In the Midst of the Storm

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 Lordit would be extremely difficult for one to keep moving forward throughout these trials in lifeButShannon knows that the only way to keep moving forward is with the Lord alongside Himfollowing Himand putting his trust in Him. "I will eventually see God’s goodness," Shannon said. "Circumstances don’t determine how big of a God we haveWhether it’s on this side or the other sideHe will bring you out of itI know this will make me strongerIt’s easy to coast in your spiritual life and marriage… but always strive to keep growing.” Shannon holds onto the fact that in the painthere 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 jobletting a marriage work outetcButShannon 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 Godit’s like a child calling out to his daddy,” Shannon said. God's Word has also spoken to Shannon's heart in times of doubtOne specific passage he always turns to is Matthew 16:13-15:  


When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippihe asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still othersJeremiah 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 isIs 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 circumstancesShannon also feels blessed with the people that God has put in his life to support himAmy ThomasPastor Justin FrazierMinister of Care Robert Bennetthis fatherand those in the New Hope Life Group. “If you find that you don’t fit inyou fit right in with the New Hope class," Shannon said. "We are not the class of tragedyThere is lots of laughterlots of hopeOur class is growing and we will always grow. This class is the triage on the frontlines of the battleThis Life Group is what cleans and bandages people upthen sends them onto the 'hospitali.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.


Ellen's Testimony

It is a wonderful blessing to know that the work that the Lord does at Cottonwood Creek Church touches so many lives. Some of those lives are on the other side of the world. Meet Ellen, a dedicated follower of Christ and one of our many viewers online.

Ellen has been living in Germany for the past forty years, although she has family residing in Allen, Texas. She has been a believer in Jesus since she was fourteen years old. Although she loves and follows God, living in a fallen world had caused her to walk a “crooked path”. However in the past few months, God had been speaking to her in many different ways, most prominently through Cottonwood Creek Church.

Ellen says she felt “desperate to find good preaching… and was very hungry for God’s Word.” That lead her to searching online where she found Cottonwood Creek Church’s website. She was excited to see that there were already a plethora of sermons prerecorded and she began downloading and listening to them. She then realized that Cottonwood offered online services which led her to “faithfully watching” them every weekend. 
“Pastor John Mark is a wonderful pastor. He explains everything so very well in simple terms. It makes me hungry for more… I can’t explain how blessed I feel having found Cottonwood and how blessed I feel having the Lord.”

The main quality that Ellen says Cottonwood Creek Church exemplifies is true, genuine love. Whether it be the topics of the sermons or the activities that the church puts together, she thinks the Cottonwood family has been true sowers of the seed. Ellen is completely grateful to be a part of the Cottonwood Creek family, even by just watching it online. She says, “I can’t stop watching. I can’t stop getting enough of God’s Word because of your church.”

Ellen has been extremely touched by different testimonies from Cottonwood Creek. One particular testimony struck her heart, however: Gail Williams. “Her testimony, I watched over and over again because it touched my heart. It talked to me directly in having the same kind of hardships… if she can get past her struggles with the Lord Jesus Christ’s help, so can I.”

Ellen says that loving and following the Lord has been the simplest thing to do. “What greater love do you need to see? Jesus loves you and your life can be so easy having faith in someone who loves you so very much. Life is so much easier and you’re blessed. Even though you have struggles… you’re going to have peace.” Because of this revelation, Ellen praises the Lord fervently and calls Him her Beloved Prince of Peace.

During this time, Ellen truly felt the call to show her obedience and faithfulness to the Lord through baptism. She was blessed with that opportunity just a few months later in December 2016 at Cottonwood Creek Church.

Ellen knows that even though she is only one person all the way in Germany who watches online, she still feels drawn to Cottonwood Creek. She says she would love to listen to the live music and live sermons and be a part of the congregation in person. “I want everyone to know how truly blessed you guys are to be able to physically come to a church like this and be able to hear good messages of God’s Word and music and praise to the Lord Jesus. I don’t know how to express enough how blessed I think you guys really are and I hope you guys know that.”

