CHAPTER 1 SI-RENITY
In January 2005, I suffered a heart attack while duck hunting with my brother Phil and his sons. I knew something was very wrong with me, but I went home and climbed into bed. Hey, I’ll admit it wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done. When I woke up the next morning, my chest pains were so severe that I told Christine to take me to the emergency room.
After doctors examined me and put a camera down my throat, they told me I needed open-heart surgery. My left main coronary artery was completely blocked. Doctors told me I had what they call a “widow-maker,” which could kill me any minute.
It’s a miracle I didn’t die. I smoked cigarettes for more than thirty years, and the bad habit finally caught up with me. I had ignored the warning signs for a long time. I had been suffering heartburn for quite a while, and I was eating antacids like they were M&M’s. Having heartburn didn’t really
make sense because I’ve always had an cast-iron stomach. Despite my wife’s urging, I never went to the doctor to find out what was wrong.
So, there I was, lying in a hospital bed, not knowing if I was going to survive to see another sunrise. Surgeons were going to crack open my chest to save my life, and I was scared to death. I thought I might die right there in that hospital bed.
In fact, I was such a nervous wreck that my blood pressure was going through the roof. It was a Saturday, and the heart surgeon was hoping to wait until Monday to perform the procedure with his regular team of doctors.
“If you don’t settle down,” he told me, “I’ll have to take you in there right now and do it on my own. I promise, you don’t want that to happen.”
After hearing his warning, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and tried to calm down.
This is stupid, I told myself. Here I am worried about something I can’t control. The Almighty has taken care of my family and me my entire life. He’s certainly going to take care of me now when I need him most.
Then I prayed to God: Hey, let me first say thank you. Thank You for bringing me into this world. Thank You for my parents, my brothers and sisters, my wife, and my children. Thank You for my job and my friends. You have watched over me my entire life, and I know You’re watching over me now. Hey, I’m just along for the ride, and it has been a good one.
Thankfully, my heart settled down with the help of medication, and then I fell asleep. I slept most of the next day
and woke up just as nurses were preparing to take me in for surgery.
The procedure lasted several hours. The surgeons took a vein from my leg and used it to bypass a blockage and get blood to my heart. Thankfully, the Almighty sent very skilled surgeons, doctors, and nurses to save my life. It was another one of God’s miracles. Just as I’d prayed, the Lord watched over me and protected me.
After my surgery, I never picked up another cigarette. I promised my wife, children, and the rest of the Robertson clan that I would stop, and that’s exactly what I did. Overall, I’m in pretty good health for my age. I think it’s because of the work we do on Phil’s land. It’s great exercise and keeps me in good physical shape.
When I remember my conversation with God on that hospital bed, I’m reminded of the “Serenity Prayer,” which was written by Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in 1951. It has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and is used to help a lot of addicts. I think it can help anyone who is searching for peace and tranquility.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Too many times, this sinful world tries to steal our joy with addictions, disease, suffering, and other problems. Hey, Jack, nobody is going to steal my joy. My joy comes from knowing that God is the Father and His Son is Jesus Christ. As it says in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
My faith is pretty simple: I believe Jesus Christ came to this earth and became flesh to save you and me from our sinful ways. Jesus left our Father’s side, came to the world as flesh, and died on the cross to pay for what you and I have done wrong. We’re weak and can’t help ourselves, so Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins.
Three days after Jesus Christ died on the cross, He rose from the dead and walked out of his tomb. He spent forty days and forty nights with five hundred people to prove His
resurrection. Some people even watched His body ascend to heaven.
It was all part of God’s plan. Jesus came to earth of His free will and knew what He had to do to save us. He paid for our sins and then ascended into the heavens. Right now, Jesus is sitting at our heavenly Father’s side.
That’s His story and it’s my story too, and it’s either true or false. For those of us who have researched it, we know that there’s more evidence for its being true than for its being false. Hey, I can simply look at creation and the constellations to know it’s true.
I can go out west to Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, far away from city lights and pollution, and see stars in the clear night sky. Some of them are millions of miles from Earth, but I can see that they’re perfectly aligned to form a man who is pulling back a bow and arrow (Sagittarius) or a man who is pouring water from a jug (Aquarius). If you look closely enough, you can see a lion (Leo), hunter (Orion), bull (Taurus), and scorpion (Scorpius). Those are designs, and that means there is a designer. God created everything, and Jesus came to planet Earth.
My faith in Jesus Christ is based on facts and eyewitness
accounts, Jack! As I go through life, I share Jesus Christ’s story of death, burial, and resurrection with as many people as I can. That is what Matthew 28:19 tells us to do as Christians: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
No matter my troubles or circumstances, I know the Almighty can bring me serenity, courage, and wisdom. God can do it for you too, but we have to surrender ourselves to Him and allow Him to do it. It doesn’t do us any good to get stressed out about situations we can’t control.
