Life Set to Music: Bart Millard Shares the Story Behind "I Can Only Imagine"

Featuring Paul Baloche Posted on January 14, 2010

Songwriting is a way of journaling your journey. King David wrote out of his life experiences, even his bad ones.  When he fled from Absolom, his son (Psalm 3); when the Lord delivered him from the hand of Saul (Psalm 18); when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech (Psalm 34 ); when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had sinned with Bathsheba (Psalm 51). (Also, check out Psalms 7, 30, 56, 57, 142) 

When Bart was 19 years old, his father died. He heard all the cliches about how wonderful Heaven was, but somehow he couldn’t get a grip on it. As he struggled with eternity, he found himself writing the phrase “I can only imagine” over and over again. He says, “I did know Dad was in a better place, and that started me thinking about what he was seeing there; things we could never fathom here. It brought peace and hope to me...” Years later, he rediscovered that phrase in a journal. “So, I decided to enlarge on what had been in my heart for so long. It was one of those ‘God things’ where it was literally written in five minutes—but it was something that had been on my heart for ten years.” The song was written by a grieving son crying out to God for answers. Now his song is helping others heal. The song, born out of sorrow, reached number one on radio airplay charts and won three Dove awards. 

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