The importance of context hit home for Laurie after the death of his son Christopher in July 2008.
He says that Romans 8:28—“for those who love God, all things work together for good”—gets thrown around a lot in times of struggle, and it was no different during his grief. But Laurie says that understanding verses 26 through 29 really helped him grasp the meaning of the entire section.
In the wake of his son’s death, Laurie had a hard time knowing how to pray. “When you’ve lost someone close to you and especially your child, you’re overwhelmed at times with grief, anxiety and uncertainty, and so you don’t always know what to pray. I mean, what am I going to pray? ‘Lord, bring him back from the dead?’ I don’t think that’s going to happen. So I just cried out to God, ‘I’m in pain. This hurts.’ I turned my pain into a prayer.”
The context of Romans 8:28 gave him insight into his pain. Romans 8:26 tells us that the Spirit helps us in our weakness and intercedes for us in prayer “with groans that words cannot express.”
Once Laurie rested in God and allowed the Spirit to intercede while he prayed, he began to see that all things work together in God’s will, not his own. He was able to take comfort in relying on God. “You take your anxiety, you take your hurt, and you bring it to God. You don’t pretend it’s not there.”
“All things working together for good” made more sense after he allowed God’s power to take over. “The idea is that, yes, all things do indeed ‘work together for good,’ but not necessarily here on earth. We want to see things have a tidy and understandable explanation. Some of the ‘good things’ God is working will be realized on the other side, in heaven, not merely here on earth. God’s ultimate goal here is to make us more like Jesus, and suffering will either make us better or bitter. I choose the former over the latter.” — Tim Newcomb, “Greg Laurie: Plan of Action: How the Bible Is Our Guide,” in Speak the Word: 12 Christian Leaders on Communicating the Truth, ed. Rebecca Van Noord, Jessi Strong, and John D. Barry, Bible Study Magazine (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).