Hey, if God was going to take me after my heart attack, it was going to happen, and there wasn’t anything I could have done about it. Romans 8:28 taught me that God is in control of all things in my life. He is sovereign over all: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”
My faith in the Almighty brings me more peace and si-renity than anything else in this life. As it says in 1 Peter 1:8, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
I’ve come to know that I can only control my own actions.
I can control what I think about and what my reactions will be to certain situations, but God controls everything else. Even though we might feel like life has thrown a truckload of heartache or trouble at us, we have to realize that we don’t have control over what’s happening around us and we don’t have control over others’ actions. We can’t change other people; they have to change themselves.
Hey, relax and don’t take things so seriously. Have fun and be joyful. People go through stress-filled lives trying to fill voids with sex, drugs, money, and careers. The only thing that can fill the voids in our lives is our faith in Jesus Christ.
My faith in the Almighty was never stronger than two years ago when I lost two of my brothers in the span of thirteen months. My brother Harold died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease on October 27, 2013. He was seventy-four years old. Then my oldest brother, Jimmy Frank, died of a sudden heart attack on November 21, 2014, at the age of seventy-eight.
These brothers were two of my heroes. Both of them served in the United States Air Force and attended Louisiana State University. Jimmy Frank served in the air force out of high school, and then used the GI Bill to pay his way through
LSU. Harold went to LSU and then joined the air force after college.
Harold and Jimmy Frank proved to us younger kids that we were capable of escaping poverty and making better lives for ourselves. They were great role models. Hey, I give my parents, James and Merritt Robertson, a lot of credit for the way they raised us. Even though we were poor, they stressed the importance of education, especially my mother. I wish I had listened to her advice more closely over the years.
After Jimmy Frank and Harold graduated from LSU, my other older brothers, Tommy and Phil, enrolled at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. They played on the football team together, and Phil graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in education. I enrolled at Louisiana Tech in 1967, but was more interested in having a good time while I was there. I dropped out of college after only three quarters, and then Uncle Sam sent me to Vietnam in October 1968.
Jimmy Frank earned a master’s degree in journalism from LSU and became an accomplished writer. He wrote for newspapers in Louisiana and Texas for more than fifty years, as well as trade publications and corporate magazines. He also wrote a book about Phil’s life—The Legend of the Duck Commander: The Life and Times of Phil Robertson. This book was revised to become Happy, Happy, Happy and was published in 2011. Jimmy Frank and his wife, Connie, lived in Elgin, Texas, and had six sons and eight grandchildren. Jimmy Frank was a caring man and loved being outdoors as much as we do.
Harold loved God, his family, the outdoors, and LSU football, probably in that order. He was an officer in the air force and had a successful professional career in many areas. Harold worked as a Boy Scout district executive, high school coach and administrator, plant manager, home health administrator, and politician. More than anything else, Harold loved people and had a gift for bringing them together and leading them. After Harold’s retirement, he became a preacher and shared the Good News with many folks in Farmerville, Louisiana.
Harold spent the last few months of his life at the War Veterans Home in Monroe, Louisiana. It pained me to see the toll that Alzheimer’s disease took on my big brother. Harold and his wife, Mary, were married for forty-six years and had two daughters and two grandchildren.
My siblings and I have always been very close. I put that at my mother’s feet. Whenever I fought with one of my brothers or sisters when I was a kid, which wasn’t very often, my momma liked to recite 1 John 4:20: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” I loved my older brothers very much.
Even though I miss seeing Harold and Jimmy Frank and spending time with them, I don’t grieve their deaths. Both of my parents are gone, and my older sister Judy Gimber died of cancer in 2006. She was sixty-four. I mourned their deaths and was saddened when they left this earth, but I know in my heart that they trusted Jesus as their savior. Even
though their bodies went into caskets and were buried in the ground, I know their spirits are with the Almighty.
I don’t remember the specific days my parents, brothers, and sisters died. Because of my faith, their deaths were not catastrophic events for me. It might seem callous to hear someone say it, but not to me. Did their deaths affect me? Yeah, they affected me, but not like death might affect others. I know in my heart that they passed from this earth, and that I will see them again in heaven.
Hey, my faith in God provides me with steadfast belief that my life on this physical earth is only the beginning. I know I will have eternal life with the Almighty. I’ve told my wife and children, “When I die, don’t go to my grave and mourn. My physical body might be there, but the essence of who I am will be with the Almighty.”
The neatest thing about Duck Dynasty is that it has strengthened my belief in God. Through all the opportunities I’ve been given, I’ve seen Him do amazing things. For example, we’ve had dozens of kids come to us through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Some of those kids were stricken with cancer, and we prayed with them for mercy and for God to heal their bodies. In some cases, the kids were cured of cancer.
People ask us all the time, “Why don’t y’all get off the Gospel?” Hey, I’ve seen too much and experienced too much to not believe it and share it with others. I think Phil probably says it best: “All the money in the world will not get you out of the grave. All the fame in the world
will not get you out of the grave. The only way to beat sin and death is by accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”
Hey, Phil’s right—that’s the only way to beat the grave, Jack. It’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.