Shannon Murphy's Story About Trusting God Throughout Life's Trials
Most testimonies are a full story. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A storm arises in a person's life, that person has to decide whether or not to stand firm through the storm, then finally the storm clears and life goes on, leaving the person changed and having their eyes opened to something new. But what about the people whose stories are not finished yet? The ones who are still standing in the middle of the storm? Cottonwood Creek's very own teacher of the New Hope Life Group, Shannon Murphy, has been all too familiar with what it is like to go through trials in life. However, seeing how strong his faith is in God is proof that no matter what the outcome of his storm is, he will still make it out stronger than ever before.
Growing up as the son of a pastor, Shannon was surrounded by a Christian family and community. However, he lived by going through the motions of a true believer. He had the mindset that since he grew up in a Christian family, had a pastor for a father, and went to church, he was saved. It wasn't until he was seven years old at a tent revival that he truly made his faith his own and began a genuine and personal relationship with God.
Since then, that genuine faith in the Lord has guided Shannon in overcoming trials in life. “It’s easy to become sure of things," Shannon said. "When you have the mindset that everything is permanent in this world, you stand on shaky ground.” After twenty-four years of marriage, Shannon experienced a very painful divorce. “My divorce shook me," Shannon said. "Not only with the thought of how could this happen but also the perception that I was the only one going through it. My parents, my grandparents, their marriages had lasted. It was an embarrassment, but also an eye opener for me." His divorce showed him that he had not been the spiritual leader of the household that his family had been needing. During his marriage, his focus was not on his relationship with God, but after the divorce, all his focus was on his relationship with God.
After the initial shock of his impending divorce, Shannon called the Minister of Care, Robert Bennett, who referred him to Pastor John Mark's men's Bible study. The night before the Bible study, Shannon's best friend growing up got in touch with him and asked how he was. Shannon replied with letting him know that many things were on the line, including his marriage. The following morning at the men's Bible study, Pastor John Mark called him out, which led Shannon to pouring everything out to the other men about struggling with his divorce. That same morning, at the exact same time in College Station, his friend and the rest of his very own Bible study class prayed over Shannon's text message towards Shannon.
After visiting the men's Bible study, Shannon began attending Divorce Care at Cottonwood. It was there where he was blessed with new, supportive friendships. From there, it was how the idea of the New Hope Life Group was created.
Shannon and many other people in Divorce Care felt like they needed to create their own Life Group at Cottonwood, one that wasn't labeled as either a singles or couples class. They decided to go forward and create a Life Group that was open to anyone and everyone who needed encouragement and hope in times of trials and struggles. During this time, Pastor Justin Frazier approached Shannon and asked him if he would like to teach the New Hope Life Group. Shannon said he did not feel like the right person for the job. Pastor Frazier's reply? "You were made for such a time as this." Who better to lead a Life Group full of people who were struggling than someone who had his fair share of it as well? It was at that moment that Shannon decided to let God lead him through this new chapter of being the New Hope Life Group teacher.
Throughout teaching the New Hope Life Group, Shannon made many close friendships, most prominently with a woman named Amy Thomas. They became close friends and eventually started dating. However, things changed drastically for both of them when Amy was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer in early 2017. This revelation caused Shannon to have many serious moments of doubt. How could God take something that gave him so much joy away from him after all that he had been through with healing from his divorce? It was in one of those moments of doubt that his friend came to him and said, "Maybe she's not supposed to be here for you. Maybe you're supposed to be here for her." Throughout this season, Shannon said, "I think God is teaching me to lean on Him and to not have any total faith or hope in anything of this world other than Him."
Without the Lord, it would be extremely difficult for one to keep moving forward throughout these trials in life. But, Shannon knows that the only way to keep moving forward is with the Lord alongside Him, following Him, and putting his trust in Him. "I will eventually see God’s goodness," Shannon said. "Circumstances don’t determine how big of a God we have. Whether it’s on this side or the other side, He will bring you out of it. I know this will make me stronger. It’s easy to coast in your spiritual life and marriage… but always strive to keep growing.” Shannon holds onto the fact that in the pain, there is still promised joy. He said so many people have the mindset of “I serve God as long as 'fill in the blank.'” Whether that be getting a much needed job, letting a marriage work out, etc. But, Shannon believes God wants us to turn the things we love the most over to Him. “When everything is stripped away and all you have is you and God, it’s like a child calling out to his daddy,” Shannon said. God's Word has also spoken to Shannon's heart in times of doubt. One specific passage he always turns to is Matthew 16:13-15:
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Shannon feels the Lord ask him time and time again who He is. Is He the Healer? Protector? Provider? Shannon knows that God asks him this question to remind him that He is all powerful and loving through all circumstances. Shannon also feels blessed with the people that God has put in his life to support him: Amy Thomas, Pastor Justin Frazier, Minister of Care Robert Bennett, his father, and those in the New Hope Life Group. “If you find that you don’t fit in, you fit right in with the New Hope class," Shannon said. "We are not the class of tragedy. There is lots of laughter, lots of hope. Our class is growing and we will always grow. This class is the triage on the frontlines of the battle. This Life Group is what cleans and bandages people up, then sends them onto the 'hospital' i.e. the church. The church is a hospital for sinners.”
Shannon knows that this story will eventually end, even though he does not know the specific outcome. All he can do is trust that God will provide and carry him through it. He knows there are so many other people in the middle of their own storm. He encourages them to hold onto God's promises. “We have a loving and caring Father," Shannon said. "The joy we seek can be found anywhere with Him. So many of us are in a ‘fix it ourselves’ mindset, yet what we need to do is rest and wait on God.”
For more information on the New Hope Life Group, visit here.