(Photo: Pure Publicity)
In a new book, a Las Vegas megachurch pastor shares the heartbreaking experiences that led him to a deeper understanding of what it means to accept God's grace as sufficient in all circumstances.
Benny Perez, senior pastor of The Church at South Las Vegas, wrote More: Discovering the God of More When Life Gives You Less as a way of helping people who are discouraged by life's setbacks.
In the book, which was released on Jan. 15, Perez references the biblical story of the Apostle Paul's shipwreck on the island of Malta, along with his own personal experiences, to show that God is able to help anyone through the toughest of times.
Prior to enduring a series of catastrophic life events himself, Perez says he often relied on his own strengths in his ministry. After those events, however, he realized more than ever just how much God can and should be trusted in all of life's circumstances.
"You can't build your life, especially in ministry, you can't build your life on success," Perez told The Christian Post. "You can't build your life on what other people are saying about you. It literally has to be rooted and grounded in your authentic relationship with Jesus Christ."
In 2010, just days before Easter Sunday, Perez and his wife, Wendy, witnessed their unborn child die in the womb during a routine sonogram, a press release about More states. On Good Friday, when he was scheduled to preach the first of 10 weekend services, his wife collapsed in their garage and had to return to the hospital for treatment.
Though he did not want to preach that night, his wife encouraged him to do so as he sat with her and his mother-in-law in the hospital room. He agreed, and after preaching through his pain, he says 1,000 people put their faith in Jesus Christ during that one weekend.
Perez was particularly emotional while preaching that weekend, not only because he was grieving the loss of his child but because the incident led him to a deeper realization of what it must have felt like for God to sacrifice His own son.
So as to not detract from his message, though, he kept the miscarriage a secret from most of the church, with the exception of a few staff members, until the next Sunday.
One of the things that helped him through that difficult time was the support provided by the members of his congregation.
"There's too many people, as a pastor, when they go through tough times they leave church. They leave the community. And it's like, no, this is your family," said Perez.
The help he most appreciated came from those who were willing to hug him, pray for him and offer to listen to him without trying to offer an answer as to why the child did not survive.
"I think sometimes people don't need an answer," he said. "They just need comfort."
The heartache he experienced because of the miscarriage was just one in a string of crises that the Perez, his family and his church went through during a brief two-year period.
Just weeks after the miscarriage, Perez's father-in-law died. In 2011, his father had a massive heart attack. Between 2011 and 2012, his church nearly went bankrupt due to the severe economic downturn in Las Vegas.
"Being a Christian doesn't mean that you're not going to go through storms, it just means that you're not going to go through them alone," said Perez, who says Christ's presence is always nearby.
When counseling someone who has been repeatedly hurt in life, Perez says he reminds them that the things they have endured are only temporary.
He also says there isn't a certain set of steps toward healing that he prescribes, but he instead emphasizes the importance of forming and maintaining a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to provide comfort.
"The question of 'why' may never be answered, but it's not about the 'why,' it's about the 'who,'" he said.
The Church at South Las Vegas, which Perez founded in 2003, is attended by approximately 3,500 people on average.