FamilyLife Today® Podcast

From the Depths of Pain and Heartache

with Mary Beth Chapman, Steven Curtis Chapman | March 6, 2015
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A famous Christian star like Steven Curtis Chapman has it made, right? Not so fast. Steven and Mary Beth Chapman give us a very transparent look at their life and marriage.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • A famous Christian star like Steven Curtis Chapman has it made, right? Not so fast. Steven and Mary Beth Chapman give us a very transparent look at their life and marriage.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Steven and Mary Beth Chapman give us a very transparent look at their life and marriage.

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From the Depths of Pain and Heartache

With Mary Beth Chapman, Steven Cu...more
March 06, 2015
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Bob: Steven Curtis Chapman recorded his first album almost 30 years ago. He says that most of his listeners have no idea what the songs they love cost him to write.

[I Will Trust You

Steven: You have no idea where these are coming from—the depth of the pain and heartache, and the struggle, and trusting God and then not trusting Him, and trusting Him again and His promises for my wife and us together—and fighting through it, and fighting against each other sometimes through it, and then fighting together. I know part of what God has used to minister out of our lives/our journey—it’s been the depth of that pain.

[I Will Trust You



Bob: This is a special on-location edition of FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll take a look at some of the high points and some of the valleys that have been part of Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman’s lives together. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We, again, have with us a live studio audience—we are recording today’s program. [Applause]  We are onboard the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise. We have a couple of friends joining us, who have been favorites, here, onboard the cruise—concert last night with our guest. You want to introduce our friends? 

Dennis: I’d love to. Steven Curtis Chapman and Mary Beth, his wife, join us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome to the broadcast.

Steven: Thank you, Dennis Rainey and Bob.

Mary Beth: Thank you. Thanks for having us. [Applause] 

Dennis: Love you guys.

Steven: Yes.


Bob: Well, we were thrilled to have you guys on. Last night, Steven, you did a concert, here, onboard the cruise. It brought back memories because—Dennis, I don’t know if you know this—the first time I ever met Steven and Mary Beth Chapman was the summer of 1986. 1986 was year one for you—right?—in the Christian music business? 

Steven: Yes.

Mary Beth: That’s the year Emily was born as well.

Steven: Yes.

Bob: The year Emily was born. I think you were pregnant with Emily when we met—because I was managing a radio station, we did a concert at the local water park. We needed cheap bargain entertainment—we did. So, we got—[Laughter]

Steven: I was about as bargain as you could get at that point; wasn’t I? 

Bob: We got the new kid—

Steven: That’s right.

Bob: —who was a new recording artist for Sparrow Records. We were able to get him for a deal; right?  You guys pulled up in the Pinto—with your records in the back of the Pinto—and Mary Beth handling the merchandise over at the tables and you playing out at the water park while every body’s riding the waves.

Steven: Yes. Wow.

Bob: I think that’s where the song Dive was born—



—wasn’t it?—right there.

Steven: It might have been. Very well could have been. [Laughter]  The seed was planted.

Bob: That’s right.

Dennis: Did you really have a Pinto? 

Steven: Yes.

Mary Beth: Oh, yes.

Steven: Absolutely; it was hers.

Mary Beth: Actually, funny story—because last night, he told, in concert, that, when we got married, we had $50 to our name and a green Ford Pinto. That Pinto was not completely paid off. I was a waitress at a Friendly’s ice creams. I don’t know if anybody has heard of Friendly’s. [Applause] 

Steven: Oh, we’ve got some Friendly’s.

Mary Beth: So, I used to pay for that car—I’d give my dad a roll of quarters every week. [Laughter] That’s how I was paying that car off—a roll of quarters. I would probably still be giving him a roll of quarters.

Steven: That was a token payment; yes.

Mary Beth: But he forgave the debt when I got married. So, we really did have $50 and a green Ford Pinto.

Bob: Steven, you also shared—last night, in the concert, with your wife’s permission—you referenced what Mary Beth—you’ve written about your [Mary Beth’s] battle with depression, which, as you said last night, is a chronic battle. This is not something that’s just a part of the past.



