High five to another successful and growing week for Spark the Way! I feel like I'm just walking in a constant state of shock at this organization- thanks for that, God.
Last month, I was at church and I went to say hi to a friend (shout out to Mr. Davidson). This friend introduced me to his friends, we small talked and I went on my way. That night, I received a message from one of those friends I was introduced to earlier. This man had a story- a story full of fight, perseverance, faith and revival. I'm SO excited to be sharing Mike's story with you this week and I pray you feel as encouraged as I did in reading his words...
"In September of 2013, I was living in Orlando, FL, when Jesus saved me from myself and the bondage of alcohol addiction. You see, I was at my lowest point – with no job, no future and no hope. But when I cried out to Jesus, He heard and answered.
I had fallen so far from God that I had lost the Bible I once owned. However, once I finally got my hands on a Bible, the first verse that came to me was one written on a small piece of paper inside the Bible that literally fell into my lap. It was a highlighted portion of 2 Kings 20:5 (NIV)
“I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.”
And He did. He brought me back to physical strength, freedom from addition and He restored a career in Chemistry that I thought was probably lost to the poor choices of my past. I began to receive several job offers, but one of them stood out – and they were persistent in contacting me. It was a large pharmaceutical company here in St. Petersburg. I thought, “This is too good to be true! A job on the Gulf Coast of Florida? There’s no way I could ever get that job!” But our God is a big God! He meant for me to be here in St. Pete; and this job was meant to happen.
In 2014, I moved to St. Pete where I began working for the largest pharmaceutical company that I had ever had the opportunity to enjoy. I was blessed beyond measure and enjoyed getting to know new people, new places and a new church home…..Harborside Christian Church, where I became very active. Things were absolutely fantastic as I began to settle into my new life here.
As part of settling in, I found a new doctor. Not that I needed one, because I felt great. But I just thought that it was a good idea just to get a good physical performed. It had been a while, so I thought it was time to break in my new insurance and get checked out. So, in preparation for the physical, the doctor ordered complete blood lab work to be done shortly after the Thanksgiving break. (You want to start the new year with a good physical report, after all!)
Around the first week of December, I reported to the doctor’s office and was eventually called back to the examination room where I waited….like we all do. Eventually, the Nurse Practitioner came into the room with a little concerned look on her face. She looked at the lab results. Then she looked at me. Then she looked back at the lab report again and asked, “Mr. Harrell, how do you feel today?” My response was “I feel fine!”
“Mr. Harrell, it appears as though your kidneys are not functioning properly. We need to take a closer look.”
I protested that I felt fine! Thankfully, my protests fell on deaf ears because she insisted that I not only repeat the lab work to make sure there was no mistake, but also I was instructed to have an ultra sound performed.
I did as instructed; and a few days later I had the ultra sound done on my kidneys and lower abdominal area. Now I have to hand it to the nurse who was conducting the ultra sound, because she had the perfect “poker face”….no expression of good news or bad….just doing her job despite my attempts at humor and small talk. I was simply left to wonder.
I walked out of this appointment with little concern – just the slight frustration of having to wait several days to find out the results. Christmas was on the way.
Well, I waited; and on Friday afternoon, December 19th, I called my doctor’s office to get the results. In a very matter-of-fact tone Lauren (for that is what I call her now) told me, “Mike, the ultra sound found two tumors. One is beside your right kidney; and the other is beside your bladder.” She kept talking, but honestly I don’t remember much after that. All I could get out was “OK. What now?” Her response? “Unfortunately, now you are going to become a human pincushion for the next few months.”
So…less that one week before Christmas….and one day before my parents came down to begin their holiday break down here with my in Clearwater, I learned that I had cancer. Cancer came to me when I least expected it. Merry Christmas! You have Cancer!
Later in my room, I fell on my knees. I had been a true follower of Jesus for over a year. Wasn’t my life supposed to prosper? Weren’t things supposed to get better? Didn’t God promise to heal me? I said, “Why me God?” And the answer came back to me – not audibly, but in my spirit and with a loving quality to it – “Why not you?” It was here, after the initial shock of the cancer news that Jesus began the process of drawing me ever closer to Him.
My parents were driving down to Clearwater the next day, so I held off on breaking the news to them. I didn’t want them to spend the entire trip down here worrying about something that was outside of their control. Plus, my Mom is a breast cancer survivor….so I knew that this would be a tender subject. “Merry Christmas Mom! Your oldest son has cancer; and we don’t know how bad it is!”
With the Christmas holiday being as close as it was, there was very little that could be done medically. All the doctors (and I was going to have many) were either booked or off on vacation. And during the waiting, I prayed.
Jesus, at once, reminded me of a sermon I had heard a number of months before at NewSpring Church in South Carolina. It didn’t seem to really apply to me at the time, but for reasons only God knew then, it stuck with me. It was a message from John 6:16-21 where the disciples were in the middle of a storm and Jesus came to them walking on the water. I remember the Pastor said, “It’s not a matter of if you will have storms in your life, but when. You are either going to go through a storm….you are in the middle of one now….or you have been through one in the past.” But, the key phrase that came back to me was this: “I would rather be in the boat with Jesus, than on the shore without Him.”
That next week, after breaking the news to my parents, I was serving as a volunteer at the Harborside Christmas Eve service. Our Senior Pastor, Kurt Parker, had a large anchor on the stage. Christmas Eve….Anchor…and a message on the Storms of Life. To some people this might have seemed like an odd message for the holidays; but to me it wasn’t odd at all! This scripture was placed on the large video screens.
Hebrews 6:18-19 “Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the Hope that lies before us. This Hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”
In the Storm – when it comes – what is your anchor? The Storm of Cancer tends to sweep away everything that is not firmly anchored. And I can tell you from experience now that Jesus is a solid anchor; and He is faithful.
Romans 8:38-39 says nothing can separate us from the love of God. So whether there is cancer in my body or not, nothing can separate me from His Love!
I’m not saying everything from that point on was easy. You know better. I spent time in tears….weeping….and weak…but Jesus never left me. He was not afraid of my questions or my exhaustion or my frustration. But no matter what, I knew He was there; and He was faithful; and He was in control.
True to the words of my doctor, I did become a human pincushion. But, when I opened the Bible – either at home or at church or while hooked up to multiple IV bags – He would speak to me over and over again.
In James 1:2-3, James wrote….
(The Passion Translation) “My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience all the joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things.”
So, I learned a little about fighting….and a lot about the faithfulness of God. I learned to trust in His Love and His Plan for my life. And here I am – almost one year later – cancer free, sharing with you the Hope and Comfort that Jesus gives. He doesn’t promise a life free of pain or grief, but He does promise that He will never leave us – and no one or no “thing” can take us from Him.
So I offer comfort as it says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the Source of all comfort. He comforts us in our troubles so that we could comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”