Evangelist and pastor, Greg Laurie, has described the day when he learned that his son, Christopher David Laurie, 33, had been killed in an automobile accident on the 91 freeway in Southern California, as “the worst day of my life.”
Dan Wooding with Greg Laurie after the interview
It was on Thursday, July 24, 2008, when he and his wife Cathe, learned the unimaginable news that their first-born son, Christopher David Laurie, had been killed in a tragic car accident on the 91 freeway on his way to work as art director at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, at which Greg is the senior pastor.
Christopher was survived by his wife, Brittany, and daughter, Stella, as well as his brother Jonathan and later that year, Lucy Christopher Laurie was born to Brittany, and Laurie announced at the time that she has been given that middle name in honor of Christopher.
In an extraordinary interview that Greg Laurie gave me on Thursday evening (May 15, 2013), after he had preached at Harvest Orange County, an Irvine church that he founded some two years ago, Laurie told me, “It was the worst day of my life and I felt if hearing words could kill you, that would have been the day I could have literally died. It was so devastating; so shocking really and, in so many ways, unreal, but it was real.
“As a pastor for 40 years, I’ve counseled a lot of couples who’ve lost children and I always felt like I was as close as one could have been to their situation without having experienced it myself. But now, when this happened to me, I realized that I had no clue as to what it was like to lose a child.
“And despite the pain, and the hardship, and the difficulty, God has been with us through each step of the way. We’ve mourned, but we’ve also found His comfort. God promises to comfort those who mourn, and now we find ourselves with a ministry to other people who are also mourning, and my heart goes out to other ones who other people who’ve lost loved ones but especially children.”
Laurie then spoke about the tragic news that Matthew Warren, 27, the youngest son of Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay, of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, had committed suicide recently, “in a moment of despair,” with a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Mission Viejo, California.
Warren announced shortly afterwards that Matthew had killed himself with an unregistered gun he had bought online.
“Someone on the Internet sold Matthew an unregistered gun. I pray he seeks God’s forgiveness. I forgive him. #MATTHEW 6:15,” the pastor tweeted, referencing a Biblical passage about the forgiveness of sins.
“If you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you don’t…,” Warren then tweeted, quoting the verse.
As soon as Laurie learned about Matthew’s death, he called Rick Warren, and said, “We talked for a while on the phone and we also had prayer together, and I offered to come and preach for him. I said Rick, ‘I’m not looking for another speaking engagement, as I’m very busy, but I just want you to know that if there’s anything I can do to help in a practical way, I would be glad to do so.”
Greg Laurie then told Rick Warren that he would be glad to take his place in the Saddleback pulpit, and added, “Rick quickly accepted my offer and I was there a couple of weeks later and it was a great thing to be able to bring some comfort and, hopefully, some hope, to the congregation there at Saddleback, especially because our congregation also went through a time of deep mourning for many of them knew my son, just as the Saddleback congregation knew Matthew Warren.”
Laurie went on to say, “We are called to bear one another’s burdens and the Bible says that we should weep with those who weep and sometimes the best thing you can do for someone who’s hurting is just to be there with them and for them.”
When I asked how Rick Warren was coping with the news of the loss of his son, Greg Laurie said, “He was in a state of some shock. I mean his situation was different than ours, as his son had a long history of mental illness. But, at the same time, I think, as time has passed, the reality and the finality of it sinks in deeper and I’ve read things that he’s written and tweets he’s put out there. You know, he’s grieving like anyone father would.”
“Hope for Hurting Hearts”
Greg Laurie then talked about a new movie he is producing called, “Hope for Hurting Hearts,” from Harvest Ministries. It features narration by Dr. James Dobson, and tells the true stories of how Greg and his wife Cathe, along with Jeremy Camp, Nick Vujicic, and their families dealt with times of extreme suffering, and how they each stood at a “spiritual crossroads” marked by challenging and painful circumstances, and how they each chose the road of trusting, following, and glorifying God.
I then told Greg that this seemed quite a departure from his evangelistic style of fun and joy, and so I asked him how it came about, and he replied, “We still try to have fun, and I’ve always tried to find fun and joy and happiness where it can be found, but there are hard times in life when there’s sorrow and mourning too.
“And after my son went to be with the Lord, I was told that I should keep a journal; a sort of chronicle of whatever I was going through, and I did that for the first few weeks. Then, after a while, I realized that I was really a preacher, so I decided that preaching on it, would be my form of keeping a journal.
“As I was experiencing it in real time, I began to speak on the topic. I also read a lot of books that were given to me, and some that I had found myself, and they were on how to mourn and how to deal with these things.
