In "Other" Words..."I Know a Whole Lot More For Sure"


"I know a lot less about God, 
but the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more for sure."

~Steven Curtis Chapman
on Larry King Live after the tragic death of his daughter Maria

On May 21, 2008, Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth, experienced a "parent's worst nightmare" as their 5-year-old daughter, Maria, was killed in a tragic accident.  Her older brother was coming home in his SUV, and didn't see little Maria as she ran to meet him.   Just over two months later, Steven and Mary Beth, as well as their three older children, appeared on Larry King Live to talk about the tragedy and the hope that was and is carrying them through.

I hadn't watched Larry King in years...decades, even...but I watched that particular interview with great interest (and through many tears!)   First, just two years earlier, our family had gone through one of those "defining moments" in our lives...experiencing a situation that sent us reeling....and continues to, in many ways, today.  Our situation did not involve the death of a child, but the trauma involved was very similar in many ways.   I had ached for and prayed for the Chapman family since first hearing about the accident, and I was anxious to see and hear how God was answering the prayers of people around the world on their behalf.  

I was also interested to see how Larry King would react to this family of faith and the hope they were showing through tragedy.  Years ago I watched Larry King fairly frequently...not by my own choice, but because my grandparents rarely ever missed an episode.  When I visited them, and later when I lived with my grandmother for a few years after college, he was a nightly visitor in their living room.  I knew that Mr. King was quite adamant in his anti-Christian views.  

There was much that was noteworthy about that interview.  I remember at the time actually taking notes of things the family said...there was so much that resonated so strongly with me, even though our situations were very different.   But the thing that stuck out the most was the above quote by Steven.    It expressed so perfectly what God had done in me in the two years preceding that interview...and what He has continued to do in the two years since.  

I had been blessed to grow up in solid Bible-teaching churches and a godly home.   I was saved at a young age and saturated with God's Word throughout my growing up years.   Our family went through some difficult trials over the years, and I saw my parents meet those trials with faith and obedience.  During all of those years...even through a devastating church split in my teen years, the death of my beloved grandfather at 17, family financial crises, and serious health issues with my dad...my faith never wavered.  I never once asked "Why?"  I read and heard about people questioning their faith in times of crisis, but the crises we experienced just strengthened my faith even more.  

Then came 2004.   We experienced the birth of our little 30-week preemie and listened to dire prognoses for her future.  We spent 6 weeks in NICU with her, with almost daily threats to her health and even her survival.  Six months after she came home, when we had finally begun to relax and enjoy our now healthy baby, my dad's health, which had been in decline for a while, took a steep downturn.   We discovered that his cancer from years before had returned, and at this point his health was otherwise so fragile that there was no possibility of treatment.  He spent his last few months in constant intense pain, and died in December of that year.  

We felt like we had been through the fire that year.  We had been through the great trials of our lives, and though they had been horribly painful, we had survived with our faith not only intact, but stronger.  God had taught us much during that awful year, and again, despite a year and a half of intense grieving over the loss of my daddy, I never truly questioned God or doubted my faith.   There were questions, but they were mostly superficial ones...not life-shaking ones.  

Then came 2006.  We were just beginning to feel like we were settling into a "new normal" when the bottom fell out of life as we knew it, never to be the same again.   And this time...for the first time ever...my faith was truly shaken...and I wrestled with doubts and questions I had never expected to face.   It was a blessedly short time, but it shook me to my very core.  I questioned God's goodness and became angry at the thought of His sovereignty.   But...God met every doubt and every question with His love, grace, and faithfulness.   

As I questioned and wrestled with those questions, He sent people, books, music, and always Scripture to shore up and solidify my faith from the very foundation up.   He took me back to the basics of who He is...and who we are...and back to basic doctrines of the faith to rebuild what had shattered in this latest and most devastating storm.   He reminded me over and over of the fact that He is so very much greater than we can ever imagine, and His ways are so very much higher.  He reminded me...and in that, brought me crashing to my knees...that He is GOD.  He created us.  He made a way of salvation for us.  Although this "thrice Holy" God can't even look at our sin and depravity, He LOVES us, and He calls us to cleansing through His Son, Jesus.   He gently showed me that, as Voddie Baucham says, we ask the wrong question in times like these.  Instead of asking "Why? am I going through this trial?  Why? do we have to suffer?"  we should be asking  "How on earth can a Holy, Righteous God know what I did and thought and said yesterday, and not kill me in my sleep last night?"  "Why, O God, do your judgement and your wrath tarry?"   The very fact that we wake up to another day, or breathe another breath, is the awesome goodness and mercy of God.   Every blessing that He gives us is effectively icing on the cake...and further proof of His love, mercy, and grace.

The lessons I've learned...the things God has taught me...in the intervening years could fill a book, and many of them are scattered throughout this blog.   But as I listened to Steven Curtis Chapman say those words on LKL that day, I realized that they summed it all up perfectly. 

"I know a lot less about God, but the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more for sure."

God has shown me, in a most humbling way, that despite my solidly Biblical Christian background....being raised in a Christian home, active in wonderful churches, saved at a young age, etc....I know much less about God than I thought I did when this journey started back in the summer of 2006.  I have questions that will never be answered, at least not on earth.  There are things I will never...ever...make any sense of.  But God graciously wrestled through my doubts and questions with me, and brought me to the point where the things I *do* know about God, I am more sure and more certain of than ever.  The concept of His sovereignty, which brought so much anger and pain at one point, has become one of the greatest comforts of my life.  He has taken things that I have believed all my life and tested them in the fire, and now I know them not just because I have been *taught* them, but because I have *lived* them.  And I cling to them in ways I have never clung to them before.   There are still days...weeks...hours when I struggle...sometimes much more than others.   And yet God is always faithful to remind me of the things that He has shown me in these years, and to continue to teach me day by day.  

In that same interview, Steven Curtis Chapman said that we don't always have an explanation, but we do have a comfort, and a hope.  Later, Larry King stated that he wished he had that kind of faith.  I have no idea what God may have done and still may be doing in Larry King's heart since that interview, but I am thankful for the Chapmans' faithfulness and openness during such a traumatic time, and I pray that perhaps even yet God may draw Mr. King to Himself.  


Karen said...

Wow what a story. It's so wonderful to have God beside us to take us through these moments in life. Thanks for sharing today. Karen

Tami Boesiger said...

The overriding lesson in my trials too has been God's sovereignty. He is God. Period. Thanks for reminding us with this quote Jennifer.

Miriam Pauline said...

Beautiful post! I love how our faith cements after it is shaken in trial (and things that need to fall away are allowed to fall away). Thank you for hosting us this week.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing and for choosing this quote. The book by Mary Beth Chapman is tremendous . . . so worth reading. I did a review of it a few weeks back on my blog.