Clinging to God When Tragedy Invades

An Interview with Greg Laurie

In 2008, Greg Laurie received a phone call that changed his life. His son Christopher had been killed in an automobile accident.

Grief and loss can trigger cavernous pain in our lives. Tragedies reduce life to its basics and stir up questions in our hearts about life’s purpose and about God’s presence.

Watch the Interview

Greg Laurie knows personal grief up close. In this candid interview, he shares what helped him walk through his season of sorrow—as well as the lingering loss he still endures.

Greg Laurie began Christian ministry at age 19 by leading a Bible study with 30 people attending. Since then, God has grown Greg’s ministry to 15,000 members of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, which he serves as the senior pastor.

In 1990, he began large-scale, international public evangelistic events called Harvest Crusades. Greg is also the featured speaker of international broadcast, A New Beginning—also a popular iTunes podcast. Greg is on the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and holds honorary doctorates from Biola University and Azusa Pacific University. In addition, he is an award-winning author and has written over 70 books.

Greg and his wife Cathe have been married for 38 years, have two sons, Christopher and Jonathan, and five grandchildren. Christopher went to be with the Lord in 2008.

Interview Questions

  1. How have you balanced family life and ministry over the years?
  2. Because of all you have done in ministry, it would be easy to assume your lives have been free of great pain—but that is not the case. Will you tell us more about that?
  3. How can we learn to live in pain or with a broken heart?
  4. In recent years, you have written much around the theme of Hope, especially recently with your recent book, Hope for Hurting Hearts. What do you say to those who feel Jesus has forgotten them or is aloof in the midst of their grief?
  5. What do you say to those who are in need of encouragement?
  6. What Scripture passages could you offer to those who need comfort?

Let Me Hear from You

After listening to the interview, you may have some lingering thoughts. Perhaps some pain has surfaced, and you are in need of comfort and support.

I encourage you to leave a comment below. Let us walk through the valley with you.

Question: What has helped you make it through a tragedy in your life?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Connect with Greg

Greg LaurieYou can connect with Greg Laurie’s ministry, resources, and other works at www.harvest.org.

Insight for Living Suggested Resources

Booklets by Charles R. Swindoll:

Books by Charles R. Swindoll:

MP3 Instant Downloads:

  • murfmerica

    This is a really good video; applicable to anyone who has lost a loved one. Thank you!

    • How kind of you to say this. It does touch on so many losses…not just those we love but losses that change our directions, dreams, and even daily life. Loss comes in all colors-Greg did a masterful job of expressing the truth that there is hope even in the midst of great loss. Appreciate you comment, Colleen

  • could you let us know where we could get that prayer by toser? And thank you!

    • Theresa, isn’t it a wonderful prayer. It is in his work The Pursuit of God, chapter two, titled “the blessedness of possessing nothing”. Let me know if you need anything else. Blessings, Colleen

      • dan

        i have that book too, “The Pursuit Of God” with study guide. Just ordered it last month, and chapter 2 is one of my favorites. By the way, me, my wife and my son like Greg Laurie. We always listen to his messages on the Harvest website. HCF feels like our home church. We’ve been there just once but we went to the crusades 2-times already. Also, your dad has one of the best study bibles out there. God bless!!!

        • Daniel, what wonderful words to read…and so heartfelt. I will pass this along to my dad and to Greg…believe it or not, they get plenty of negative mail so when these notes come through, I pass them on and wish they could be made into wallpaper. Both men are absolutely authentic and have nothing to hide…tender and honest to the core. Both love Jesus … is there any better kind of pastor than that?! I can’t express how much I appreciate your comment. Thank you. Colleen

          • dan

            Colleen, appreciate your reply. This is worth mentioning though: My son just turned 9-yr old last month. But he is already a listener of Greg Laurie’s teachings. One day he’s listening to Greg’s teaching about marriage. My wife told him not to listen to it because that topic is only for married people. My son replied, “mommy i have to listen to it so that i can tell you and daddy something just in case you fight!”. Wow!!! We’re so blessed to know that Greg’s teaching is even influencing a 9-year old to listen to God’s Word. After our first visit to HCF-Irvine and met Greg and Cathe (by the way, Cathe Laurie is so nice, very friendly and down-to-earth), right after we got home, my son built a “Harvest Church” out of his Legos!!! ‘Wish I can take a picture of it to send it to you and Greg! Thanks for reading…Blessings.. Regards to your dad! >>Daniel

          • Daniel, what an incredible son you have. And, what incredible parents he has! I’m thrilled to know you were able to meet the Laurie’s…I did pass along your comments and they were greatly appreciated. So kind of you to let me know this extra info. Hope to stay in touch. Colleen

  • Carol

    I love listening to your radio ministry when I can. I appreciate you being so candid and real. I appreciate what you said about the loss of your son. I just lost my mom in December. She lived with me & my husband for 25 years, so everything in our home is my mom and a daily reminder that she is gone. My joy is that she is in Heaven and out of pain and struggle, but it still hurts. Listening to you through the video helped me with my grief. Thank you and God bless you and your ministry.

