My wife Joy & I welcomed our first child Landon into the world on July 16. He’s only two weeks old, but he’s stronger than most men that I know. His rare heart condition (HLHS) caused him to flat-line (code) twice after his first open-heart surgery on July 21 at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Life in the CICU here is a world that I never took the time to engage, but God has called me here for such a time as this. It’s been a rough few weeks, but here’s what I’m learning through the process.

Suffering sucks. Landon’s fight for survival is excruciating and painful beyond belief. It’s not wrong to admit that some things are simply horrible without silver linings: genocide, rape, racism, natural disasters, and disease. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to enter into deep suffering. I wondered if I could handle it without falling apart. I wondered if I would lose my faith and run away from God. I wondered if I would continue to lead the way that God has called me to lead.

Now I’m right in the middle of a horrible nightmare that I prayed I would never have to see. But here’s the truth: God is faithful. He has never left us. He is carrying us. He is everything he claims to be. On multiple occasions Joy and I have locked eyes with each other to remind ourselves that Satan wants to knock us out. But Jesus already defeated Satan for us! He has no power over our family.

God’s grace is never premature! We can’t psych ourselves up for suffering in order to somehow prepare ourselves beforehand. Clichés get a bad rap, but here’s a really good one: “The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not sustain you.” This phrase hangs in our kitchen as a gift from my parents, and it’s never been more true to me than the past month.

Our faith is getting stronger. Our marriage is getting better, deeper, & richer. We get to share Jesus with tons of people. Not many days at CHOP have gone by where I haven’t been able to pray with someone. We’re passing out mini-books written by Joni Eareckson Tada entitled Making Sense of Suffering. It’s amazing that God has provided this phenomenal mission field for us, even though I would have chosen a completely different way!

Before SurgeryLandon's Birth

It’s difficult to trust God with our church plant (Restored Church) back home in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” I quoted that verse a lot when my best friend Tim Walker & I dreamed about launching a brand new church. Back then I didn’t realize just how much I don’t trust Jesus with his church. Restored Church belongs to Jesus, not me. Tough lesson to learn, but it’s wildly important for any leader who follows Jesus.

Right now, Landon is doing well. He was finally able to open his eyes yesterday! Hopefully he’s going off his ventilator tomorrow. We desperately want to take him home, but right now we’re simply taking it one day at a time. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

I don’t know what suffering you’re facing right now, but I know that I would be a complete basket case if it weren’t for the hope that I have in Jesus. Do YOU have that hope? If not, feel free to e-mail me at I’d love to tell you more about our story.


– Dan Nichols






Updates on Landon:

Super-Landon T-shirts for CHOP: