A Story of Divine Presence and Cancer’s Limited Reach

Have you ever experienced a feeling of God’s presence such as a moment of special peace or a revelation of truth?

John’s Gospel reports that when Jesus asked the detachment of soldiers at his arrest who they were looking for, they said “Jesus of Nazareth.”  When Jesus responded, “‘I am he,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6)   

One biblical commentary says that John’s interpretation of Jesus’ enemies drawing back and falling to the ground was their unconscious recognition of his divine presence. 

Though they came to arrest him and eventually do him harm, they were apparently awed by his calm demeanor and presence.  They had heard of his miracles.  Some of them who had heard him teach in the temple courts said he spoke like no other. Now they were struck by his divine presence.

Sensing moments of God’s presence and grace in our lives may not be subject to objective observation, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen and are not real.  Let me share one example.

A number of years ago a secretary with whom I worked died of colon cancer.  Her name was Rita.  She was not only a highly competent secretary, but a lovely, gracious person.   She was always kind and fair with the other secretaries she supervised.  I watched her decline through two surgeries and multiple regimens of chemo therapy.  On my last visit with her before she died I was shocked by her physical condition – how she went from a vibrant woman in her mid-40s, so full of life, to a near skeleton of a person ravaged by cancer and chemo therapy.

That evening I was thinking about her condition, and I believe God gave me a special understanding of who we are that I had never thought about before.  Most of the aspects that determine who a person is, other than maybe athletic ability, cannot be attributed to their physical bodies.  Whether a person is kind, loving, truthful, and gracious comes not from a person’s physical presence, but from the inner person, the soul, and what we often describe as the heart.

Cancer can kill the physical body, but it can’t kill the inner person or the soul that lives on.  The soul is eternal just as the Bible says.  The next day I wrote Rita a letter sharing these same thoughts, which her family read to her.  I was told that a knowing smile came across her face, and the next day she died.

I believe I experienced a moment of God’s divine presence.  He shared a bit of His truth about life for both my benefit and Rita’s.  It is a moment I will always remember, and one that has re-enforced my Christian faith and changed my outlook on life.



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