When Gary began exploring a personal relationship with Jesus nearly 20 years ago, he was plagued by the pain of losing his son several years earlier. Gary battled between his anger with God and his yearning for a loving Savior.
“That came to an end when he experienced judgment from flawed Christians wearing masks of perfection,” said Gary’s friend Tom. “He walked away from the church and from God.”
Gary’s bitterness only grew, and when his marriage fell apart, his life quickly spiraled out of control. Alcohol and drugs consumed him.
As Tom watched Gary crumble, he prayed. Tom had recently started attending Restored Church, a new church in northeastern Pennsylvania that boldly proclaimed “no perfect people allowed,” and Tom knew it would be the perfect place for Gary. For three months, Tom prayed Gary would give faith another chance, and one Sunday in early March, that day came.
Gary finally accepted an invitation from Tom to visit the church, and God timed Gary’s visit perfectly. That morning, Dan Nichols, an ABWE missionary and co-pastor of Restored Church, shared his own doubts and brokenness when he learned his unborn son might have a serious congenital heart defect that would require open-heart surgery immediately after he was born.
“Something happens when you walk into the doctor’s office and find out that your son has a possible heart defect that could kill him,” Dan said during his sermon. “Do I have nights when I doubt God’s goodness? Yes. But when you hear that news, there is nothing else in this world that can offer the stability and security you need. Only God can do that.”
Dan said that as he and his wife have allowed God into their pain, they have discovered a comfort and love that they never knew before. That Sunday, God used Dan’s battle with grief to reach Gary, a man who has been losing his own battle with grief for many years.
After the sermon, Gary went up to Dan and told him that he almost walked out because of the tears welling up in his eyes. “I’ve never heard anyone speak the way you spoke today. Church people have always been judgmental to me, but when you preached today, you moved me like no one has ever moved me before,” he said. “I believed you.”
Now, with the help of Tom, Dan, and the Restored Church community, Gary is working through his pain so he can find healing and comfort in God’s unconditional love.