It was an evening of hope as two well-known Christians expressed their trust in the Lord even as their hearts were broken over the unexpected loss of their children.
Singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman and evangelist Greg Laurie shared the same stage on Sunday at Harvest Christian Fellowship in southern California to relate their tragic stories and ultimately give hope to thousands.
"I thought we ought to have an evening of encouragement for others who are hurting," Laurie said. "I found that there's a pretty big audience, so to speak, of people who are suffering."
In the summer of 2008, Laurie lost his 33-year-old son, Christopher, in a car accident.
Just a couple of months prior to that, Chapman lost his 5-year-old adopted daughter, Marie Sue, in a car accident as well.
It was the most devastating day for both. Their lives were turned upside down and they asked questions as they tried to make sense of it all.
"Who are you God? Cause You are turning out to be so much different than I imagined." Chapman sang as he performed songs from his new album Beauty Will Rise. "Where are You God? Cause I am finding life to be so much harder than I had planned."
"How could You be so good and strong and make a world that can be so painful?" he continued singing. "So is it true that for every tear I cry, You cry a thousand more as You weep with those who weep."
The song "Questions" is "the most frighteningly honest song" Chapman has ever written, he said Sunday.
And while he posed many questions, Chapman expressed his continued trust in the Lord
"You know that I believe," he sang.
When Chapman was told his daughter didn't survive, he felt himself being pulled into an abyss of despair. But he survived it.
"Worship and trusting God against everything my brain was telling me was survival," the long-time singer said.
Laurie recounted a similar experience.
"I found myself worshipping God. It was almost inexplicable but at the same time it was the only thing I could do not because I'm so strong spiritually ... [but] because I'm so weak spiritually," the Harvest pastor highlighted. "I just cried out 'God, I can't survive this without your presence.'"
It was the first time Laurie and Chapman ministered together in the aftermath of the car accidents. The night was all about "brokenness and raw honesty," as Chapman put it.
"This is one of the moments where we are certain that what the enemy of God intended for evil, this is one of those great moments when God drives another stake in the ground and says 'No, look what I'm going to do,'" Chapman said.
"This isn't just a night about Christopher and Maria Sue and our journey," he stressed. The hope is "that God might use this to meet you where you are," he told the audience.
"Our hope in Jesus Christ, our faith, it is anchored in that day that is coming when He will wipe every tear from our eyes and He will make all things new."
Beauty Will Rise was released this month and has been widely acclaimed as deep, candid and intensely personal yet universal as well. It was never intended to be an album, Chapman said. It was a journal. But he decided to record the songs he wrote and put them out there and "let God accomplish what He wants to."