It’s a part of the ongoing struggle of life for you.

Mary Beth: Yes.

Bob: Share with our listeners how that manifested itself—how it began to manifest itself in your marriage and what it’s like today for you. Can you do that? 

Mary Beth: Sure. I think early on, at the beginning—Steven was right at the point of—it was around 1991—The Great Adventure was just coming out. I don’t know if you remember this, but that was back in the day when there were massive tours. I mean, we were still so young; and we didn’t know what was going on. Will Franklin was just born—he was born in February of ’91 —and he’s [Curtis’] getting ready to put this show together. I mean, it was back in the day when he was going to Texas, and they had Reunion Arena for like five days of rehearsal. I mean, this stuff is not even heard of anymore; and they were going down there to rehearse.



I’d just had Will / we had just moved into a different home.

And for anybody that has followed us—our journey—it’s holy wedlock and holy headlock—all mixed together. [Laughter]  That’s what our pastor, who has done much counseling with us over the years, kind of dubbed it—and dubbed him Tigger, and I’m Eeyore. Looking back, I had struggled, all along—didn’t really realize or know how to put a finger on it. Not many people were talking about depression back then.

But right after Will Franklin was born, I had a gallbladder attack. I had it the night—well, I hadn’t been feeling well for a long time. I had it the night he got on a bus to go to Texas to be Steven Curtis Chapman—big concert in Texas. [Laughter]

Bob: Mr. Big Shot—Mr. Steven Curtis Chapman.

Mary Beth: Well, if you’ll remember the song—

Steven: Saddling up his horse.

Mary Beth: I Will Be Here was on that record, and he was there. [Laughter] 


Bob: Honestly, I remember I was working at a local Christian radio station. We heard: “This tour may get canceled. Steven’s having to decide whether he’s going to go out on tour.”  And here’s what you have to know—there are contracts that are written,—

Mary Beth: Oh, there’s a lot. Yes.

Bob: —and there are record companies that have got this, and there is all of this. There are people’s lives and livelihoods that are dependent on this. Back home, there’s a wife who is going, “I need my husband.” 

Mary Beth: Yes.

Bob: And here is a guy, in the middle, who is having to go, “What do I do?” 

Mary Beth: And all of this as I was the ripe old age of 26— 

Bob: Yes.

Mary Beth: —three children, at that point. I really wanted him to go, and I really was trying to be behind him and support him; but obviously, didn’t know I was going to have this gallbladder thing come up. My mom was in town helping because Will Franklin was brand-new, Caleb was 15 months old, and Emily was, I guess, four-and-a-half at the time. So, she came to help.


Again, I think, looking back, the enemy knew what was getting ready to happen. I think he knew that there was going to be this longevity of a career—not because of the talent/not because of the songs—you are talented and you have great songs—but because of what God was going to accomplish through him. There was just this full onslaught attack. It was really the first time that I just kind of imploded.

Through that, we’ve always been committed to finish the race together. We’ve—I tell people, all the time—that we’ve built wings onto counselors’ offices in Nashville and the surrounding United States. I’ve been on all kinds of journeys to work through grief, and to work through depression, and to work through all this stuff; but that’s when I really began to become something that I had to recognize—as well as Steve, then, had to recognize with me—and then kind of get a good game plan, as far as that goes, to help me begin to deal with it the best way that we knew how and with the right help.



So, it continues to this day. It’s been manageable and kind of getting all of that balanced out—continuing to work on the marriage when he’s gone.

And he was always—still is—committed to each tour: “What does it look like?  What are the ages of the kids?  Is it better that I’m gone two weeks / come home two weeks?  Is it better that I get home on Wednesday / come back on Sunday?  Is it better that I just do weekends?”  Every tour—he slaved over how to do it and still be involved with kids. It’s not for the faint of heart—it is very, very hard—and it continues today. About the time you get a good handle on it, something else happens.