    • Carol, I am so sorry you lost your mom recently…I cannot imagine the sorrow and the feelings that come and go. Your comment is very meaningful as most don’t understand the gravity of death. As Greg said..it never goes away, he thinks of Christopher every day, and yet has allowed the grief to bring him closer to Christ and His truth. If you need further support, a place to express whatever…I’m here to listen. May the Lord provide His presence as you depend upon Him in the days ahead. In great compassion for you, Colleen Swindoll-Thompson

  • Beverly Price

    I thank you for the Blog site. I received the email today and listened toGreg Laurie.
    I sent the HOPE acronym to Cleveland Clinic as we wait for a Second Opinion from
    Dr. Daniel Clair, Cleveland Clinic regarding the possible 4th heart surgery for my 22yr.
    old daughter, Amanda. Her Left Carotid and Aortic Arch have aneurysms. Your Father’s message on March 3rd, Overcoming Fear helped tremendously. I’ve cried out to Jesus for healing and ultimately HIS will be done.
    Isaiah 41:10 was the Blessing I needed. The woman that Prayed with me on that Sunday after this broadcast I suspect was you, Thank you.
    Amanda has DiGeorge Syndrome, 22q11;deletion of 22nd chromosome. IQ 70, but has
    19 credit hours in Music Education, attends Algebra 4days wk. now, hopes surgery will be after her last class May 4th. May 6th turns 23yrs. young.
    She fears not being able to sing after surgery as she sings in Church Choir for HIM,
    plays hymns on piano for HIM, fears not living even though Eternal Life is hers.
    God has a plan and knows better than all. Jeremiah 29:11 is HIS promise to us,
    Thank you Greg Laurie for sharing your painful experience of losing the Son given to you by HIM.

    • Beverly, I just found your note today; so thankful for your
      vulnerability. My husband’s daughter was born with half a heart and has
      endured 4 surgeries before the age of 2. The fears have been
      overwhelming at times; you mentioned several of your daughter’s fears
      here which I so understand. Fear is a powerful and distracting emotion;
      one writer put it this way as I was reading about fears I struggle
      with…’fear is connected to a mismanaged imagination’. That one kicked
      me in the gut…I have many mismanaged imaginations which is why I rely
      on Romans 12:1-2 daily. I have no idea what the outcome will be after
      surgery…if her voice or piano worship will be available. What I have
      learned is…sometimes we have to loose everything in order for God to
      fill us with His ‘better’ purposes which cannot be known or understood
      in the loosing process. Thus, if loss continues, the question is not
      “why” because it is full of presumption; but rests in “for what
      purpose?”…only God can answer that. I pray Amanda will be able to
      sing and play for our Lord; yet I know if that is not allowed, then we
      must ask the Lord to adjust our perspectives and provide us with His
      hope. Will you please let me know how things go after the surgery? I
      will be praying that God’s promises of hope will replace the fears as we
      remain surrendered to His will. In the Mercy of our Lord, Colleen

      • Beverly Price

        Colleen, thank you. I lost my phone but got this one today, point is, gmail feeds thru. I confused your Father with Charles Stanley.
        But, I was Blessed with Gregg Laurie and your sensitive comments.

      • Beverly Price

        I will show this to Amanda, instead, I will print it for her to read. This will be her 4th Major reconstruction. At 4days, the aortic arch was made from the artery of her right arm, a probe widened her aortic valve

      • Beverly Price

        We left filled with knowledge and comfort from the service. My daughter went to the Alter for Prayer and was Slain in the Spirit.
        She was confident, stronger but still has fear.

  • Robyn

    Colleen, I was so very encouraged by your interview with Greg yesterday. I put every book you both mentioned on my wish list. I ordered the one about Psalm 23…cant wait to read Greg’s favorite book of all time! I have the Pursuit of God already so I looked up that prayer and put it by my bedside. I’ve been walking through the deepest darkest valley of loss and grief, the kind that just pulls you apart and shatters your heart…worst times I’ve ever experienced in my life for the past 2+ years and it is only those who have been through similar depths of loss and emotional trauma who can even touch my pain. I friend-ed you on facebook yesterday…I already feel a special connection with you. I hope to visit Greg Laurie’s church in the near future…I only live about 30 or so miles from there. Again thank you for your ministry…this interview helped me….I know the Lord led me to it.

