The headline made me stop scrolling: “Man Declared Dead, Comes Back to Life After 45 Minutes.”
I clicked through to read the details. The man’s wife had been woken up by his irregular breathing. Without any warning, he’d gone into full cardiac arrest and was rushed to the emergency room. The doctors had done all they could to revive him, but he was later pronounced dead.
When family was called into his room to say goodbye, his son stridently declared out loud that his dad would not die that day. Minutes later, the father’s heart began to beat irregularly and a week later he left the hospital. No heart transplant needed. No vegetative state. He was fully recovered.
Doctors were stunned and they declared it a miracle. The father said prayers and God’s work had saved him.
We’d also prayed for a miracle and begged God to restart a heart.
When I awoke to Dan’s irregular breathing and cardiac arrest, you better believe I had prayed. I had prayed the entire time I was doing chest compressions. I had prayed out loud while the EMTs were working on him. Long after the ER doctor pronounced him dead, I prayed that God would bring him back to life.
But our miracle never came.
Why is it that God does a miracle for one but not for another? Why are some miraculously healed but others are not?
Here’s what we need to know when God doesn’t give us the miracle we’ve prayed for.
1. Miracles are by definition not normative.
Miracles will never happen every time in every circumstance or they would cease to be miracles. Miracles are rare instances for an outcome with no human explanation.
I still wish we’d had a miracle. Maybe you’ve prayed for one as well. But if God met every circumstance with a miracle, well, they would never make the news. They’d be ho-hum, normal, predictable non-miracles.
2. Miracles are not about outcomes but God’s glory.
Jesus performed many miracles but they were never an end in themselves. They were always meant to reveal His divinity and display His glory.
When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4.
And after He healed blind Bartimaeus, Bartimaeus “followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people when they saw it, gave praise to God.” Luke 18:43
Though our flesh wants every problem solved, this life is about glorifying God whether we get a miracle or not.
3. Miracles are not a report card on our faith.
The Bible is full of faithful men and women never miraculously healed or rescued.
Look at Paul. Paul had rock solid faith and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He was no stranger to miracles. God had blinded Paul and then restored his vision, opened prison doors and even given Paul miraculous power to heal others.
And yet, God did not miraculously take the thorn from Paul’s flesh. Though Paul prayed for it, that miracle never came. Instead, Paul learned about sustaining grace.
Miracles are not a report card on our faith. Perhaps sustaining grace better reflects the faith God sees in us.
4. Miracles never define God’s character.
Maybe you’ve thought, “If there really is a God, and He really is good, then He will answer my prayer.” But we can’t use an ultimatum to prove or disprove God and His character.
God declared who He is in the Bible. He’s revealed Himself as sovereign, as good and as loving beyond our comprehension.
That’s true regardless of whether God gives us a miracle.
“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8) Christ’s death and resurrection proved once and for all that He is God, He is sovereign over every circumstance and He loves us.
5. Miracles are not the answer to suffering; God is.
What if God had done the miracle we had prayed for and restored Dan’s life? What then?
Well, we would have celebrated! We would have skipped all the grief and been able to resume life as we knew it.
While miracles may alleviate some of the suffering in this life, God has a far greater gift for us. The greatest miracle is that Jesus entered time, was born a baby, lived out a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected to new life.
We often want our miracle and forget the miracle God has done.
The gospel is the miracle we all need. It’s the only miracle that can alleviate all suffering for all time for those who believe.
We did not get the miracle we wanted, but God did answer my prayer. That morning, with rescue working on Dan, I’d paced my living room begging for God’s mercy. Over and over and out loud I asked God to be merciful to us.
While God’s mercy has not looked like what I wanted, it has been more than enough to carry us in grief and into the Chapter 2 He has for us.