Adversity will make or break people who are forced to endure unthinkable tragedies. When a freak accident took the life of one of Steven Curtis Chapman's little adopted daughters last year, the respected singer/songwriter's world came crashing down. Although Steven began to feel as though he'd never be able to write or sing again, in time he found his voice again and the songs on Beauty Will Rise were born.
On Beauty Will Rise, Chapman opens up his heart for the most personal and most emotional release of his career. The acoustical, organic composition of the songs are wonderfully orchestrated laments mixed with hope and praise as Chapman chronicles his painful struggles and remembers vividly the gift of his beloved daughter. It's a difficult release to endure due to the pain that is woven throughout (I had a lump in my throat through the duration of the album's 12 songs... with each listen), but the inextinguishable hope that Chapman responds to the tragedy and questions with is what makes this album so important. Almost all believers experience faith-shaking moments in their life in some form or another, and to hear Chapman's weary and raw vocals belt out words like "I Will Trust You" ("Trust you God I will Even when I don't understand / Even then I will take in / You are my God / And I will trust You") is an encouragement to us all (if not altogether convicting when we face doubt in times of lesser personal loss).
Beauty Will Rise is unlike any other Steven Curtis Chapman album and unlike any other musical journey I've been taken on. Each song is inspired by the loss of little Maria, often referencing her specifically ("February 20th" is about the day she came to know Jesus, only three months before her passing; "Just Have To Wait" is about Steven longing to see his little girl again in Heaven, etc...), so it's easy to feel Chapman's pain right along with him from song to song. Chapman even addresses the longing for his son to see her again someday, after having accidentally hit her with their car in the family's driveway. The beautiful but painful words, "And I can't wait to watch your brother's face / When he can finally see with his own eyes / That everything's okay" are soaked with forgiveness and hope.
The fact that Chapman is so specific in his chronology of the loss he endured and struggled with may make this record a bit difficult for listeners to apply to their own toil, but it's such a unique record in that it takes the listener to an intensely personal place for Steven and his family. While the Church can sometimes be tempted to put on an "everything's OK" facade, Chapman reminds his brothers and sisters that the questions are only natural and that in our darkest times, if we allow Jesus to be all that we need (and all that we often claim Him to be in our lives), than we can get to know Him on a deeper level than ever before. Words like these from "SEE" are especially moving and encouraging, "But right now all I can say is, 'Lord, how long?' / Before You come and take away this aching / This night of weeping seems to have no end / But when the morning light breaks through / We'll open up our eyes and we will see... / Wait and see / Oh taste and see that the Lord is good / The Lord is good." However, perhaps one of the most personally applicable songs on the record is "Jesus Will Meet You There," a song where Steven uses several difficult scenarios to illustrate that Jesus will be with you through trials. Given the hard road SCC has had to travel in the past year and a half, it brings exceptional weight to a song like this, "He knows the way to wherever you are / He knows the way to the depths of your heart / He knows the way cause He's already been where you're going."
If you have ever needed a ray of hope through tremendous times of trial, Beauty Will Rise is a warm blanket during those cold and desolate times. These songs serve as a beautiful reminder that we are not alone in our darkest hour. Beauty Will Rise is clearly a healing process for Chapman and it's a gift to fans and those taking the lonely road of adversity. And hopefully after you take this journey alongside Steven, you'll be able to sing with him, "Spring is coming (Out of these ashes beauty will rise)! Spring is coming (Sorrow will be turned to joy)! It won't be long (Spring is coming soon)! It's just about here (Spring is coming soon)!"
- PReview date: 9/23/09; Review date: 11/1/09, written by John DiBiase of Jesusfreakhideout.com