    • Robyn…How incredible that you somehow happened upon the blog. Greg is one of the best communicators; your will love his church. He is also on radio and all his info can be found with the show notes. Or, search his name and pages of stuff will come up. I am so terribly sorry you have endured and continue to endure such darkness. Though our situations may be very different, there are seasons when the pain falls upon you and taking one more breath seems impossible. Oh how it is hard to hang on. The Psalm 23 book will be INCREDIBLE for you…how the author explains God’s unbelievable shepherding of us offers a perspective that will add light to your road.Robyn, in the blackness, I have clung to truth and repeated them through the day; here a several:Ps,13; Ps 16: 9 and 33; Ps 9: 9-10; Ps 71:1,2 and 5; Ps. 121:7-8, Is. 58:11; Matt. 11:28-29. I did see the friend notice, that is always an honor and I thank you. Let me know how you are doing, my new friend. = ) Colleen

  • Helen McMartin

    I lost my husband Ray, 11 months ago. Heavens gain my dreadful loss. We were senior pastors in our church, which my daughter and her husband have taken over and doing very well. But in my pain I have been totally miss understood. I have not been visited at my home by any leadership but have expected to be at every service.A total lack of understanding or a threat to the new pastors? And like Laurie experienced I was told to trust Big God. Well He is not my problem, that’s all I’ve had and He is the one who has got me this far. I can now understand why some people get onto drug, drink or whatever their thing is. I bless God that I have a relationship with Jesus because I don’t know how I would have got through and sometimes I would have enjoyed just going home to Jesus.Thank you for this open conversation, there is a great need for Christians to understand grief and those that are grieving. Helen

    • Dear Helen, I am so sorry for your great loss, and the lack of
      support so desperately needed. I immediately thought of the passage in Romans 8: 26-27… “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For
      example, we do not know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit
      prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words”. You’re
      words-full of anguish-express a severe, intense, urgent petition for help. And
      God is hearing you through the Holy Spirit…it is promised! In these
      circumstances, we MUST fix our eyes firmly on Christ…not the response of others (which hurts a lot, but must be released). What better support
      could there be than the Holy Spirit? It is comforting to remember the stories
      of those who endured an intensity of need, and how God was faithful to provide a way. Moses at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:15), and Hannah, anguished over her infertility (I Samuel 1:10 and 16) are two good examples. Helen, reading about God’s faithfulness, how He provided in ways we could never know will help you endure.Pain often forces us to take on a new perspective which helps us find purposein it all at some point. II Corinthians 2:1-11 tells us one purpose is to be acomfort to others as you have been comforted right where you are now. You will be a change agent, comforting in ways that heal, not hurt. I have such hope for you Helen; that you will release resentments, seek and rely on God’s absolute truth, wait, and then watch Him work in and through you. Please stay in touch. Colleen

  • Mark Hockenberry

    Hi Colleen, I really enjoyed watching your interview with Greg. I hope to see more of these by you! I think they’re an awesome way to reach those who are struggling with so many questions why. God bless, Mark

    • Mark, thank you for your kind comments. We are producing one per month (first Tuesday of each month); the guests are incredible. Each with their own story which is marked with challenges similar to what we all encounter through life. I am glad you were blessed; may they be an inspiration to you each time. Sincerely, Colleen

      • Mark Hockenberry

        Colleen, Your stories most definitely are a blessing to me as I’ve been following along this past month or so. I know the Lord has lead me to your special needs blog for His good purpose and one thing I have learned is to follow His lead. Thanks again, Mark

        • Mark,
          You comment emphasizes the truth that the Lord is always working, sometimes we see it and other times we don’t. He works in such mysterious ways…and promises that as we seek Him, He will lead. I hope the blog continues to minister to you. Thanks for staying in contact. Colleen

  • Hi Colleen, I appreciated your talk with Greg Laurie, my wife and I also lost a son 9 years ago and a daughter 5 years ago. Hope for Hurting Hearts was of great value to our family, and we experienced many of the same things Greg talked about in his book. I was great reading his book, but we loved listening to him talk about it. Keep up your good work, and God bless.

    • Dear Al, The lyrics of the song “Audrey’s Song” by the artist Selah
      came to mind as I read your words. “There were photographs I wanted to take,
      Things I wanted to show you, Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes, who
      could love you like this? Such a short time, Such a long road, All this madness
      but I know, That the silence has brought me to His voice and He says…I’ve shown
      her photographs of time beginning, Walked her through the parted seas, Angel
      lullabies, no more teary eyes, Who could love her like this…: And so while the Lord has shown your children eternity, you are here and there is purpose in that truth. I can’t know what that purpose is; but I pray they eyes of your heart have been enlightened-perhaps that has already happened. I could toss some more reading your way but you can find that on the Special Needs page under additional reading. It sounds as if you have chosen Christ in every way.. May the Lord of all comfort and grace continue to uphold you, guide you, provide light for the difficult days and an abundance of His presence every day. Colleen

  • Thinking of you all today and want you to know after every winter, spring comes. This photo reminded me of your endurance and dependence upon Christ. May your hope be renewed. Colleen

  • Donna Duer

    Hello Colleen, I so enjoyed your conversation with Greg Laurie it spoke to me in so many ways and I thank you for it! The prayer you shared at the end was healing and wonderful would you please tell me where I can find it? Thank you, Donna

    • Hi Donna,
      Thank you for your kind words. It is always wonderful to hear that the Lord has used our experiences to help others. Greg’s message is incredible! The poem I shared came from A.W. Tozer, written in his book titled The Pursuit of God. The title of the poem is “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing.” What a poem! Great to hear from you, Donna. Colleen