The Power of Surrender

Faced with a choice to continue living in a household of abuse or hit the streets, Tory Sanders left his home in south Dallas at the age of 15, never to live with his family again. After a childhood filled with drug running, alcohol and abuse, adulthood didn’t prove any easier for Sanders, who hit rock bottom when he lost his job, was in a severe car accident and became homeless within a short period of time. Through the power of surrender in Christ, Sanders found that his story wasn’t defined by the hard times he had faced. “It doesn’t matter low you get; it’s how you recover,” Sanders said. 

I Shouldn't Be A Christian


This is one of the most asked questions in human existence. Growing up this is something that Jesse Chaney, Cottonwood Creek's Junior High Minister, thought about a lot. Even into early adulthood Jesse kept turning to this question.


Jesse's childhood was not one where both parents tucked him in each night, made his lunch for him and kissed him goodbye as he left for school. Both of his parents where struggling with issues of their own and eventually divorced. With seeing his father less and less and his mother turning to substances and men to make the pain stop, Jesse essentially was on his own.


"She would bring these men into the home," Jesse said. "And they were violent men. They were men that did not treat my mother in a Godly way. We were sick of it, me and my brother. So we told her if you bring anybody else home we're not going to be here. So instead of bringing a man home when I was 16 she just moved in with him. That left me in an apartment by myself at 16 years old."


The only reason he didn't drop out of school was because he wanted to be with his friends. With zero accountability or parental supervision Jesse began making his own decisions. These decisions were often careless and Jesse had to face the consequences. 


In junior high, Jesse had attended a church that eventually failed. Believing that everything around him was doomed to fail, Jesse didn't seek out another church. When he had nowhere else to turn he remembered the truths instilled in him from the Godly men that had been around him for a brief time growing up. 


"I knew there was a God," Jesse said. "I knew he wanted more for me and from me. Yet I had never truly committed my life to him. "


It took hitting rock bottom for Jesse to realize that life couldn't be lived this way. There had to something more. Jesse turned to his Christian friends who did all that they knew how to do. They invited him to church. 


"My life still looked the same," Jesse said. "So I began attending another church with some of my close Christian friends. About a year into attending church I thought to myself 'Well, they got me! I actually believe this.' I began to see my life change, and I began to see this truth that there was a God. He did love me. He did want a relationship with me. It began to change my life."


Feeling the call to ministry in the 12th grade, Jesse ran from the idea, not believing that God could use someone with his background. Like Jonah found out (Jonah 1), there was no hiding from God. Jesse stopped running and began attending Bible college, where he met his wife and eventually found his way to Cottonwood Creek.


He continued to make himself more and more evident," Jesse said. "He continued to press on the fact that He was there and He was present and not some absentee god. He was living and active in my life. So, is there a God? Yes."


Psalm 139:7-12 - Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

No One Faces Cancer Alone

Who do you talk to when you have cancer? Unless someone has had cancer, they can’t fully understand everything that you are facing. Whether they are going through this journey or walking alongside someone who is, cancer will touch everyone’s lives at some point. John Arakelian knows what it’s like to wake up feeling perfectly normal one day only to get a devastating cancer diagnosis the very next day. His family empathized with him, but John felt like he did not have anyone to talk to about his diagnosis. John turned to God.

The good news is that no one has to face cancer alone. The Cottonwood Creek Cancer Ministry was formed shortly after John’s diagnosis. They walk alongside those facing the difficult battle that comes with cancer. To learn more about Cancer Care and John Arakelian’s battle, watch his testimony below.

I Was Just Fine Yesterday from CCBC Media on Vimeo.


Cottonwood Creek Church // 1015 Sam Rayburn Tollway, Allen, TX 75013 // 972-359-7777 © 2017