One of my all-time favorite worship songs is “How He Loves” by John Mark McMillan. By the way, I don’t like the sanitized version by David Crowder as much for reasons that will become apparent later. I wrote about that here if you’re interested in knowing what I’m talking about.
What really resonates with me about this song is how beautifully raw and real it is. It’s a song born out of grief and tragedy (many great songs are). McMillan wrote it in the wake of the accidental death of a dear friend. He said writing it helped him process the anger and resentment and pain, and seeing God walk him through it all. You can watch his story behind the song here. And that’s the real beauty of this song; it’s a poetic expression of God’s unfathomable love in the midst of great suffering and heartache.
What’s interesting to me is how people respond to pain and suffering. Some formerly faithful have walked away from God when tragedy, failure, or great disappointment strikes; others grow closer and something wonderful happens to their soul. John Mark McMillan was the latter case and now we all benefit through this song.
Another reason why this song resonates so deeply with me is because I had a similar encounter with Love, although the circumstances that led up to mine were very different. A lot of my pain and regret was self-inflicted, the fruit of deep wounds in my haunted soul (and this is after 23 years as an evangelical Christian!) But thankfully, God was patient and merciful with me, letting me spill out all my poisonous vitriol on Him. I wrote about this encounter in my book, Sonshift: Everything Changes in the Father’s Embrace. Here’s an except:
I remember this moment in my life vividly, as if it were happening right now. The terrorists of my soul who had lured my orphan heart into this darkness had now flown their planes into my flimsy religious house of cards and it was burning down. My wife had left me a note saying she was leaving me because of the other woman, my business had failed—even my “Christianity” had come crashing down into a rubbly heap that smoldered in the dungeon of my torment.
At the same time, I could hear the siren song of the freedom of my old life as a carefree musician with no one to answer to but my own self-indulgence.
It was at this moment, seemingly suspended in time and space, that I heard God speak to my heart, “Now’s your chance. You can pursue the life you’ve always wanted, the one you gave up for Me, and the reason why you think you hate Me right now. (I had been mad at God for over a year by then and even refused to pray to Him.) He continued, “Nothing is stopping you now… not your wife, not your business, and certainly not your position in the church… you are free.” (Kindle loc. 485-491)
Somewhere in my heart I heard the words, I don’t care if I lose everything—and I certainly thought I had—I don’t want to lose You. Let me say here that there are many things you find out in life that you never knew that you didn’t know. You don’t even have a mental grid to ask the right question. What I was about to experience was one of those times! I was about to be introduced to a ridiculously loving Father who I had never known all my natural life, all my Christian life. (Kindle loc. 504)
That was September 2001 (I called it my personal “9/11”). I can honestly say my whole life has been radically transformed since then. My marriage was restored that year and my wife and I have been working together in ministry ever since. We love each other now more than ever (38 years together!) I lost everything but what matters—my family, my wife, and the Lover of My Soul.
I first heard John Mark McMillan play this song at a conference in 2007. When I heard the words I just cried. But my tears this time were tears of joy, for I finally understood at a deep heart level what it really means to be loved by God!
He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree
The weight of his wind and mercy
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these
Afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize how beautiful you are
And how great your affections for me
The following verse is like a life anthem to me now:
So heaven meats earth like a sloppy wet kiss
And my heart burns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way
He loves us
I don’t think my words will ever adequately describe a transforming love that goes so far beyond shallow platitudes of affection, so I’ll stop here. We’ve been singing this song at our church since 2007 and I never grow tired of it. If you’ve never heard it before, I invite you to watch the story behind the song first (link to video), and here’s a rendition by Peter Mattis I think you’ll enjoy. He loves us…Oh how He loves us!