You know that ‘miracle’ story?
The one where they prayed for belief and their friend came to believe.
The one where they asked for healing and the illness was gone.
The one where they prayed for a child and a womb was filled.
These are the stories we tend to hear, the stories we tend to envision when thinking on the miraculous work of the Lord, on the supernatural power of His Spirit. And rightly so! After all, is this not the sort of thing that happened in mass on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was given to us? The book of Acts says the Spirit would bring prophesies, visions, dreams, wonders, signs; and it did, the apostles performed many wonders and signs, regularly. And the Spirit is alive and active today in the same ways.
Yet, this idea of a miracle as being something only relegated to healing, to new belief, to new life is far from the grandeur and scope of what a miracle of God truly entails.
So, miraculous: amazing, astounding, extraordinary, remarkable, highly improbable, against all odds perhaps, something so inexplicable only something divine or supernatural could have brought it about. I think we would all agree with this as our working definition of something miraculous.
However, could all of those things apply when the circumstances are not so rosy? When the illness is not gone, when the womb is not filled, when the witness to a lost world is crushed?
Yes, perhaps even in a fuller sense.
It would be easy to praise God when you got the circumstances you were hoping for: the child you prayed for, the cancer gone, the unbelieving spouse reborn. But when the circumstances remain dire, or even turn for the worse, is not the continued praise of God in those moments even more miraculous (amazing, astounding, extraordinary, remarkable, highly improbable, against all odds, something so inexplicable only something divine or supernatural could have brought it about)?
Miraculous: That a mom (Kate Merrick) after losing her 8 year old daughter (Daisy Love) to a nasty, I mean nasty fight with cancer that lasted years, after prayer and fasting and holistic approach and medical approach and experimental approach and everything they had, but lost her, can proclaim that Jesus is enough and even write a book about how enough he is. Her book is And Still She Laughs – Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering.
Miraculous: That a dad (Horatio Spafford) after his business literally burns to the ground and he sends his family on vacation to meet up with them in a few days, loses all 4 of his young daughters on a shipwreck at sea, would then travel to the very spot the ship sank and pen the words “when peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, though has taught me to say, It is well, It is well with my soul”.
Miraculous: That a wife (Elisabeth Elliot) after following the Lord into missions to unreached tribal groups in South America, fierce tribal groups who readily killed outsiders, would become a young widow with a 10 month old after said tribal groups speared her husband and their 4 missionary friends to death. Yet she would continue to pursue this group, laying down her grief and pain before the Lord, and 1 year after her husband Jim’s death, by remarkable providence, would go to live with this tribe for two years, witnessing God’s spirit transform the tribe into a people for his name.
This is miraculous: that when the world is falling apart, our Lord is enough, his presence is enough. He restores our soul and leads us into fullness even when our circumstances pull us to doubt, anger, frustration, or despair.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Goodness and mercy follows us – in the crumbling of our circumstances, in the brokenness of our shortcomings – goodness and mercy follows us in that we get Him. He doesn’t turn his back on us, He doesn’t disregard us; He pursues, He redeems, He gathers us to himself… for eternity.
“How Great the Love of God” from the album Beneath the Canopy
by The Village Church
“How great the love of God, that it endures,
it pursues, even a sinner like me.
How great the love of God, determined,
resolved to save, to redeem.
Unwavering, unchanging, never resting, never tiring,
Boundless, and unfailing; how great the love that covers me.
How great the love of God, so merciful,
You don’t turn Your face from me.
How great the love of God, that it sustains me,
bearing my burdens, restoring my soul.
How great the love, that covers me
How great the love, that pardons me
How great the love, stirs my heart to sing
How great the love, that covers me”
But what can we do in the meantime, when the waves of affliction ensue, when the weight of suffering in this world threatens to drown us? When we can’t seem to tread the waters any longer? And we are not drawn to faithfulness, but rather the opposite.
Charles Spurgeon once said “I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the rock of ages”.
I think often times our own resilience can be our enemy. If wave after wave continues to throw us against the rock, yet we continue to jump off, in search of our own shore, our own boat, our own refuge, we would become exhausted; our arms heavy from swimming, our lungs tired from panting, our body sore from effort. Until, at last, we can’t do anything more, whether we want to or not.
However, when the waves slam us in to the rock, what would happen if we turned and clung on for life? The waves would still come, the storm may still be fierce, but our energies would be focused on one thing: clinging on for dear life to the rock. The rock would bear the brunt of the waves, the rock would remain secure and not be tossed to and fro by the waters, in fact, with our bodies glued to the rock, laid out plastered on its surface, the waves would in fact continue to keep us affixed to our rock.
Yet, in both scenarios, our God remains faithful, and does the miraculous; the miraculous work of surrounding us with his loving presence. The Lord wants us in His loving presence. Jesus came to bring us into that loving presence. While we were still swimming on our own, he brought the rock. Jesus is not interested in our swimming abilities, how long we can hold our breath, our knowledge of tides and weather and waves, and he doesn’t care how deep the waters we are in, how far off the coast we have come; he is interested in being with us, with you; being our rock, our refuge, our all.
So maybe you are in the dark right now, deep in the waters. Jesus is there, he always was, he will continue to be. While you descended to the depths, he was there. And now at the bottom, he is there. There to pull you from the deep, to give you hope, security, assurance, life. Cling to him.
Or maybe you know he is there, but think there is something from you, some type of deed or action or verbiage that you feel needs saying or doing to really feel him, but you never seem to get it right… You have nothing to prove in the presence of Jesus. Being in his presence is dependent on nothing from you.
He came for you. Cling to him.
Or perhaps you are treading water. You seem to have become a stealthy swimmer and by any external measure, look fit for survival. But he wants more for you than survival. Not only that, but internally, where no one sees, maybe you are tired, soul tired, wondering how long you can keep this up, how long you can continue to keep up the facade that you think is saving you from the waters coming over your head. The rock is there. Cling to him.
In any and all circumstances, our Jesus is present with us and always enough.
So what might clinging to the rock look like?
“Lord I need you!”
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25