chinese adoptions], I can't help but glance in the direction of Job. The story of Job is one of the most ancient episodes in the Bible, placed in the middle of the Old Testament, but likely occurring sometime after Cain murdered Abel and before Noah's ark. The book opens with the declaration that Job was "blameless and upright," fearing God and shunning evil. Because of his notable righteousness, the devil decided to "test" him [vv. 6-19]. In the time it took to pull out of the family driveway, the man's livestock were stolen, his servants kidnapped and his children killed in a freak accident. If that weren't enough, Job was afflicted with boils that covered his body from head to toe. And, everyone wanted to know one thing.
For 37 chapters, God remained silent for Job [unfortunately, the wretched man was surrounded by a trio of op-ed writers who were sure they knew the answer]. But, when the Almighty finally broke the silence, everyone stopped hypothesizing. God is sovereign. God is at work. God has the first and the final words. No matter what happens, at the end of the day, God is still God. And, Job found his contentment in this sure-anchored fact.
Some think that the story of Job searches out the question: Where is God when life hurts? But, really, it explored the question: Where are we when life hurts? The answer depends on what we have believed about God before tragedy strikes. No one forms a brand new theology in the midst of crisis. What we hold to be true either forms a firm foundation that supports us when tests come or creates a false security that crumbles leaving us with nothing but hopeless questions.
I hope you understand my intentions when I say that the death of little Maria couldn't have happened to better people. The Steven Curtis Chapman family has walked with God for a lifetime. Their whole world has been built on the truth of a God who is sovereign and secure. They trust God to be good. In faith, they rest in His grace. They possess a confident hope that they will see their baby again. They are exactly the kind of people who have a foundation of faith that attracts the attack of the enemy yet endures the pain with God-centered confidence.
I want to live in such a way that the quality of my faith is validated by the tests that come my way. And, I want to suffer those tests in a way that vindicates what I hold to be true about God now.
Please be in prayer for the Chapmans that they remain steadfast and firm.