For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).
Benny DiChiara’s life changed in an instant one morning in October 2015.
He had fallen asleep on the couch after staying up late watching news about the upcoming election. At 6:30 am, the alarm on his phone went off, but the phone was in the bedroom.
DiChiara stood up from the couch when he saw his wife, Donna, walk into the living room, holding his phone out to him. And then … nothing.
DiChiara was on the floor. Horizontal. Unconscious.
The neurosurgeons at the hospital later asked Donna how DiChiara caught himself? Her reply, “He didn’t.” The bewildered doctors followed up, “Didn’t he grab for something?” Donna’s answer: “No.”
“My wife told me that when my head hit the wood floor it sounded like a gunshot,” DiChiara stated.
The fall, although not from a great height, was enough to cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI). He had a double fracture in the back of his skull and there was damage to the part of the brain that regulates taste and smell, which is why he no longer has either sense. He also had a brain bleed that bled into his face, but fortunately the fall didn’t break the skin.
In addition to the injuries, he had speech issues and trouble walking, both of which have returned to normal. However, there is still a 20-minute gap – immediately after the fall – in which he doesn’t remember anything.
“When it happened, I knew something was wrong and they took me to the hospital. … They said the brain’s going to shut down and make him rest. That’s how the body heals itself.”
DiChiara was released from the hospital later that month, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Back at home, Donna became her husband’s personal full-time nurse, administering medicine to him every three to four hours. For the first month and a half after the accident, he slept 20 hours a day. Finally, after four months of recovery and 48 pounds lighter, DiChiara was able to start living again.
Unfortunately, to this day, the doctors don’t know what happened. They marked the cause of his accident and injuries as “Unknown” on his medical records.
After the Fall
Although the accident was traumatic, some good came of it.
Four years later on October 1, 2019, DiChiara and his Christian rock band, Empowered, released their second album, Three Days. Their first album, Soul Cry, came out in 2012.
According to DiChiara, the third song on the record, “Jeremiah 29:11,” on the new record is “an audible explanation of the song I was to write for God. People don’t get that gift often, but when you get it, it can be frightening and also put you at peace.”
The gift that DiChiara is referring to is getting a second chance and making a full recovery (minus the loss of taste and smell) so that he could return to what he loves doing the most: making music that glorifies the Lord.
“God took that injury and healed me from it. I was really afraid I’d lose the music thing because of the brain injury, but praise God I did not. But it’s on now and people should know I have so much more passion to reach people for Him.
“‘Jeremiah 29:11’ was basically His message to me that ‘people need to know what I did for you – stepping into your life and saving it – I can do for them. Now for you, it was a physical thing with a brain injury, but it could be somebody with divorce, somebody with an addiction, or somebody who’s going through something totally satanic. Maybe the devil’s got a hold of it, but what I did for you – and it doesn’t matter what’s going on in their life – if they turn to me like you did, I’m here for them.’
“God’s big message to me right now is I always was, I always am, and I always will be.”
In the midst of God speaking to DiChiara as he recovered from his TBI, God spoke to his heart and provided the lyrics for “Jeremiah 29:11.”
“I really truly believe in my heart that I was audibly given the words to the song because I think God was pressing and saying, ‘Listen, I have many more greater plans for you than you can wrap your head around.’”
A Band Called “Empowered”
In addition to DiChiara, Empowered, which formed in 1998 in Baton Rouge, is currently comprised of Shane Madere Jr. (guitars), Justin Burdette (guitars), Jeff Maddox (bass), and Mic Capdeville (drums). With a classic rock sound often compared to Bon Jovi, Styx, Journey, Imagine Dragons, and even a Christian version of Ratt, of Geico commercial fame, Empowered’s unofficial mantra is “I don’t want to be famous, I want to make Jesus famous.”
The band’s name came from a banner hanging in the church where DiChiara was saved. He had previously decided to give his music life to Christ and was looking for a band name when he spotted a banner that read “Empower.”
“He kind of spoke to me when I saw that. He said, ‘That’s it, and here’s your deal. I’ve gifted you with the power of musical talent and I want you to take it and utilize that gift to tell people My story and empower them so that once they hear your music they in turn can turn around and go empower others.’”
When “Three Days” (the song, not the album) was still in its infancy, Empowered opened up for 7eventh Time Down at a Christian music festival outside of New Orleans. At the end of their planned set, DiChiara introduced the song as the titular track off their upcoming album before playing it for the crowd.
According to DiChiara, the song gets its name from the fact that “no matter what you’ve been through in your life, no matter how bad you feel you’ve been, God stopped in, sent His Son, and They took care of it in just three days. … It’s salvation wrapped up into this ball of energy that’s meant to grab people’s hearts and direct them to Him.”
After Empowered left the stage, Mikey Howard, the lead singer for 7eventh Time Down, who watched the opening act from the audience, stopped DiChiara. Howard asked DiChiara if he was sticking around to watch Howard’s band perform, because if they were, he’d like to talk to him after the show. DiChiara said he was planning to watch the show and that they could talk afterward.
“We sat down for an hour backstage just talking about stuff and he was sowing into me. We’re just sharing Jesus and he says, ‘Tell me about that last song.” So I tell him about it and I tell him we’re working on a new record and this, that, and that other. Then he tells me, ‘I feel God telling me to produce your next record.’
DiChiara’s initial reaction was to laugh and respond, “Yeah, right. Sure.” But Howard assured him that he was being serious. So, they exchanged information and in the succeeding months worked together on Three Days.
The result was a four-track album produced, engineered, edited, and recorded by Mikey Howard. In addition to “Three Days” and “Jeremiah 29:11,” the record includes “Listen to the Children” and “Rock Bottom.”
“I think the main point of all of this is that no matter what we do in our lives, as long as we do it with excellence and honor, and we’re a compass to Him for other people, that’s what we exist for because it’s going to be a party in heaven.”
John Farrell is a Digital Content Writer / Editor of Inspiration.org
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