Beauty Will Rise

Beauty Will Rise

Rick LawrenceBy Rick Lawrence5 Minutes

On May 21, 2008, Steven Curtis Chapman’s oldest son accidentally drove over his five-year-old sister in the driveway of their home, killing her instantly. Chapman, an award-winning singer/songwriter who lives every day in the public eye, was then forced to live out intolerable grief in the spotlight.

Just a few days before the darkest day in their lives, the entire Chapman family was in China when a 7.9 magnitude earthquake dismantled the Sichuan province, a mountainous region in the western portion of the country. They were in the Shanghai airport hundreds of miles away from the epicenter, headed home to celebrate Maria Sue Chapman’s fifth birthday. Only five years before, China had been her home. She was one of three Chinese orphan girls adopted by the Chapmans. At the airport waiting for their flight, they didn’t even feel the quake. But they personally knew many of those who now had to cope with the massive physical and personal destruction. They had spent four weeks in Sichuan province in support of an aid agency.

I’d heard the basic details of all of this, as did the millions around the world who respect Chapman and enjoy his music. And then, a year or so later, a pre-release CD of Chapman’s new album landed on my desk. I get several of these every day because the magazine I’ve edited for decades runs music reviews. Something about this album’s cover drilled into my soul. On it, Chapman is standing on the precipice of a deep gorge, arms raised, face caught up in ecstasy, with his guitar slung over his shoulder.

At first, I thought the background behind him was a mountain range. But when I looked closer, I could see that it was actually a mountain of rubble. I read the liner notes and discovered Chapman was standing near a leveled village in the Chinese quake zone. He’d returned to China about a year after his daughter’s death to minister to those who’d survived their own trauma, helping open an orphan care center named after Maria and offering a free concert to the grieving families of earthquake victims. The title of the album precisely matched the photo on its cover: Beauty Will Rise.

The photo is such a perfect metaphor for Chapman’s sifting experience – plain evidence of the catastrophic in the background, the worship of the free in the foreground. I couldn’t stop staring at this photo – even now it rivets me. Chapman’s bold act of worship is just as jolting, just as contradictory, just as haunting, and just as beautiful as the songs of grief on the album. How is it possible to worship God when the worst thing we can imagine happens to us?

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1)!

Maybe “the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:5) will find its mark in us, maybe an innocent little girl will die on our driveway, maybe a catastrophic quake will leave a mountain of rubble in our path. And maybe we’ll emerge from all of it with a ridiculous thirst to worship Jesus because He’s named us and claimed us in the darkness of our sifting.

When there is sifting, there is sure to be revelation, bringing a blinding light to our darkness and transforming it into lasting beauty. I’m certain that anyone who can say “it was worth it all” after a season of sifting is naming one of the true joys of life – the revelations of who we really are and who God really is.

If you are, or have been, in the cycle of sifting, the revelation of your untarnished beauty promises to set you free. May your sifting lead you to exclaim, as the apostle Paul did, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NIV). And may you know the true light that permeates the overwhelming darkness in you. He is your Savior, and the Great Healer of your soul.

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