- (Photo: Harvest)
- (Photo: Harvest)
- (Photo: Harvest)
When bad things happen, the general tendency is to blame God for it, said evangelist Greg Laurie.
But Laurie and award-winning music artist Steven Curtis Chapman have defied the norm by not only turning to God when they faced their darkest days but also by testifying of the hope they still have in Jesus.
"Here's the hope that we have ... even when He takes something, is there any better, safer place that we could ever leave anything than in the hands of God?" Chapman said Sunday evening at the 21st annual Southern California Harvest Crusade.
"We know that He will restore even what He takes away," he added.
Both Chapman and Laurie lost a child in 2008. The singer/songwriter lost his 5-year-old adopted daughter, Marie Sue, in a car accident and Laurie's 33-year-old son, Christopher, died in a car accident just a couple months later.
The two prominent Christians continue to hurt from the loss but hold on to the hope that they'll join their children some day in heaven.
On Sunday, during the three-day Harvest Crusade at Angel Stadium, Laurie hosted for the first time an evening of hope, specifically geared toward the people who are hurting.
The evangelist wanted to address a topic that everyone ponders and what author and apologist C.S. Lewis has called atheism's most potent weapon against the Christian faith – suffering.
Why does God allow suffering and tragedy in the world? Why does He allow suffering in the life of the good person and, even more, the godly person? Laurie posed to tens of thousands of people.
"A lot of times Christians are accused of having our head in the clouds like we're out of touch with reality," he said. "I think Christians are more realistic than nonbelievers are.
"We have our feet firmly planted on the earth because we'll talk about something like death, and life and the meaning of it. We're not afraid to," he stressed.
When Laurie received the call two years ago that his oldest son of two died in an automobile accident, it was the darkest moment of his life. He didn't know if he could handle it.
But he assured the public that God was there.
"If God wasn't there for me I would've given it all up (i.e. preaching) but God was there and that's why I'm here tonight," he said.
So why do bad things happen to godly people?
"I don't know," the evangelist said to some laughter.
"We don't have to have cause and effect for everything," he said. "Sometimes just bad things happen."
Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family who now leads a new radio ministry called Family Talk, also went on stage Sunday to address the big question.
The consensus among theologians, he said, is that "we live in a fallen world that has been cursed by sin" so sickness and sorrow are inevitable.
"It is part of this life in an imperfect world," he put it simply.
Dobson pointed out that Jesus told his disciples that they will have tribulation and he never tried to hide that fact.
"Sooner or later Christians will hit a wall when there's nothing to hold you but the presence of the Lord," he said.
And it's likely that people will never be able to make sense of certain tragedies or get an answer to their questions, he noted.
But Dobson encouraged those facing a crisis to leave it in God's hands and take the next step in faith.
"Our reaction should be faith first. For some reason God values faith above almost anything else," he explained.
Each night, evangelist Laurie offered the thousands at the stadium and watching via webcast the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ and to do it publicly.
While other religions of the world essentially tell followers what "to do," Laurie stressed that Christianity, in contrast, says "done, not do."
"Do you think that God, the Father, would have allowed His son to suffer like this if good works got us to heaven?" he posed. "Christ died in our place ... so we can be pardoned for the wrongs we have done."
He said on the final night, "That's the hope Christians have ... we're going to heaven."
The Aug. 6-8 Harvest Crusade drew a total of 118,000 people along with another 290,000 via webcast. More than 11,700 people made decisions for Christ.