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What About When Miracles Don't Happen?

“When my friend Nabeel Qureshi died a year after his cancer diagnosis, I had to ask myself the question, ‘why?’” In exploring this difficult personal question in his final Take Five of the week, RZIM’s Matthew Mittelberg seeks comfort in three key Biblical truths about God’s character.

God cares deeply; the pain hurts us, but it hurts God too. Every person you love, God loves infinitely; He’s not indifferent to our pain.

The truth is, healing is not our ultimate hope, as Christians. Heaven is.

As much as the pain we feel now is real, it is categorically insignificant when compared to the glory of being with the Lord for all eternity in a place where we are completely known and unconditionally loved. That is a comforting hope.

Make it Personal

  • Have you prayed for a miracle that wasn’t answered in the way you wanted or expected? How did you respond?

  • What does it look like to earnestly seek and pray for miracles while simultaneously recognizing that our ultimate hope is in heaven?

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@jspare. At first, this question felt difficult. But honestly, the greatness of my walk with the Lord has been realized doing these times. Times when I felt keenly the limitations of my humanity. And times I felt bereft of the sufficient amount of righteousness; to persuade Heaven to answer as I desired.

One such time was at the death of my 10-year-old nephew. My prayer had been steadfast, my attention had been slavish and dependable. After being diagnosed with rare cancer; the cure begin to take my nephew’s life.

Time will not permit me to retell all that took place, but I had seen GOD work wonders in his situation. It never occurred to me that he would die from the cure. On that final night, I had ran from the hospital feeling very much like the old hymn. “I was way down yonder by myself and I couldn’t hear nobody pray.” I was angry with his Mom and my family. I felt their lives made them unreliable prayer partners, and I needed help. I needed someone to join with me in prayer to stay his death.

Even after returning to the hospital, I could not enter at first. I can’t say specifically what the Lord gave to me in that moment of extreme grief. But it gave me the courage and fortitude to return to his room. Which was filled to capacity with lights lowered. People were sitting shiva I guess.

While standing at the foot of his bed. My hand embracing his little leg in my heart I begin to hear my nephew singing one of his favorite songs. “Our GOD is an awesome GOD, He reigns from Heaven above. With wisdom, power, and love; our GOD is an awesome GOD.”

I begin to sing along. Through voices cracking with grief, one by one every person in the room joined in. When the song ended my nephew had left.

I can’t say that in the days to come my heart did not break with tears. Because it did. And even at this retelling, my throat swells with the memory of that night. But experiences like this one are the ones that have taught me most about the faithful companionship of the Lord.

I continue to learn not to fear the unpleasantness of this life. I find with each situation where the answer has been no, there is a gift of unmeasurable proportion for me. These times are the times that have taught me most about resting in the back of the boat, on the pillow of GOD’s grace; even as the storm rages and the billows roll. I know I can trust Him. Regardless of how it feels. Despite the despair that seeks to overwhelm me. I won’t forget that I am so journeying in this life. I am on my way home.

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@jspare these are two great questions.

  1. This past week I prayed for my mother’s leg and it was greatly improved. Praise the Lord! Last night at a meeting I prayed for a man’s back. To the best of my knowledge, it was not healed yet. Praise the Lord! My answer is to praise the Lord in both circumstances. PTL that I stepped out in faith both times and gave God the opportunity to touch these people. My job is simply to pray and believe, the answer is up to God. (Mark 16:18)

  2. I think I have answered this question in part when I say above that we are called to pray. We cannot heal, we cannot do miracles. That is God’s job. It is very important that we do not take offense, if the answer is not what we expect (Matthew 11:6).

N.T. Wright would not be too happy with the second quote. He argues that heaven is not our home and that our hope is in, “life after life after death”. Meaning that after a time in heaven we will be resurrected here on Earth, and then complete healing (sozo in Greek, meaning spirit, soul and body healing) will be a part of our ultimate hope. PTL!

Thank you for this thought provoking question. Amen to the Romans 8 quote and the example of Nabeel. He went 100% after healing and took no offense over the outcome. What an amazinge example to me, he is to this day,

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Thank you Joshua. Your Take Five message was enlightening!
I was taught in Bible School that a miracle is a superseding or suspension of natural laws, whereas a blessing is within natural laws. Therefore instead of praying for a miracle, that I must thank God for the multitude of blessings He bestows upon us each day. Do you agree with this? I truly want your comment.

