To some people, the church seems like the place people go to who have never faced anything really dark. For those who have experienced real trouble, the church can seem unwelcoming. Some people wonder whether they really belong in God’s family.
You might think: if other people knew what I have been through, where I came from, or what I was thinking about five minutes ago, they would never want me at church.
But even the deepest darkness does not intimidate Jesus. Mark 5 recounts the story of a man who lived among the tombstones, possessed by demons. Jesus visited him likely at nighttime, in a graveyard (which would have been considered “unclean” for Jews), outside of town where respectable folk didn’t belong. In other words, the hood.
There, he met a raving, demon-possessed man. In describing this man, Mark 5: 1-3 says, “He lived among the tombs. No one could bind him… for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart… Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.”
This man’s life was filled with darkness, violence, insanity, and terror. We don’t know how he started out, but he had literally become a monster. He broke every possible cultural taboo and definitely never wore a suit and tie and sat in a pew.
If there was ever a circumstance that seemed beyond the reach of God’s light, this was it.
At one time, Sal Valery probably felt as if his life had reached similar levels of darkness. Sal did not ask for the darkness that fell on him, but at a young age, he was forced to encounter it nevertheless. Sal’s dad died when he was young, and his mom spent most of her adult life in and out of a tragic drug addiction.
At one time, his mom started getting back on track, and Sal began hoping everything would be alright. But then she relapsed and, while under the influence, got in a car accident. She was sentenced to spend time in prison. When she had served her sentence, she came back home to Sal.
One day, not long after this, when they were sitting down to watch a movie, Sal noticed that his mom had left the room. He searched throughout the house for her, finally looking in the backyard. What he found there will never be forgotten.
His mom was laid down in the yard suffocating on her own vomit, having overdosed. Sal gently picked her up and attempted CPR, feeling her ribs shatter as he did so. But it was no use, and Sal was forced to watch her die in his arms.
Understandably, this harrowing circumstance brought Sal to a place of even deeper darkness, a darkness so profound and absolute he wasn’t sure if he could ever come back from it. He committed acts of self-harm and came precariously close to suicide.
But when Sal was at his darkest point, he made a discovery. He found out that no darkness is beyond God’s reach. At that time, Sal reached out to a youth leader at Dream City Church, someone who had faced similar darkness. This became a turning point in Sal’s life.
When Sal hit rock bottom, he found the rock that is Christ.
God is not intimidated or repulsed by even the greatest forms of darkness. Just as Jesus willingly sought out the demon-possessed man, bringing healing, light, joy, and redemption so He can bring light into any circumstances.
If you feel that you are too far from God, too messed up, or too lost amongst the tombstones, reach out to someone at Dream City. We are here to help, full of people who care deeply about those in darkness and those who think they could not possibly belong in God’s family. We can pray for you or just listen to your story.
Sal turned towards God and found light and hope and, by this, was able to turn his life so that it is facing towards the light. Call us so we can share God’s light with you!
Sal Valery’s Story is from our Hope Heroes video series, where we share real-life stories of healing and hope through Jesus Christ. To view and subscribe to our Hope Heroes YouTube Channel, click here.