In 2008—when Maria passed away—and it was traumatic, and a tragedy, and it involved another child of ours—it rears its ugly head again—so, we’re just really kind of committed to take it a day at a time. We’re very honest, obviously—and with my own children too—



—and they know the journey that I’m on; yes.

Bob: So, as a husband, Steven—

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: —tell us about what it’s been like for you on this journey.

Steven: Well, you know, initially, we battled so much with the guilt. I, as a husband, heard, early on—very respected, godly author/counselor say, “You are, as a husband, responsible for the emotional well-being of your wife.”  I would have many counselors and many others say, afterwards, that was a little heavy to lay on a husband and not really completely true. But I took that on and really felt this incredible burden of “How do I fix this?”  I mean, I’m a guy—guys are fixers: “How do we fix this?  I need to pray harder. I need to fast and pray more.” 


In our early marriage, too, I don’t want to misrepresent it that I was always doing it right either. There were early days of our marriage that I would say and imply things that made her feel, spiritually, like: “I’m just not enough. I’m not spiritual enough to be the wife of Steven Curtis Chapman, and all that that entails, or what people would expect for me to be.” 

Bob: Right.

Steven: So, I knew that that was part of the weight that she was carrying. And then, just trying to be aware of the ways that I would even, unknowingly, add weight onto that expectation of “What does it look like to be the spiritual woman/wife?” that you should feel responsible to be. I think, as this began to come to the surface—and it was tied in with wounds from past and hard things that began to come to the surface that were all woven into it.



My heart was really broken for my wife because there is not a harder working, more brave/courageous woman on the planet. I’d see her just: “I’m just going to fight through this, and I just need to pray harder. I just need to have more faith,” and see that weight that she carried, and to pray with her, and really have to come to a place of really, not just in theory, but believing that, in our weakness, His strength is made perfect and that we will boast in our weaknesses and not try to hide them.

We do that so much in the church if we don’t have the appearance of what everyone might expect us to be and how together we need to have it. Most of the stories that you would read—we’d look for stories / she would look—and you would read these stories of: “Well, I struggled”—with a “D” on the end—“with this.”  So, it was always that victory in place.



It was such a heavy thing for her to carry—to think: “Well, I don’t have that victory. How do we get that?  How do we fix this?  How do we—who do we talk to?  What counselor?  Where do we go?  What do we do?”  And then, just to begin to recognize and realize, on our journey together, that this was going to be something that God would continue to use to keep us broken, and humble, and desperate for Him / trusting Him that He does know the plans He has for us.

So, that’s been so much of our journey. I can’t say enough just about how proud and grateful I am of her courage.

The songs—as people know what our journey has been—people often say, “Man, where do those songs come from?”  I’m thinking: “Boy, you have no idea where these are coming from—the depth of the pain and the heartache, and the struggle, and trusting God and then not trusting Him, and trusting Him again and dropping anchor—like I talked about last night—



—in His promises for my wife and us together—and fighting through it, and fighting against each other sometimes through it, and then fighting together.”  I know part of what God has used to minister out of our lives/our journey—it’s been the depth of that pain that these songs and so much of what we’ve been able to share and encourage people with over the years has come from.

Dennis: You know, there’s something that comes with the mantle that has been given this couple—that most of us can never begin to fathom and realize the weight of what it’s like to be looked up to on the pedestal where people put you—but to still have a heavy weight to carry. Some of the greatest, most powerful things that we have to say come out of our deepest anguish and our hurt.

Steven: Yes. Amen.

Dennis: And you wish it could come some other way; you know?  Don’t you? 

Steven: Absolutely. Yes: “Sign up for that program,” for sure. [Laughter] 


Bob: I want to ask the tech crew to get the microphone set up over here for you because, if you’re going to quote 2 Corinthians 12 in passing and talk about God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness, I think you ought to sing the song that came out of that for us. Would you do that? 

Steven: Yes, absolutely.

Bob: I think a lot of our listeners will know this song and have been ministered to by this song. We’ll get you set up and have you strap this on and sing that one.

