This song never resonated much with me until I heard the story behind it. The song was born out of the prayer of singer/songwriter John Mark McMillan, who sat down to process his thoughts after receiving news that his best friend had been killed in a car accident. In the face of tragedy, the only thing that made sense to him was “He Loves Us,” which is repeated over and over again in the song he penned that day. It is a declaration and a reminder, and I hope we don’t discount that He loves us!
The song ends quite abruptly in the last verse (that is usually left out) as he sings:
I thought about You
The day Stephen died
And You met me between my breaking
I know that I still love you God
Despite the agony
See people they want to tell me You’re cruel
But if Stephen could sing
He'd say it’s not true
Cause You’re good
The last three words wrap up the entire song up. It doesn’t end with a grand theological statement that explains the purpose behind his friend’s death or the meaning of it in the scope of all eternity. In fact, it’s an acknowledgement that it doesn’t make sense to him, but he knows God is good, and he knows God loves him.
It reminds me of Peter’s response to Jesus’ question after many followers left. Jesus had just said, “You need to eat my flesh and drink my blood to have fellowship with me,” which was confusing and offensive! When the 12 remained with Jesus, he asked them, “Don’t you want to leave too?” And Peter responded, “Where else can we go? You alone have the words of life!” Without realizing it, Peter perfectly got the point of what Jesus said. Basically, you don’t make sense, but I trust you, and I’m counting on that.
When I look at the world around us, I see anger, tension, sadness, frustration, and heartbreak. Things seem hopeless, and I often can’t see a purpose behind them. Sometimes, I think I try too hard to make sense of things and explain them, and in the process I lose faith in God. More often, I need to be willing to admit that I don’t get it, but I am looking to Jesus, who I trust.
I can’t tell my students why their friend died. I can’t tell anyone why ISIS is wreaking havoc. And I certainly can’t explain the political, cultural, and racial tensions in our country right now, but I can tell you that God is good. If we doubt his goodness, Easter is an excellent time to remind ourselves that God loves us, and He made a way for us. There is no better declaration of God’s goodness than the cross, and their is no declaration of hope greater than the empty tomb.