“It’s cancer and you are in trouble”

“It is I, stop being afraid” John 6:20

I had an innocent looking tumour removed from the side of my tongue on a Wednesday. The doctor removed it under a local anaesthetic and told me as I hopped down from the table, “It does not look like anything but I will call you if the pathologist’s report says otherwise.” I thought no more about it until a week later and the surgeon’s office called saying the doctor wanted to see me immediately. Could I come at 7pm that evening when he began his evening office?

It was a no brainer. I immediately knew that I had cancer. I wondered why the doctor felt it was urgent that he tell me that night. Couldn’t it wait a couple of days, I thought? That night as he called me into his office he said in a loud voice. “It’s cancer and you are in trouble.”

I recall being fascinated at the news. I was not afraid at the time. Perhaps the confirmation of my suspicion was going to hit me later. Anyway, I was full of questions. I wanted to know exactly what the pathologist’s report said. I learned some anatomy that visit and asked about alternative procedures we might consider. He said there was only one issue. The only issue was how fast could he get me into hospital and perform surgery. The surgeon said he did not remove all the cancer a week ago and so had to operate again to try and get it all.

I wanted to know where secondaries would appear, what form of chemotherapy was available for my form of cancer and what about radiation. He told me there was not a good chemotherapy available for this type of the disease.

Two weeks later I was admitted and prepped for the operation. I recall vividly wondering if the surgery would necessitate leaving me without the ability to speak. What should I say before surgery considering that it might be the last words I would utter? I did not have any idea. So I just thought about the name “Jesus”. I believed He was my Saviour and would be with me regardless of how I left the operating room. Somehow I sensed that He would be all I needed even though I had no idea how He was going to take care of me.

Thankfully for me the operation was short and that meant it was not radical. It took some weeks before I learned to talk normally but tests indicated the disease had not spread and I had a good opportunity for an uneventful recovery. Since then I have had four more procedures done in the last 20 years. I have learned to live with cancer. It has been a process not some quick vision and all of my difficulties suddenly gone.

The words of Jesus in our verse today are remarkably comforting to people as confused as I was during the first few weeks after my diagnosis. I had not done anything to “cause” the disease. It just happened without any known reason. Alcoholics, people who chewed tobacco, people with dental appliances, these were the types who developed this sort of disease. I was none of the above.

Some time after my initial surgery, I was reading John 6 and the story of the storm on the sea. Jesus came walking to the disciples on the waves. They were terrified because of the storm and when they saw Him it compounded their fears. Their superstition got the best of them and they thought Jesus was a ghost. This is why Jesus told them to stop being afraid. That is the best way to translate this command Jesus gave.

Notice the word of Jesus just before He told them what to do. He gave them information calculated to make their fear go away. He told them He was there. It was Jesus’ expectation that the knowledge that He was there would be enough to dispel their fears. The sad thing is with many of us as followers of Jesus, His presence in the storm is not enough to stop our fear. When Matthew records this incident he adds a rebuke of Jesus. Jesus said, “Why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31.

The greater our understanding of Who Jesus is, the less we will fear. Fear feeds on ignorance. This was the disciple’s problem in the storm. They did not trust a sovereign Saviour. They did not believe Jesus would deal with the situation the best possible way. Their fear of dying in the storm overcame their faith in what was beyond death for the follower of Jesus.

Some time after the surgery I had, the surgeon commented to me that I was not afraid of dying. I acknowledged that he was correct. My children were still all at home and I had a desire to see them grown and on their own. I also wanted to continue caring for my widowed mother along with my brother and sister. There were some really good reasons for staying here. But if the Lord took me, I knew it was His will and He would care for those I left behind. Jesus was there in my storm and I determined to believe He was able to care for me.

Have you heard Jesus say these words to you in the confusion that is your life? He comes to all of His people who are in turmoil and says these words today. He never changes nor does His advice. Jesus tells you to stop being afraid. He is there and it is enough.

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