“Patient died. Mother prayed. Patient came back to life.” (Pastor Jason Noble). That quote pretty much sums up the movie, Breakthrough, which opened over Easter weekend and is based on a true story. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of the movie before someone at our church invited my wife and me to go see it. We went Sunday evening and I will say upfront, it’s a must-see movie. It not only shows the reality of prayer and miracles but also how a whole community can pull together in time of tragedy.

Breakthrough tells the true story of 14-year-old John Smith, who fell through an iced-covered lake in January 2015 and had no pulse of 45 minutes, and his mother Joyce’s, faith in his healing. The following description is from the movie website:

“BREAKTHROUGH is based on the inspirational true story of one mother’s unfaltering love in the face of impossible odds. When Joyce Smith’s adopted son John falls through an icy Missouri lake, all hope seems lost. But as John lies lifeless, Joyce refuses to give up. Her steadfast belief inspires those around her to continue to pray for John’s recovery, even in the face of every case history and scientific prediction. From producer DeVon Franklin (Miracles from Heaven) and adapted for the screen by Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds) from Joyce Smith’s own book, BREAKTHROUGH is an enthralling reminder that faith and love can create a mountain of hope, and sometimes even a miracle.”

The movie is riveting and emotional. I found myself pushing back tears in several places; especially seeing the love and tenacity of a mother (Joyce Smith, played by Chrissy Metz) who fought for her son’s life and recovery, even through it looked impossible to everyone else. One particular scene was in the ER where the doctors, after having done all they knew to do, had given up on John and left her alone with her lifeless son’s body so she could say farewell to him before they took him away. Instead, she cries out to God in prayer (more like yelling at Him to bring her son back!) and all of a sudden the monitor starts beeping, indicating her son’s pulse had started up again. And that was just the first miracle of many to come (I won’t tell anymore; you need to see the movie!)

As her pastor, Jason Noble (played by Topher Grace), said of her, “You’re the fiercest mama bear I’ve ever seen.” That’s probably an understatement! I also appreciated the real rawness and honesty that the film projected, showing how it was a test of faith and dealing with doubts, and even questioning why God does seem to answer some prayer more than others. That really is a mystery, which the film portrays well.

Even the doctor (Dr. Garrett, played by Dennis Haysbert) said of her, “His mother believes He can do the impossible. So we’re asking for that. There’s no other explanation.”
He later told Joyce after John woke up, “You son’s a miracle.”

I don’t usually review or recommend movies on this blog, but if you want to witness the retelling of a real, medically-documented miracle, and what prayer and faith and love can do, go see this movie. It’s moving, inspirational, and well-done.


About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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17 Responses to Breakthrough

  1. grabaspine says:

    If the kid wasn’t brain dead, he wasn’t really dead.

    • Mel Wild says:

      So he wasn’t “really dead, only mostly dead?” Right. I assume you will say anything not to believe in God or miracles, but people are pronounced dead all the time and buried without brain scans or being declared “brain dead.” Brain death is rarely tested for in these cases. The point is, if your heart stopped beating and your organs have shut down after several attempts to revive you, you’re pronounced dead in any ER.

      Here’s how it’s defined:
      “If you were in the hospital, this most likely will be at, or very close to, the time your biological processes stopped- your heart stopped beating or breathing stopped. It could also be when you are declared “brain dead.” Brain death requires several specific tests, and it usually has to be done by more than one physician.”

      This is from KSTK-TV St. Louis Article:
      “John Smith was pronounced dead after spending 15 minutes at the bottom of a frozen lake. Sixteen days later, he walked out of the hospital. Now his mother is sharing their story of faith and recovery.

      Rushed to the emergency room, doctors and nurses tried to get a heartbeat for 45 minutes before calling Joyce in and pronouncing John dead.

      “Mrs. Smith because of her strong will cries out ‘Dear Lord please,’ and if this doesn’t send chills for the second part of this miracle after that a nurse yells out to the doctor who was already walking out of the room we have a pulse.”

      “Then the heartbeat came,” recalls Captain Shine, “and the emotion, and the shock and awe that took place in that emergency room is indescribable.”

      • Mel Wild says:

        Correction: KSDK-TV

      • grabaspine says:

        No. He wasn’t dead. Didn’t “resurrect”. He was resussitated. The cold water protected his brain. And as he “thawed” his function returned… Under doctors supervision. That’s the history.

