’m sure many of you have stories to tell,” the pastor said. “Stories of how the Lord has been there for you and delivered you in a miraculous way. Will you come and share some of these stories with us?”
One woman was quick to tell how the Lord had intervened to save a beloved pet. Another described how God had come through for her to cure an illness the doctors thought incurable without radical surgery. One boy talked about how his brother was saved after being pinned in the back of a truck by several cords of firewood. My son shared how God saved his dad from being crippled during a surgery. They were stories to move your heart and bring tears to your eyes.
But what about the times when it seems that God stays His hands? I wondered. What about the times when He does not intervene? When the cancer runs rampant throughout our bodies and no miraculous cure occurs? When our spouse is not converted? When a life mate isn’t found despite our loneliness? When the much-wanted baby dies? Why can’t we talk about these nonmiracles?
What is a miracle? Many would agree it’s an extraordinary intervention that defies reason, time, and place and operates outside the known laws of the natural world. Something that shouldn’t have happened, but did. Yet when God stays His hands and does not intervene in a way we can see or feel or fathom, I say these are—or can be—miracle-making occasions.
For the past six years I’ve helplessly watched my mother become a familiar stranger. She feels the same about me. Some days I am a sister, a daughter, or a nice woman—greeted, hugged, forgotten, spit on, yelled at, greeted, hugged, and forgotten again, all within the same visit. The mother who bore me, reared me with love, would have given her life for me, now has only vague and sometimes no memory at all of our shared past.
Recognizing that God cannot trust me with too much success, wealth, or calm seas, I told Him a long time ago that He should do whatever it takes to get me to the kingdom. I’ve concluded that He took me at my word. Knowing my mother was going to take a difficult journey into an unmarked mental wasteland, He prepared the way for a drawn-out miracle.
I prayed for God to heal my mom; it didn’t happen. I prayed we wouldn’t have to put her into a nursing home, but that’s where she had to go. I prayed for the ability to emotionally withdraw so that I wouldn’t feel so bad. It was not in His plan for me. Now I just pray for strength to get through the next day, the next phase, and take joy in the good days. Live in the moment. And throughout these past six years I’ve watched my relationship with God blossom and my reliance on myself diminish.
Reflecting on this particular journey, I’ve concluded that sometimes the miracle or the divine intervention is not to remove what annoys, hurts, depresses, or distresses. Sometimes the miracle is the beauty that develops and grows inside us when we have to lean each moment on the Everlasting Arms. The miracle is the peace we have that defies understanding, the joy we have in the middle of the pain, and the strength we’re given to make it through just one more day.
Yes, sometimes God intervenes to make the bad things all go away. But other times He says, “This is going to be a rough one, My child. I will not take this one away. But I promised on the cross of Calvary that I will be right there with you every step of the way. I will not give you more than you can bear.”
If you think God is putting too much on your shoulders right now, He must know something about your strength that you don’t. So look up and say, “All right, God, if You think I can do this, then I will try.”
Then watch Him grow an extra muscle of faith in you, tone that muscle with peace, shape it with endurance, and massage it with love. Watch God make a miracle of you and transform you into a citizen fit for heaven—even when He stays His hands.
Yvonne Rodney is director of Career Services at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. She enjoys writing and spending time with her husband, Dennis, and children, Jeremy and Jessica. She attends the Toronto West Adventist Church. Her mother has since died at the age of 87