Billy Graham wrote me shortly after and described it as “Christopher’s sudden departure to heaven.”
Christopher David Laurie had been walking with the Lord when he departed for heaven so unexpectedly. He had a wife, Brittany; a toddler, our precious granddaughter, Stella; and another daughter to be born that November, Lucy Christopher Laurie.
He was art director at our church, Harvest Christian Fellowship, and was growing in his walk with Christ and studying the Bible more than at any other time in his life. In fact, he had recently opened his home for a small-group Bible study that he helped to teach. We were so proud of Christopher and Brittany’s progress in the Lord and how He was blessing them.
But our son, so full of promise, was suddenly gone.
In our lives here on earth, we will experience pain, grief, sickness and the death of loved ones. It’s depressing, but true. When we’re younger, we don’t necessarily understand this. As we get older, however, we typically experience the death of our grandparents. Time passes, and our parents die. As we continue to age, we know that day will eventually come for us, too, and our children will bury us.
As hard as those realities might be, the unexpected deaths are even more difficult.
None of us ever wants to bury our children. When this happens, our world seems to crash down around us, and we cry aloud to God.
How does God feel about that? When we read the Psalms, we see that the psalmists really “let down their hair” with God. They cried out to Him and emptied the contents of their hearts.
In Psalm 42:9-10, the writer says, “O God my Rock … why have you forsaken me? Why must I suffer these attacks from my enemies? Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound; again and again they scoff, ‘Where is that God of yours?'” (TLB). The psalmist is saying, “Lord, from where I sit, it seems like You’ve forsaken me, like You’re not even paying attention to me.”
Then he corrects himself in verse 11, “But O my soul, don’t be discouraged. Don’t be upset. Expect God to act! For I know that I shall again have plenty of reason to praise Him for all that He will do. He is my help! He is my God!” (TLB).
I have done this many times in my pain. Sometimes, like a sword, the reality that my son is gone pierces my heart. In despair, I begin to sob, “O, God. I can’t believe this. I can’t handle this pain!” But then I remind myself, My son is alive–more alive than he has ever been before. He’s in the presence of the Lord, and I am going to see him again, before I know it. I remind myself of God’s promises.
My prayers are wide-open and honest, but I also remind myself of God’s truth. This is what prayer is. God wants us to cry out to Him. He invites us to do this. There is nothing wrong with bringing our pain, questions and broken hearts to God. David said, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8, NIV).
Sometimes we allow trouble, trauma and hardship to cause us to be angry with God. We withdraw from Him and don’t want to talk to Him. My friend, that’s when you need Him more than ever! Cry out to Him with your doubts. Cry out to Him with your pain. He will patiently, lovingly, hear you. He might set your crooked thinking straight as you seek Him, but He wants you to pour out your pain. He loves you!
Think of the way Job responded to devastating circumstances. Job not only lost a son, he lost seven sons and three daughters in one unimaginable day. And that was in addition to losing all his possessions and his health!
But what did Job do? He cried out to the Lord, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21, NKJV).
Job did go on to question God in the days that followed, saying, “Lord, why?” There’s nothing wrong with asking God why, as long as you don’t get the idea that He somehow owes you an answer. Frankly, God doesn’t owe you or me an explanation.
Concerning our tragedy, I, too, have asked “Why? Why did this happen? Why couldn’t it have been me instead of him? I’m 56. I’ve lived enough life. Christopher was only 33. He was a loving husband, father, brother, son, friend. He was walking with God and serving Him. Why did God take him?”
I was talking with Pastor Chuck Smith (Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa) recently, and he said to me, “Never trade what you don’t know for what you do know.” Those words stopped me in my tracks. I asked myself, “Well, what do I know?”
I know that God loves me. I know that God loved and loves my son. I know that God loves Brittany, Stella and Lucy. I know that Christopher is well and alive in the best place he could ever be. I know that God can make good things come out of bad. I know that we’ll all be together again–on the Other Side.
I know those things. I’m as sure as I can be. So I’m making the choice to stand on what I know instead of what I don’t know. If you asked me, “Greg, why did this happen?” I would answer, “I don’t know, and I don’t know that I ever will. I just know that I need God more than I have ever needed Him in my life.”
In times of deep sorrow I sometimes call out my son’s name: “Christopher!” Then I call out: “Jesus!” I have never been so conscious of my utter dependence upon the Lord just to make it through my days. That fact is both heartbreaking and wonderful.
I want you to understand something: You can take the hardest things that happen to you in life–the unexpected death of a loved one or the realization that you are going to die soon–and you can know this: God will be with you. Corrie Ten Boom, who survived imprisonment in a concentration camp during World War II, wrote, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.”
For a Christian, death is not the end; it is merely moving from one place to another. It is the transition from earth to heaven.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NKJV).
I believe it. I hope you do, too.