By Pastor Ben Davis
Four years into the launch of our church I was tossing the football in the front yard with my boys on a beautiful November morning. I can still remember looking back towards our house and feeling suddenly confused, as if someone had hit the pause button on time.
And then, out of nowhere, it happened.
I just couldn’t speak anymore. At all.
My wife Melanie rushed me to the hospital, and we soon learned I had suffered a stroke at only thirty-seven years old.
I was scared. In my heart I believed the best, but I had moments of doubt as well. The doctors wanted to treat me with a medication that had proven successful in breaking up blood clots and assisting in recovery. The only catch? “We need to inform you Mr. Davis of the possibility the treatment could cause you to bleed-out internally and be fatal. It’s up to you.”
They gave me the news as if I was deciding on what to order for lunch at a restaurant. “Would you like permanent disability, or the chance at recovery with a side of possible early death? We’ll give you a moment to decide.” Oh yeah, and because time was of the essence, I had about 15 minutes to choose whether or not to take the treatment.
To be unable to communicate verbally is one of the most frustrating feelings I’ve ever experienced, like being trapped behind glass, separated from the outside world. I wondered if I would ever be able to talk again, to have conversations with my wife, or to preach? “Speaking is what I do every week!” I thought. “What now?” I prayed for some kind of direction.
Within twenty-four hours, amazingly, my speech began to return. It was slow at first. Like when you run water through an old hose, I was able to stutter a few words in awkward fits and spits. But every day I improved, and by the end of the week I was released to go home with no deficits or even the need for speech therapy. The doctors told me the kind of stroke I had should have killed me or left me significantly impaired. When people ask me whether or not God still does miracles, I can’t help but smile and ask them if they have a minute for a story.
But the challenges didn’t end there. The next several months were filled with fear, anxiety, and insomnia—none of which I had ever dealt with much in my past. It sounds crazy now, but I actually went to the emergency room three different times, convinced I was relapsing. Each time they would run me through the standard testing to tell me I was fine. That’s when I began to realize in a new way what I was fighting against was more spiritual than physical.
I know I’m not supposed to tell you this as a Pastor, but I often struggle between thoughts of faith and fear. Can you relate? I had to learn all over again how to take control of my thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 became my anthem:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)
Make no mistake—there’s a war going on, and most of us aren’t fighting with the right weapons. I wasn’t. Either we take the lie captive, or the lie takes us captive. The real war always begins in our thoughts. (For more on my story and how to take your thoughts captive check out our series, Winning The War In Your Mind at GoPathwayChurch.com.)
Ben Davis is lead pastor of Pathway Church in Lafayette, LA, a vibrant and diverse community of faith that believes people matter, everyone needs a family, all of us can be used by God, and together we can change the world.