Tragedy and Worship

This morning I read with sadness that Sono Harris, mother of our friends Josh, Brett and Alex Harris, passed away this weekend. It is another tragedy in a recent string of them. (Ted wrote about this in “Asking Why?“)

Then I read this profile about worship artist John Mark McMillan. The subtitle caught my attention: “The singer-songwriter talks about … needing to have tragedy in worship music.” Tragedy in worship music? That was something new. In the feature, McMillan, who wrote the worship song “How He Loves” (made popular by the David Crowder Band), talks about how tragedy in his own life led him to write the ubiquitous song.

For McMillan, the song’s raw emotion is personal. It was written after a friend, Stephen Coffey, died in a car accident — the night after Coffey told God he would give his life if it would draw more youth to Christ.

“He was my best friend,” McMillan says. “I’d known him since we were children. We were baptized together. Really, what it came down to is I was angry with God. I didn’t quite know what to do with those feelings, but through that anger and resentment, I was able to see the heart of God in it all. God was able to take something terrible and show me something through it.”

That pain led him to pen these lyrics:

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these

afflictions eclipsed by glory, and I realize just how beautiful You are, and how great Your affections are for me.

McMillan’s lyrics paint a picture. No matter how overwhelming circumstances may be, God is more overwhelming. And the basis of his hurricane-force presence in our lives is love. Perhaps that’s why McMillan believes “the Church should incorporate more songs dealing with tragedy, loss and despair into its worship.”

“On this side of eternity, we’re going to have tragedy,” McMillan continues. “A lot of times in church we don’t want to talk about those kinds of things because it’s uncomfortable, but there are so many people in church who need to have that dialogue with God that I had. I think that’s why that song has become so powerful.”

When tragedy hits, God invites us to talk to Him. Ask Him the tough questions. Seek His comfort. And perhaps that is one of the most beautiful things about knowing Him: That in our most painful moments, He is there. And He loves us.

And oh, how He loves us so.
Oh how He loves us, how He loves us all.

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About the Author

Suzanne Gosselin
Suzanne Hadley Gosselin

Suzanne Hadley Gosselin is a freelance writer and editor. She graduated from Multnomah University with a degree in journalism and biblical theology. She lives in California with her husband, Kevin, who is a family pastor, and her four young children: Josiah, Sadie, Amelia and Jackson. When she’s not hanging out with her kids, Suzanne loves a good cup of coffee, conversation with friends, musical theater and a trip to the beautiful California coast.

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