Famed Christian singer reveals how a shocking cancer diagnosis taught him a powerful lesson
Posted August 29, 2016
When Casting Crowns frontman Mark Hall was confronted last year with the life-changing reality that he had kidney cancer, he was absolutely taken aback.
With a busy tour schedule and a full-time job as youth pastor at Eagle's Landing First Baptist in McDonough, Georgia, Hall said that he wasn't sure how a cancer battle would fit into the mix.
And, understandably, the uncertainty weighed on him, with many questions suddenly popping up. How would his kids react? What impact would the illness have on his ministry? What would happen to the band?
"It was definitely out of nowhere," he told "The Church Boys" podcast. "I went to the doctor to be checked for acid reflux. He was just doing a scan to see if I had ulcers or anything else going on down there, and then, on accident, saw a tumor in my kidney."
Listen to the singer discuss his journey here.
Hall said he believes it was a "God thing" that the tumor was found by chance — and just at the right time — as it was still fully encased and had not spread to the kidney around it. That said, the cancer was a nuclear level 3 cell type, meaning that it had a high potential for aggressive growth.
Hall described his first reaction to the shocking diagnosis, saying that it truly shook him, though he quickly came to rely heavily on his Christian faith to weather the storm.
"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."
But while he struggled with the diagnosis, Hall added, "My feelings kept slamming up against something solid in me, and that was the roots of my faith."
He said that the biblical themes that he has studied throughout his life sustained him, with one central idea taking precedence in his heart and mind: "God is who he said he is."
Hall said that this realization helped him to focus on his faith in the midst of uncertainty, with one line of biblical scripture most pertinently resonating: "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?" — text found in both Psalm 42 and 43.
Those words so moved Hall, in fact, that he sat down on the night that he received his diagnosis and turned to music to process his feelings.
"The night I found out I sat down at the piano and wrote a song called, 'Oh My Soul' around that scripture, because that's kind of where I was living at the moment," he said.
The entire cancer experience posed a unique challenge for the singer, who said that he was suddenly in an unfamiliar place.
"When you're the youth pastor, you're the guy who helps everybody else through their storm, and now, suddenly, I'm in the middle of my own," he said. "It was definitely a shock."
Hall was grateful that doctors were able to remove his kidney and that the cancer was contained — an end result that he and his family chalk up to a miracle.
Just over a year later, Hall is once again busy touring with Casting Crowns, working full-time at Eagle's Landing Baptist Church and preparing for the Sept. 16 release of a new album titled, "The Very Next Thing."
As for the continued success of "Casting Crowns," Hall said that he's still "totally surprised" by it all, saying that he had no idea what started out as a youth group band would grow into such a popular fixture in Christian music.
"God sort of brought the radio world and music world to us and ever since then it seems like everything we've been able to do has been something that we weren't sharp enough to be able to do, or great enough to be able to do or talented enough to be able to do," he said. "It's just something that God chose us to do."
One of the more uncommon elements to Hall's story is his continued devotion to Christian ministry, as he still serves as a full-time pastor — something that he has done for the past 14 years. Naturally, his schedule is pretty crazy as a result.
"Sunday through Wednesday, (the band is) home," he said. "And then Wednesday night after (youth group) … we load up on the bus and head out and do three concerts, and then we roll in Sunday morning before church starts."
Through both his music and his cancer survival story, Hall is hoping to inspire people to recognize the same message that he relied on in the midst of his diagnosis: "That God is who he says he is — and we can trust him."
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