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Country Artist’s Loss Leads Him to Jesus

By 2018, country artist Walker Hayes had gotten sober but then tragedy struck. He and his wife, Laney, lost their seventh child, Oakleigh, at birth. It's a moment he now recognizes as a "real test down here on earth." He described it by saying, "Just holding a lifeless child. It's indescribable. I can't imagine a worse pain." He admits that for a moment, his sobriety was in jeopardy. "I'd been sober for three years when we lost Oakleigh. I was ready to not be. As soon as that happened, I was like, this is why you drink."

The loss of Oakleigh is what Hayes credits with helping him find his faith. He said, “When we lost Oakleigh, I would have called myself an atheist.” Hayes said that he grew up in a Southern Baptist church but that as a rebellious child he did not connect with religion. He grew to resent it. But when faced with a kind of grief he'd never experienced before, things began to change. "I think I found out in a roundabout way that I was screaming at somebody. I would have called myself an atheist, but I was looking for someone to blame."

But it wasn't just one thing that suddenly brought him to church. Laney had befriended a fellow mom and that mom invited the family to her and her husband's new church. Hayes said that although he went in kicking and screaming, he suddenly felt the opposite of how he'd felt in church before.

But the final push came while reading a book late one night on his tour bus. "By the grace of God somebody recommended a book to Laney called Secrets of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. This woman's testimony, it's exactly like mine except I hadn't surrendered yet … I wolfed this book down. I finished it by the time the sun came up.”

Hayes explained that he didn't "come to Christ" that morning but rather he bought a Bible and began to read on his own and learn. Slowly, his faith was restored. But he is confident that the catalyst for this huge awakening in his life was a direct result of immeasurable loss. He said, “I know for some reason losing Oakleigh led me to Christ. I would not know Jesus if I had not known the loss of my daughter. That's what it took for me.”

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