Friday, September 19, 2014

When Miracles Don't Come

Last week our church laid to rest a young mom.  A mom who had battled cancer for the last three years of her life.  A mom who left behind behind a husband, a six year old daughter and a four year old son.  

A few weeks prior to this, in a completely separate conversation, someone asked me if I thought God still performed miracles.  

I told her, "Yes! I absolutely believe in miracles!"

Do I still think that today?

Yes.  I really do.  But I also recognize that it is not always in God's will to heal.

Some of you may nod your heads and agree with that statement.  And some of you may see red and get spitting mad. That's okay.  I get that. I do.

How could it possibly be "God's will" for a child to lose a mother or a husband to lose a wife?  Honestly? I don't know.  I don't pretend to understand why God does what He does.  Why God allows what He allows.  I don't understand why there is so much loss and pain in this world.  I only know there is.  

I also know God never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  I know God is our refuge and strength in times of trouble (Psalm 50:15 and 62:8).  I know that in Him is a peace that passes understanding (Phil 4:7).  I know His word is true and He keeps His promises.  

There was a time in my life, years ago, when I fell to my knees and cried out to God for a miracle.  But that miracle never came.  I know what it feels like when God chooses not to answer your prayer.  I know what it feels like to believe in a God you know is perfectly capable of healing, perfectly capable of performing miracles; and yet have to live with the aftermath of a dream shattered, the absence of a miracle, the loss when healing didn't come.  I know what that feels like.

And though I can accept those moments, share my grief (and sometime even anger) with God and lean on Him in the turmoil that follows; I would be lying if I said the question of "Why?" never entered my mind. 

Sometimes, I am able to understand the "Why?" given enough time and distance.  Other times, I'm not.  I still have no answer to give when someone comes to me with a heavy heart asking why God didn't do what they know he is capable of doing.

In my seminary reading this week Richard Rohr, a catholic priest, wrote something to this effect...  Jesus never healed for the sake of healing.  The miracles Jesus performed, all of them, were always about, and always will be about, inner transformation.  People today cry out to God and ask for healing, but have no interest in the inner transformation that must go along with it.  

So I looked back at many of Jesus's healings and it turns out, Rohr is right.  Jesus healed not so bodies would be healthy but so souls would be saved.  When I cried out to God for my miracle years ago, the one that never came, I wasn't crying out for transformation, I wasn't interested in inner change.  I was calling out for my wants.  Legitimate, God honoring wants, but wants all the same.  In the 12 years since the night I spent on my knees, I have been more transformed by His faithfulness, His love and His devotion to me, than I ever would have been had He performed a miracle that night.  

I will never fully understand why God takes a child before their life has been fully lived.  I will never fully understand why God would take a young mother from a family that desperately needs her.  But these are things God never intended for me to fully understand;  that is why it is called faith.  I have to have faith that His way is best.  I have to have faith that His plan is perfect, even when it makes no sense to me.  I have to have faith that "ALL the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful" (Psalm 25:10), even when it's not the way I want things to be.  

God is gracious and compassionate (Neh 9:17), don't forget that.  Even when the miracle doesn't come.