This past Sunday, my wife, Kim and I were at our adopted church in Hamilton.
At one point they were playing the John Mark MacMillan song “How He Loves” (available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0luHiWwi08 ) I had heard this song before, but was by no means familiar with it.
Kim has a major acquired brain injury resulting from multiple strokes. So when we’re standing for music on Sundays, Kim usually tries to wander off, and I often end up just holding her close to me. As I held her and sang along with the chorus of this song, tears filled my eyes. The chorus goes: “How he loves, us, oh how He loves us, oh How He loves us, oh how He loves!” and repeats quite a bit.
What occurred to me was that I wasn’t just singing for the sake of singing. I was singing through tears because I believed what the song says. I imagine this would be an inexplicable scene for an unbeliever. A man, holding his severely handicapped wife, singing to her about how much their God loves them, with tears streaming down.
After the service, I downloaded a couple versions of this song and found that John Mark MacMillan had the same experience. He wrote the song after the death of his young son. The final verse is about that, and even on this professionally recorded album, he cannot sing the last verse properly through his tears.
I think this is (or at least should be) a consistent sign of the Children of God. Our Father often works such heart break into our lives, that we can barely catch our breath. But this isn’t some strange, foreign God, this is our Heavenly Father. This is the Father who we KNOW. We know that our God is sovereign in all things, that he is perfect in wisdom, and perfect in power. He loves his children so much, that he often has to bring calamities into our lives to keep us from ruining them. God disciplines the children he loves.
Knowing that our suffering comes through the loving hand of our Heavenly Father makes all the difference. He does nothing out of spite or stupidity or weakness. Rather, he works exactly what each of us needs in our lives for our highest possible good.
So let me take us back to me holding onto my wife and singing as clearly as I could about how much God loves us. In that moment, what I was saying through the pain (in a way I can never fully understand), is that losing the person I knew as my wife to a brain injury is better than not. Why? Because He loves us, oh how He loves us! And I sing to Kim through my tears. Yes, as horrible as this is, this is the highest good for you too because God loves you, oh how He loves you!
It is a remarkable feature of genuine Christianity, that we can weep and sing with joy at the same time. The pain in no less real. Devastation isn’t glossed over. But ultimately, we know our God. “The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) This seems almost counter-intuitive, but as Christians, our experience of being held and loved by God is often greatest in our deepest suffering. The highest good He can give us is Himself, to have a greater sense of His presence. And our tender Father will stop at nothing to insure the greatest and longest lasting happiness of His children. Oh how he loves us!