THE BLOG
09/28/2016 03:04 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2017

Why Miracle Stories Hurt

Miracle stories are a constant in Christian religious settings, from the story of Christ's resurrection to stories of Saints' miracles in modern days. Miracles can be an important part of a religious person's personal relationship with God. If a miracle is the proof that God loves us and listens to our prayers, if they show His power by either breaking the known laws of the universe at least exceeding our understanding of those lows, what could be bad about a miracle? Well, for those who haven't had a miracle, the refrain of hearing of God's hand in the lives of others, showing His love for them and not for you, can be very painful.

Years ago, a dear friend of mine was in a car accident and her son was badly injured. As a congregation, we took a Sunday to fast and pray for her son, and he was miraculously healed, showing no sign of permanent injury. My friend was tearful, thankful, and felt very blessed. But she did not forget the other woman in our congregation, a woman whose son had suffered irreparable damage in a car accident years earlier, and who had not been completely healed despite the prayers and fasting of the congregation for him. My friend knew that this woman would be trying to be thankful on behalf of her friend, but would also be inevitably thinking about her own still damaged son. She went to the other woman and they wept together.

It wasn't selfishness for the woman who was still hurting to wonder again why God hadn't healed her son, and it was a beautiful compassion that sent my friend to her, seeing that her own miracle might not be met with universal acclamation. When you child isn't restored after all the prayers and fasting in the world, it can be difficult to celebrate the evidence of God's love for another child. What do you do with your own feelings of jealousy and pain? Of course, you wouldn't wish bad on anyone else.

But it is perfectly reasonable to ask, "Why not me?" or "Why not my child?" when hearing stories of miracles for others. It is very common to wonder if you are being punished. For some, the call to repentance can be a valuable moment to change your life and do better. For others, the hint that a tragedy is to be interpreted as a call to repentance may feel like a slap in the face from God and from a faith community. It is not that anyone believes they are perfect, but to be told that you were not worthy of a show of God's love is a bitter pill to take.

So why does God only have miracles happen some of the time that His devoted believers ask for them?

The truth is that we don't know why and any attempt to say that we do is going to fall short of the need of those who are in pain. I believe that one answer is to do as my friend did, to make sure that the one who receives the miracle remembers those who did not, and shows love to them. It is also the responsibility of a community of believers to embrace those who do not get the miracle as much as those who do. Of course, we are more thrilled when we believe we have seen a miracle and we may give extra attention to that because it proves our faith. But this is also a kind of selfishness on our part as Christian believers, to want to foreground the miracle story rather than the other story.

We are called to mourn with those that mourn, and that includes those who have not been given the miracle. Perhaps you might be tempted to say that we have all experienced miracles. Life itself is a miracle. The love of good people is a miracle of a kind, as well. If we look carefully, surely we can all find miracles we have been given in life. And we can all find miracles that have been denied us. It's all about attitude, right? You just have to be looking for a chance to be grateful, and you will find it?

Well, it's a little more complicated than that in my opinion. Of course, we can all find ways to appreciate the love of God and to see the power of His Hand in the world. Looking out into nature can be very soothing. I personally make it a practice to think of three things I'm grateful for that happened each day of my life. But gratitude for everyday miracles is not the same as wanting a manifest miracle. Some want miracles to have their faith confirmed. Others are genuinely heartbroken by a loss and feel abandoned by God.

I believe that when we see another's prayers are not answered by God's hand, it is time for us to become the miracle ourselves in someone else's life. No, we cannot raise the dead. We cannot heal those who are facing life-altering illnesses. But we can hold the hand of a parent who has lost a child. We can sit by and help those who are dying. We can stop emphasizing the miracle person's story over the story of the believer who has questions about not getting a miracle. If God is love, then we can show a miracle in our love.