“Of course, I was asking the ‘why’ question; why did this happen to me? There were some books that were quite helpful and many that weren’t all that helpful, so I decided that I wanted to go ahead write a book that was as close to the real pain of what I had gone through as possible. I didn’t want too much time to elapse, and I wanted it to be raw and honest and real. So I wrote a little book called ‘Hope for Hurting Hearts’ and that book has been powerfully used of God to bring comfort to many people. I’ve heard many amazing stories of how God has used the book.
“Then, as a little time has passed, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do a film with the same theme; a film that you would show to someone who just heard devastating news, also, a film to show someone in a hospital room, as well as one to show to someone who’s just lost a loved one.
“It started off with my story, but then we thought that maybe we should include other stories as well. So we have included the incredible story of Nick Vujicic, who was born with a severe disability of having no limbs, and he tells his story in the film. Then we contacted Jeremy Camp who I’ve worked with many times over the years at our crusades. Many people know, and some may not know, that Jeremy’s very young wife died of cancer not long after they were married, and he also tells his story.
“And of course my wife’s story is included in it as well. Then we talked to Dr. James Dobson, and asked him if he would do the narration, and he accepted and so that’s in there as well.
“The film is coming to completion now, and it follows on from another film on my life called ‘Lost Boy’ that won maybe seven or eight international film festival awards. Some of them were Christian festivals, while others were not.
“With this movie, we wanted to continue on with the story. In some ways ‘Hope for Hurting Hearts’ picks up where my last film left off, but it’s much broader than just my story. It is many stories, but the one thing that we all have in common is that we’ve found hope in God’s Word and each one shares that from their own unique perspective.”
Laurie then explained that it will be launched with an innovative web-based world premiere screening with Lifeway Films that is planned for July 10–14, 2013. Churches, small groups, and individuals are all invited to participate, he said. He believes that “audience members will be encouraged by these intensely personal and intimate accounts, which give a glimpse into God’s perspective on suffering, and declare that there truly is hope for hurting hearts.”
“The live webcast,” he said, “is similar to what we’re doing now with ‘Harvest America,’ so we can simultaneously premier something in multiple sites around the country and also around the world. We’re going to do a live webcast where churches anywhere can take this feed and show it to their congregations. That will be the premier and there will be a number of days that it will be available for people to show.
“So instead of having to get the DVD, which they can get later, this will be a way to just take the signal and we’re offering it for people to bring comfort and hope because many times when tragedy has happened or hardship has happened and people are looking for resources and tools.
“We’re offering hope from the Scripture and these are from people who’ve experienced it and are experiencing it at sort of like a dispatch from the valley of the shadow of death to others who are in pain.
For more information and to register for the free “Hope for Hurting Hearts” world premiere simulcast, visit www.harvest.org/hope-for-hurting-hearts.html
He then shared some good news. “It is that my youngest son, Jonathan and his wife Brittni, have had little baby boy who’s closing in on one year now and they have named him in honor of Jonathan’s his brother who went to be with the Lord. They have given him the exact same name, Christopher David Laurie, and so we’re happy to have a boy in the family.
“I have four grand-daughters and so I’ve been living in the world of pink things, dolls and fairy princesses, and mermaids, for quite a while now, so it’s kind of fun to have a boy to play with. We’re watching him grow up and he has just started crawling, so it’s always a thrill to watch the little ones grow up.”
I concluded the interview by asking Greg to give advice to anyone reading this who has just experienced terrible news.
“I would say to them, whatever the news that you’ve heard, there’s always hope,” he said. “And it’s not hope in circumstances, or for a tidy solution. It’s not even hope for a happy ending always on this earth. But there is a greater hope and that hope is that there is a God who loves us and, if this calamity that has befallen us and was even been brought on by our own bad decisions, God can still intervene and forgive and redeem and restore.
“If it’s something that has come to us that really has no rhyme or reason, remember God is still in control. There’s an afterlife and in that afterlife, questions will be answered and tears will be dried and sorrow will be banished and it will be replaced by joy and perspective and understanding.
“I think that a lot of times, people feel that if something bad happens, that’s the end. Well yes, in one sense in this life you may suffer, but in the next life there’s going to be restitution, restoration from God himself.
“I’ve read the last chapter of the Bible and we win in the end.”
Note: if you would like to listen to this interview, just go to: http://www.assist-ministries.com/FrontPageRadio/GregLauriewithDanWooding.mp3
If you are the broadcast media and would like to air this interview, just send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I let you know how to get an MP 3 copy.
Note: I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.