Estimated five-year survival rates for those diagnosed with colorectal cancer with current medical treatment.
Stage 1 — 93%
Stage 2 — 78%
Stage 3 — 64%
Stage 4 — 8%
A few days ago I received a message from a good friend. She had been diagnosed with a sigmoid colon tumour. A doctor, she would be aware of the above statistics. I had the privilege to visit with and pray for her. The passage about Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:35–41) came to mind. I read that to her before I prayed.
We never know when we will be struck by the storms of life. A day may begin like any other, unfold like any other, when without warning we are swamped by a crisis that is so overwhelming that all our usual coping mechanisms are horribly inadequate. How are we to respond? This is Jesus’s word to His disciples after He had calmed the storm:
“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40 NIV)
I have also had moments when my life was swamped and I thought I was going to “drown”. Fear is a protective mechanism. It is a normal response when we are threatened. But if you are a disciple of Jesus, you are called to move beyond fear, to faith. The issue is not the magnitude of the storm. The issue is: will we respond to the storms of life with faith. But faith in what? Faith in whom? Who is Jesus to call us to faith when the threat is so overwhelming?
Exactly. The only way we can respond in faith in the face of the crushing challenges of life is to be utterly clear who Jesus is. The disciples asked the right question:
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (v. 41 NIV)
Who is this? Who is this Jesus who has the audacity to call us to faith? The one who can control the wind and the waves with a word. And every Jew knows that only YHWH (Psalm 65:5–8) can still the waves. It is God Himself who calls us to faith. Indeed the same Jesus who calls us to faith is also the one who conquers death, the final enemy of all humankind. In short there is no threat outside His ability to deliver.
As I prayed with my friend, we reaffirmed the lessons of this passage. Medical statistics are just that, statistics that summarise what usually happens. Statistics do not dictate what happens. God does.
We note that the disciples were buffeted by the storm in the midst of obeying Jesus’s command to cross the lake. Sometimes God allows us to go through storms. But if a sovereign God permits us to go through an affliction, He must have a purpose, though sometimes, like Job, we may not know what that purpose is. What we do know is that we are called to have faith in Jesus. Perhaps, all we need to know is, like the disciples, a crisis is a fresh opportunity to remember who Jesus is and to remember to trust in Him afresh.