Beliefnet's Bible Q&A columnist recently received this letter from a member.

Dear Mr. Witherington,

I don't really know what my question is, to be honest. I just found this website "Belief" with your name, offering to give answers, to the best of your knowledge.

I am a 31-year-old female. I have been fighting cancer for quite a while now. I have two children, a son Eric, 11, and a daughter Brittany, 7. I am going through a divorce right now, after almost 14 years of being together. I do have to admit that this is something that is long overdue. Through all of my surgeries and my chemotherapy treatments, my husband never once went with me or was any kind of support. In fact he had a very cruel affair with some woman through my toughest times.

I apologize for giving you my life story. What I am getting at is this: I have always believed in God.. but I think mainly because I would rather believe than think that there is nothing out there after we die. I have friends and family that almost revolve their lives around church and their faith in God. I myself just somehow didn't include this in my life. No reason why. In fact I encourage it in my children's lives. They both attend church with a friend at least every Wed. night, and usually Sundays.

Lately I seem to be filled up with so many questions. When the reality of life and death becomes something very real to us, as individuals, we discover exactly how many doubts we really have. A good friend of mine told me that it is important that I find the peace that I so badly need. He told me that I have been trying to fight all of these battles alone, and that I am putting so much extra stress on my health.

Do you really believe that I would be able to feel at peace? Right now I am afraid of death, but I know it's because we fear the unknown, right? Would I be able to find the answers that maybe I am looking for? I want so desperately to live my life, every single day! I have always remained such a positive person, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed, and rather weak. But I don't tell anyone. I just deal with it alone.

Thank you for reading my letter. It probably is way off base for what you ever have time to bother with. But I just didn't know who to talk to.


Barbara S.

Dear Barbara: Dear Barbara:

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. I found it very moving. I do indeed believe you can find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The sort of peace I have in mind is not the kind the world has on offer. I am not, for example, referring to the absence of pain or suffering. Nor am I merely talking about peace of mind. The peace I am referring to is what the Hebrew word shalom really conveys--namely a sense of God's very loving presence, which brings with it a sense of well being.

This peace doesn't involve the absence of something, but rather the presence of Someone. In many ways this is a peace that passes rational understanding, but it is no less profound for that.

When Christ comes into a person's life by means of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit begin to develop in the heart of that person.
One of these fruits is God's peace and a sense that all will be well even when you are not feeling well. Some of the people I have found to be most at peace with who they were and what was happening to them and their bodies have been those who have been suffering the most. This is because their peace came not from their circumstances being easy, but from their Lord Jesus who dwells within them.

There is a mystery to suffering. No one can explain why all suffering happens, though sometimes it is caused by human inhumanity, by the forces of nature, and the like. But my Christian faith is not based on what I don't understand about God and life, but rather what I do understand. And what I do understand is this: that several verses from the Gospel of John are absolutely true. They include John 14:27, in which Jesus speaks of his parting gift to his disciples: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you, not the kind the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled or be afraid." There is also John 16:23: "I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble. But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."

Notice that this peace is directly connected to Jesus and comes when a person receives it in the context of having a personal relationship with Jesus. As the bumper sticker says "Know Jesus, Know peace; no Jesus, no peace."

I hope you will turn to him, perhaps in the context of actually going to church with your kids. Don't let your doubts or questions keep you away. What you need is not so much an answer to all your questions, as a solution to your problem of not being at peace, and Jesus can certainly help you with that.

God Bless,

Ben Witherington

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