At the funeral of his father-in-law who went home to be with the Lord after years of suffering with ALS, the young man said something that landed solid in my soul. “You don’t always get your miracle, but you may get to be a miracle for someone else.”
Oh yes! That’s it! My spirit leaped. How do you describe to those who pray in faith for a miracle — of healing, in life’s broken circumstances, of restoration — but do not see their miracle? Here is the godly answer: “You don’t always get your miracle, but you may get to be a miracle for someone else.”
This young man’s father-in-law, Steve Stern, lived this truth. He, his wife and family invited the world to watch as they lived out years of holy suffering. (http://www.bostern.com/) And what the world saw was raw and real … and faithful and true. This father-in-law who was the subject of the young man’s pride, was lauded by many as steadfast and courageous. And so, though he did not get his miracle, in his suffering, he became a miracle for many, many others.
If you Google “you don’t always get your miracle,” the first choices which pop up are “Make Miracles in Forty Days” and “How To Receive A Miracle”. Everyone wants a miracle — and they want it fast and free.
But the truth is not everyone gets their miracle. Some do and for that we praise our living God! It is kind that He still grants them in our time. But a miracle by definition is an extraordinary event, meaning it is not commonplace — it is after all, extraordinary. And so, what happens when we pray for our miracle and do not receive it? Will our faith become frayed? Will we question God and His goodness? Will we give up in despair?
Or will we see another possibility? The writer of Hebrews saw another possibility:
“It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith… these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.
“But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword.” (Hebrews 11:32-38)
Some get their miracles, but most do not! Yet this passage says so clearly that in Christ, the way we live out our circumstances when we don’t get our miracles can count even more greatly for God than if we had received our miracle!
When people like Steve Stern or Joni Eareckson Tada in our time don’t get their miracle, they show us something much like what the writer of Hebrews is saying here. By their faithful witness in great human suffering, they become a miracle for us. Our Christian generation would be poorer, much poorer, had we not seen and received their witness and the witness of others like them.
Dear Ones, I believe we will see many in our Christian time who will be given the great privilege of becoming a miracle for others. The cost of personal suffering will be great and the road will be harsh. But if we will see the truth that the miracle we pray for may indeed be realized in our suffering, we will step into the greatest miracle — showing others the way to live faithfully in Christ no matter what befall us.
I didn’t get my miracle, but I want to be a miracle for others.
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.