        • Mel Wild says:

          What is your point here? You have no evidence that he wasn’t brain dead before his heart started beating again. The only time brain function is mentioned is after his pulse returned, and then it was only brainstem function. Most people die without their brain function ever tested.

          And of course, he didn’t resurrect. People often use that term erroneously. Theologically speaking, resurrection is when your body is changed and never dies again. Jesus resuscitated Lazarus. The point there, Lazarus was dead for four days. But he wasn’t resurrected because he would die again. Resurrection is not the same thing as coming back from the dead.

          Dr. Garrett, who is a medical expert, said that cold water was a possible explanation but in this case the water was too warm, so that proves nothing. This is from your own link:

          “The only factors medically that were really in John’s favor is that this was a cold-water drowning,” said Dr. Jeremy Garrett (portrayed by Dennis Haysbert in the movie). He said that lowering the body temperature can preserve brain function, but that it “really shouldn’t have worked in John’s case.” This is because the lake water was only 40 degrees and John’s body temperature only dropped to 88 degrees, which isn’t cold enough to adequately protect the brain.

          “Usually you’d like it to be colder and you’d like the victim to be smaller actually,” said Dr. Garrett, “because what you really need to have happen is for the brain to get cold before the blood flow stops to the brain. So, for John’s brain to have gotten cold to be protected from the lack of blood flow and the lack of oxygen really is a miracle in itself, if that did anything here.”

          So, the brain should not been preserved here, a miracle in itself. And here’s the other testimonies from doctors in the same article you cited:

          “In researching the Breakthrough true story, we learned that John Smith was without a pulse for about an hour. He’d spent 15 minutes under water and another 40-plus minutes without a heartbeat after he was pulled from the lake. It was during that time that he was technically dead. “No spontaneous respirations. No heart tones. In essence, he was cold and he was dead. He was gone,” said Dr. Kent Sutterer, the ER doctor on duty that day.”Right at an hour with absolutely no life in his body whatsoever,” says Dr. Kent Sutterer, the doctor who was working in the ER the day that John was brought into SSM St. Joseph West Hospital.”

          Your desperate attempts of denial to discredit this story just makes you look petty and silly. Obviously, no amount of evidence will persuade you because your mind is already made up. You’ve wasted enough of our time here. Good-bye.

  2. grabaspine says:

    This link may also be helpful to tell history from fantasy fictional retelling.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I read your article. I don’t see your justification for calling it “fantasy fictional retelling.” Sounds like an a priori bias to me. For Hollywood standards, they pretty much concluded it was a factual retelling. Everyone involved in the actual event, including medical professionals, called it a miracle. You can believe whatever you want.

  3. Sounds like great fun, Mel! I’m always up for a good movie.

    As to those who don’t believe in miracles, our very life to begin with is already a miracle. And so, so many of us have seen the truth, have seen wonderful things the Lord has done. I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it, but I sure have seen it, more then a few times. 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      To those who don’t believe in miracles, they won’t believe even if they saw it with their own eyes. Their hearts are not open so their mind is shut (Luke 16:31). Their incessant nitpicking is annoying though. Now I know why Jesus was annoyed by the Pharisees. 🙂

  4. I like ole Grabs comment above. I have not seen the movie but feel confident to comment. Having been a paramedic for 20 or so years I know that a person is not considered dead until they are warm and dead. With that said, this goes beyond general resuscitation. What Grab is not factoring in is the fact that the body that has ceased cardiac function builds up toxins. After such a long period of being down, the sudden restart of his heart would have dumped an incredible amount of toxins into his blood stream that would have made it to his brain.

    General hypothermic treatment following cardiac arrest is to chill the body and then warm it up slowly so as to reduce the affects of this toxin dump. That did not occur in this case. Not to mention pneumonia from lungs being filled with water. No matter how you slice it, this was a miracle, plain and simple.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yeah, there were actually several different miracles with this incident, including what you said here. Just because no one could prove he was brain dead (which he was never tested for) is just a desperate attempt at dismissal. He was underwater for 14 minutes and without a pulse for just under an hour. Not to mention, he walked out of the hospital 16 days later with no symptoms. The doctors who worked on him, who are the experts here, called it a miracle.

      What really amazes me is how people just won’t believe no matter what you show them.

  5. bwcarey says:

    In times of Change God sends signs to re assure us, you are not alone, amen

  6. Pingback: Raise a Hallelujah | In My Father's House

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