Lead vocalist and long-time front man for the band Casting Crowns, Mark Hall has made a career out of inspiring others to draw near to God and praise him with every bone in your body.
We often cry out to God the most during times of hurt and suffering—Mark Hall is no stranger to that.
In early 2015 amidst the band’s Thrive tour, Mark went to the doctor for what he thought was acid reflux. The result was far worse. He learned that he had a mass on his right kidney that was quite possibly cancerous.
“He was just doing a scan to see if I had ulcers or anything else going on down there,” Mark told “The Church Boys” podcast, “and then, on accident, saw a tumor in my kidney.”
Mark says it was Divine intervention that the tumor was ever discovered. God anointed that doctor for the reality of what the worship pastor never saw coming.
“You don’t really hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’” Mark told Guideposts.org. “You hear the words, ‘You’re going to die.’”
Though he’s spent his whole life sharing the goodness of God, and helping to lift others up, Mark realized he was now being put to the ultimate test: Could he really live out the faith he’d been preaching all these years as a worship leader and youth pastor?
“For a day there it really rocked me,” he said. “I was going through feelings and doubts and fear and worry…my feelings were all over the map.”
Nothing hit closer to home than the band’s early 2005 hit, “Praise You in This Storm.”
The Christian Classic is an incredible testament to worshipping God even when we feel stuck, broken, hurt and lost. It’s long been a reminder that sometimes God feels far, and our situation seems unbearable, but no matter what, He is worthy of our praise.
“I was sure by now, God you would have reached down
And wiped our tears away,
Stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen.”
Being diagnosed with cancer really shook Mark to his core.
“When I heard ‘cancer,’ it’s like the whole world shrunk,” he shared. “All I could think was, ‘OK, how am I going to get my family through this? How am I going to make sure they know it’s going to be OK?’ Everything got simple and prioritized very quickly.”
With his busy life on tour, speaking, etc., he said he had “no room” for cancer. But once it actually hit him, he realized more than ever that he was not the one in control of his time on this earth.
“You never speak louder to the world about your faith than when you’re in a storm,” he said. “For me, I knew I’d taught a lot of lessons, I’ve written books, I’ve written songs, but I’m about to tell the world a whole lot through what happens [to me] in the next months.”
“I realized I need to talk about this, so I told my church, I told a few friends at Christian radio, and the next thing you know the whole world is praying for me,” he said.
Mark says through his journey, one specific theme continued to present itself in both his heart and mind: “God is who he said he is.”
“And I’ll praise you in this storm
And I will lift my hands
That you are who you are
No matter where I am.”
It was that peace that could only be found in Jesus Christ that paved the way for Mark to carry on. He held tight to a scripture—Psalm 42:5, in which David asks the question, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.”
The verse quickly turned into another hit for Casting Crowns, “Oh My Soul.” The song divulges the supernatural peace that casts out fear and calms our souls in the name of Jesus.
“Oh, my soul, You are not alone.
There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.
One more day, He will make a way.
Let Him show you how, you can lay this down,
‘Cause you’re not alone”
Mark had surgery to remove the kidney, which only confirmed his greatest fear: The mass was in fact a very aggressive form of cancer.
In true Jesus Christ fashion, though, there was a miracle to be celebrated: The tumor was still fully encased, which meant it had not spread to the surrounding kidney.
Being told “You have cancer” is a phrase that is feared by many, and received by many others. It’s never something you expect to hear, and it almost always takes us completely by surprise. Mark really puts it into perspective, though, saying,
“I think sometimes when we’re caught by surprise we feel like maybe God’s caught by surprise. He continues, “But He’s at the end of my life already looking back on it. So I’ve got to remind myself of that.”
Through his entire journey with cancer, and having his faith put to the ultimate test, Mark says he took away a profound lesson and a lasting message. He feels that it is so important to share it with this broken world, because we often find it hard to reconcile suffering with God’s goodness.
“When we have a friend who’s suffering, we feel like we need to fix it. We feel like we need to defend God, make sure they’re not mad at God and give them a bunch of reasons why God’s still good. That’s probably not what they need. They just need you to be there, listen to them, cry with them. You don’t have to have the answers to all of life’s questions.
I’ve always tried to give that advice to my own students, but the other half of that that I learned is when you’re hurting, you need to let the church be the church. They’re not always going to say it right, but the root of it is love. You have to realize you can’t walk through it by yourself, you need people walking through it with you.”
Learn more about Mark’s powerful journey through the storm of his cancer diagnosis in “The Wally Show” interview below: