Stand Therefore

One of the things that I love about being a pastor is doing hospital visitations. For most people, this is not on their good times list, and I get that. For me, I consider it a blessing to be able to encourage people that are dealing with difficult circumstances.

A few years ago God put four words in my heart to live out and communicate, and these four words have changed everything for me. Don't do life alone has become a filter that everything flows through, and a few weeks ago, I was reminded why.

I received a message to visit a young adult in the hospital that was dealing with anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. Along with that trip, my schedule that day included phone calls, prayers, a funeral and two other visitations with people fighting through difficult situations.

At one point in my trip I cried out to God while driving, praying for the needs that were in front of me that day. That quickly turned into a gratitude session.

I started to thank God for work that matters. I thanked God for the hope that I had to offer because of what He had done in my life. And in the middle of that moment, God brought me back to a time where I was hopeless and broken.

As a fourteen-year-old kid I dealt with typical teenager stuff, but there was one season that almost got the best of me. My parents were going through a nasty divorce, I had a bruised kidney from football, my girlfriend at the time broke up with me and one of my friends was killed in a stupid accident. Oh, and someone stole our dog. My life had literally become a bad country song that had gone drastically wrong.

I was raised in church and knew all of the right things to do and say. I was heavily involved in ministry at my church and during this season had just started visiting a coffee house on Saturday nights called Joes Place.

At some point in the midst of the chaos that was my life, I lost my song. My hope had been misplaced, and I felt like I was just taking up space. Thoughts of suicide and the fear of failing took the leading roll in my life. I started to dance with deception and it overshadowed the love and hope that I knew to be true.

After a suicide attempt, I ended up telling a girl at church about that week, who then told my dad, who then told my pastor. That Sunday morning one of our elders brought me to the pastor's office.

Pastor Joe was an incredible preacher. He was a Vietnam vet and he loved people well. After he shared the information that he had received, he asked me how I was really doing. I told him everything.

Pastor Joe did not say much, but He reminded me that God loved me, which I knew. He told me I was here on purpose, which I also knew. After he prayed for me he shared this final thought with me.

Pastor Joe shared a portion of Ephesians 6:13-14 that says, "Having done all things to stand, stand therefore". After he quoted the passage, he went on to share that even when you can't go forward, don't go backwards. And if all you can do is stand still, stand therefore in what you know and not in how you feel. Regardless of what you see, God loves you and He is working on your behalf. You are not alone.

Upon leaving his office, I did not feel better in that moment. There were no fireworks and none of the broken junk in my life turned around. My parents still divorced and my body still took weeks to heal. My ex girlfriend was still my ex, and my friend was still gone. And last but certainly not least, the jerks that stole our dog never brought him back.

But something did happen.

In the midst of despair, Pastor Joe spoke hope into my life. He did not sugarcoat the pain, because he knew what pain was. He did not try to distract me from the mess. Pastor Joe in that moment shared a word of encouragement at the right time. He planted a seed of hope inside of the barren and dry soil in my heart, and in a way that only He can, God eventually brought it to fruition.

Pastor Joe, if you read this, I want to say thank you! God has used Pastors and many other people to speak into my life, but I would not be here today had I not made it through that season.

As a pastor now, I know that often the phone calls and visits can take a toll, but I pray this letter would find you and speak to your heart in a way that only God can. And every opportunity that I have to speak into difficult situations, including hospital visits, I go in full of faith knowing what God did in my life that day was tangible. If God did it for me, He can do it for anyone.

You have impacted hundreds if not thousands of people, and today, I want to encourage you. I get to do what I do today because you reminded me of the hope that was available for me. I want to spend the rest of my life sharing that hope!

Every life that has been impacted and every life that will be changed as a result of an encounter with Jesus that may happen because of something that I say or do comes back to that Sunday morning that you shared God's word with me.

Sometimes the things that we see or feel can overshadow what we know. As Shannon Lewis often says, I know I am loved, valued and I have a destiny, but I had to decide to walk in that truth. I pray today that you would be reminded of that truth.

And whoever else may read this, I pray that God's hope would become even more tangible in your life than the pain and fear that you are fighting through right now. Be encouraged friend! Keep going!

Having done all things to stand, stand therefore.

-jimmy akers


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