Steven: I’m going to sit—

Bob: That’s alright.

Steven: —for this one.

Bob: That’ll be fine.

[His Strength Is Perfect





Bob: Amen. While you have your guitar out—you got a call, earlier this year, from Stephen and Alex Kendrick, who had just finished their new movie. They wanted to talk to you about it; right? 

Steven: Yes. Yes.

Bob: Tell us—

Steven: War Room.

Bob: Yes.

Steven: Everybody see War Room. Yes?  [Applause] 

Bob: This is a movie that’s coming out in theaters on August 28th. We had a chance to have a sneak preview of that film, here onboard the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, and the audience loved the movie. But they were talking to you about something we didn’t get to see in the movie yet because it hasn’t been added,—

Steven: Right. Yes.

Bob: —and that is a song that you’ve written for it.


Steven: Well, they called and said: “We’re going to send you a copy of this movie. We would love it if you would take a look at it and just see if it inspires something because we’d love to have you write a song for the end of the movie.” 

Obviously, you’ve heard a little bit of our story—or a little more of our story. So, no surprise—that prayer battle / battles in prayer have been a big, big part of our journey over the last 30 years of our marriage—so many places we’ve said: “God, You’re going to have to do this. You’re going to have to fight this battle for us against the enemy”—whether it’s through the loss of our daughter / the attack that that was on so many levels or just our journey together.

I immediately said: “Well, absolutely. This will be really easy in many ways to write a song about this.” 



And so, now, what will not be as easy is attempting to perform it—when I’ve only written it about two weeks ago and haven’t ever played it live before. So, I’m not going to make any promises but—

Bob: Are you guys good with hearing him?

Steven: —but you guys know—[Applause] So, you’re not recording this or anything; right?  Okay; good. We may have to post-edit this out or something; alright. I really am going to fumble my way through, but here we go.

[Untitled Song for War Room Movie]





Steven: Or something like that! 

Bob: How do you do that?  How do you just make up songs like that; huh?  That’s good! 

Mary Beth: I give him good subject matter. [Laughter] 

Bob: Well, good point.



Good point.

Dennis: Well, as he was singing that, a quote came to mind: “Some men / some women owe the grandeur of their lives to their many difficulties.”  That song, obviously, is born out of a lot of pain but, also, out of a lot of hope—I appreciate you writing it. I don’t know how God made you, but He did a great thing when He made you two. [Applause] 

Steven: Thank you.

Bob: Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman.


Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to a conversation that was recorded, just a couple of weeks ago, onboard the 2015 Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise—our annual Valentine’s Day getaway. We had about a thousand couples join us; and again, this was our fifth annual cruise. Once again, it was sold out.

And I just want to remind our listeners—we’re going to be heading out in February of 2016 for another Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise.



We’d love to have you join us. This cruise is actually going to be one day longer. We’ll leave on Monday / get back on Saturday. We’ll be going to Jamaica and to Grand Cayman. Right now, about half of the staterooms, onboard the cruise, are already spoken for.

But our team has decided that, this week, they want to add a little extra incentive for FamilyLife Today listeners to join us on the cruise. They are making a special offer this week. This is the lowest price that is going to be offered anywhere for the cruise. You can take advantage of it by going to, clicking the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and there is information there about the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise. Or you can call if you have any questions or you’d like to find out how you can book a stateroom for next year. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”



Ask about the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise; or again, go, online, to

And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for being with us. Hope you have a great weekend—hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. And I hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to talk with author and Bible teacher, Jen Wilkin, about how women can go deeper in God’s Word: “What does it look like to be a woman of the Word?” We’ll explore that Monday. Hope you can tune in.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.

©Song:  I Will Trust You

Artist:    Steven Curtis Chapman

Album:  Beauty Will Rise (p) 2009, Sparrow Records

©Song:  His Strength Is Perfect

Artist:    Steven Curtis Chapman

Album:  Live on Love Like You Mean It Cruise


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