Yes, I have prayed for miracles in the past, but accepted God’s will when my prayer did not bring forth the miracle I had prayed for. I remembered how Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” This helped me to understand very much.
Thank you Joshua. You have blessed me greatly.

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I feel completely unqualified to answer these questions because I have never personally experienced a moment in which God did not answer my prayers with an answer that did not meet my expectations. Every time that I reflect on my life I see moments where he took what to me was a long time to answer, but he has always provided better than what I requested. Sometimes he seemed silent, but then swooped in with a completely unexpected gift. One time I owed an unexpected amount of taxes and had no idea how I was going to pay them. I prayed for weeks for a way to pay them without going into debt. I told nobody about it. An unsolicited check for twice the amount that I owed arrived in the mail just a day or two before the deadline–after I had finally asked my parents for help in humiliation. God taught me three things: he does send manna, I need to be humble, and he is infinitely generous.

What if he had not provided that check? Millions of people who are starving do not get checks. That is why I need to pass his generosity forward to them. I believe that God gives me what I give to others. One thing that he has given me is grace and mercy. I always have that, no matter what else he may take from me. Therefore I cannot judge anyone who suffers material want and is angry about it. I need to walk with them and give them whatever comfort that I can give them because God has given so much to me. I feel like Oskar Schindler in some ways: I always see one more thing that I can give or do for someone who is not getting that for which they pray.

Oh, may God make me the blessing to others that he has been to me! May I reflect his face to everyone who I meet! But if I face poverty, degradation, or death, may he grant me strength to endure and grace to forgive!

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I love this thread already.
I prayed earnestly for God to work in my mom’s heart and mind a decade ago. She walked out on my stepfather, divorced him, and moved away after joining a church sect called Cradle of Hope led by a man who proclaims himself to be a prophet. I knew no one else could change her mind because she wouldn’t discuss it with me. Unfortunately, a decade later, she is still rooted in false teachings and doctrine.
My response through all of it was to lean on my church family. I probably learned more and stood up for my faith more than ever. I continue to stand up for my faith to my sister now. I learned more Scripture than ever before and my faith truly became my own.
I can’t say I was happy or am happy about where my mom and sister are…but I still believe God is sovereign. I still pray for them.

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God is completely sovereign. He hears our prayers and hurts with us but his plan will not be thwarted. Isaiah 55:9 is one of my favorite verses. In ALL things praise Him! In all things to him be the Glory! Amen!

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Thanks for sharing this powerful story. How incredible is it that in the face of death we can sing songs of praise to God because of the hope we have in him. Reminds me of the early church martyrs that joyfully sang hymns to the Lord. Our hope defies the world.

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@cer7, so beautifully described the storm of life with the eternal hope in our hearts. Thank you for sharing such a difficult memory.

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Hi Kathy,

This is Matthew from the video – thanks for sharing your thoughts! To give a shot at answering your question, the definition of a miracle that I prefer and used in the first video is by Richard Purtell, and it is “A miracle is an event (1) brought about by the power of God that is (2) a temporary (3) exception (4) to the ordinary course of nature (5) for the purpose of showing that God has acted in history.

So God’s everyday blessings are things we should be thankful for, but they wouldn’t count as “miracles” in this sense. That being said, we can still ask for miracles. Perhaps the reason we don’t see many miracles in our lives is because we don’t ask for them. But I fully agree with your distinction – we need to be open to the idea that God’s plans are better than ours, and even if we ask for things with full righteousness and faith, as Jesus did, our attitude should be “nevertheless not my will by yours be done.”

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Hi Matthew,
Thank you for your wonderful response.

I am blessed by it!

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There have been times when I have prayed fervently in the midst of a crisis and God answered “no” or “wait.” Those have been very hard, but in hindsight, I can see where God was bringing about maturity and growth that I would not otherwise have had. He has also been teaching me to see the eternal perspective, that all setbacks and hurts here are temporary and all will indeed be well in His time. I still have a lot to learn in His school, but every lesson He brings me through develops both the roots and the wings of faith a little further—the roots to remain steadfast, the wings to rise higher toward where He wants me to be.

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