He Gives, and Takes Away
You're probably familiar with the Casting Crowns hit single "Praise You in This Storm." In this excerpt from his new book Lifestories, frontman Mark Hall tells the story behind the song.
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Great songs don't just come out of nowhere, and there's quite a story behind the Casting Crowns hit, "Praise You in This Storm." In a new book called Lifestories (available August 29), Mark Hall, the band's frontman and chief songwriter, tells the stories behind the songs—including this one about a little girl dying of cancer who never gave up her trust in Jesus . . . and her mother who literally stood on the promises of God through the whole ordeal. The following story has been adapted and condensed from the book.
Laurie Edwards watched her little girl gasping for air and wanted to breathe for her. She wanted the Maker of breaths to swoop in and fill her child's lungs and dissolve every tumor with His mere glance. She wanted another miracle.
It was the early morning of Saturday, October 30, 2004. Ten-year-old Erin Browning lay in a hospice bed in her home, in such pain and shortness of breath that, in fear and exasperation, she could manage only one request of her mother.
"Just read the Scriptures!" she said.
So Laurie began reading the Scriptures. She included Erin's favorite passage, Proverbs 3:5-6. From 1 a.m. until 5 a.m., loved ones took turns reading aloud the Word of God over a child in the last, cruelest stages of cancer's grip. Little Erin had battled for more than three years.
And now the end was near. Laurie tried to refuse to believe it, but her trust in the Lord remained steadfast. She was frightened and faithful all at once. She prayed for an eleventh-hour miracle. And she kept reading the Scriptures, as Erin had asked.
At one point, Laurie placed her Bible on the floor and stood on it, literally standing on the Word of God as she read over her child. Finally, after the long night of reading Scripture followed by another long night of hopeful prayer, Laurie consented for a hospice nurse to administer an IV with medicine that essentially placed Erin in a painless coma on Sunday afternoon. There would be no more gasping for breath.
I met Erin Browning on Valentine's Day, 2004 at Westover Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. Erin loved Casting Crowns, and, after six years of dance lessons, had choreographed a dance to our song "Here I Go Again." When Laurie initially contacted us, we made arrangements to meet their family before that concert. Three months later, Erin danced for the last time as her mother and two sisters joined her for a performance of "Here I Go Again" at The Carolina Theatre.
I was gripped by the imagery of Laurie's standing on her Bible and quoting Scripture over her sick little girl. After all the e-mail updates and prayers, that moment melted my heart and sparked the lyrics to this song.
I kept up with Erin's condition through Laurie's e-mails detailing the family's wrenching ordeal. Every e-mail described a change in Erin's condition. One e-mail would offer hope: "There is a new treatment, so please be praying." So we'd pray, and then the next e-mail would report, "It's not working."
Sometimes Laurie had questions: "What's going on? I feel like I'm all alone in this." But her love of Jesus remained fervent even though she questioned what was going on and didn't really understand the reasons. It was raw, rare faith, and it was inspiring.
On June 21, 2004, I e-mailed Laurie to tell her that I was writing a song for Erin entitled "Praise You in This Storm." Upon the news, Erin screamed so loud that it hurt Laurie's ears. Erin never got to hear the song, but Laurie heard it for the first time when her mother bought the CD on the day it was released and took it to the school where Laurie works. The two women sat in the car, listened to the song, and "cried and cried and cried."