I was listening to our local Christian radio station this morning on my way to work and I caught the end of a caller sharing how her son was in terrible condition following some illness or accident and how God healed him despite the doctor’s grim prognosis. At first, I smiled a grateful “He can do anything” smile, and then resentment began creeping up within me. I realized that for many listeners, they felt warmth and encouragement by this mom’s story. It radiated from her proud-mama voice as she described all her son has done and accomplished despite what doctors thought. But I knew because I’m a loss mom, a bereaved mother, a woman who has buried a child, that there were many people like me out there feeling the same resentment I felt. That’s the thing about loss. It robs you from the joy of miracles.
When you are a Christian and disaster hits your family – some accident or awful diagnosis – you know where you are supposed to turn. You pray. You rally the troops and gather your community to surround and support you. You wait and watch for God to work. You pray long and loudly. You might fast, or your church might hold special services. I remember once thinking it was dumb to try and talk God into something – but yet I still just had to remind Him in every prayer that the miraculous healing of my daughter would give Him such a great opportunity to show everyone His power and glory.
Living in an ICU forces you to come to grips with the fact that miracles are few and far between, and incredibly unpredictable. While in the CVICU with our daughter, which was located just across the way from the PICU, we saw this first-hand. While the cardiac unit was filled with families like ours; our long-haul kiddos climbing the slow, arduous mountain of open-heart surgery. Meanwhile, the PICU was always moving and rotating and buzzing with trauma and fear. We saw rooms fill and empty over and over again. The boy in the four-wheeler accident. The woman screaming in the hall as her two children passed away from injuries from the car wreck that also claimed her husband. For those families and the nurses and doctors who cared for them, there were no miracles. It was true on the CVICU side too. The boy next door needed a trach and had struggle after struggle. His future looked poor, and he ended up on a transplant list, while our little girl healed slowly and made progress towards going to the step-down unit. Then, he got his heart transplant and went home pink and healthy, and we buried our daughter 4 months later.
Loss and trauma, especially as a Christian parent, forces you to come face to face with God’s character and His sovereignty. Who He chooses to heal and who He blesses with miracles seems to make no sense. You throw yourself at His feet, beg Him, plead with Him, and sometimes it can feel like He just won’t listen. I remember crying out to Him, and as blasphemous as it was, I told God either He was cruel and unloving or just not even real. They were shallow and untrue words uttered from a broken-hearted mother. Fortunately, God is big enough to handle my anger. He lets His children pound angry fists into His chest.
For the longest time after my daughter’s death, and even still, I fight bitterness that He did not choose to heal her. Now, I can see that had she lived I would not have my son Finley. Seeing how it has worked out doesn’t in any way lessen the hurt, though. It’s nice when you can see how an unanswered prayer works out for your benefit later, but sometimes there seems to be no explanation this side of heaven. This requires deeper trust in Him. It requires pushing past this cultural misconception of God as the all-powerful, all-loving genie.
Even receiving the miracle of an unexplainable pregnancy following ten years of infertility and miscarriages has not made me feel any less awkward about the topic of miracles. I still worry with every much-to-be-celebrated belly photo, because it wasn’t long ago that I was the woman who worked and worked to find peace and contentment in the fact that God wasn’t going to remove the barrenness from my womb. I still stare down at my 31-week bump in disbelief.
It is absolutely wonderful to celebrate the miracles of God. They can and should be lauded as testimonies of His power. But just as important, Christians need to also praise Him when the miracles don’t happen. When the healing doesn’t come, that’s when we really have to dig deep into our faith and shout out His goodness. That’s when we have to show the world God’s true character. It is in those moments, not the happy times of miracles, that a lost world can see the peace that truly passes all understanding and that real hope that is not dependant on circumstance.