Saturday, March 14, 2009

Do Miracles Defy Logic?

Back in college, when Rick and I were dating, we got talking about miracles one day. I had no trouble believing in them, but Rick said, "Why would God break his own rules?" I thought that was pretty ridiculous, and told him so. God could do anything he wanted. If he wanted to break his own rules, why not?

Then, when our oldest daughter Chelsea was fourteen, she asked me exactly the same question. (Is it genetic?)  But this time it didn't seem so ridiculous. We've been praying for a miracle on behalf of our daughter Ingrid since she was five months old and had her first seizure. It turned out to be far more than a simple seizure disorder that could be controlled with medication. Sixteen years later, she is severely disabled and has almost daily breakthrough seizures. We've seen improvement as a direct result of prayer, but obviously we have not seen a miracle.

I fully believe that God is both willing and able to do miracles in the world today. With every disappointment, I become more and more convinced of that. Miracles are logical to me. Then why has God not healed Ingrid after all these years of prayer?

I believe the answer lies in the question posed by college-aged Rick and Chelsea: God doesn't break his own rules. I'm not suggesting that healing violates the laws of nature. On the contrary, divine healing restores fallen nature. Healing is perfectly consistent with God's plan to save us--spirit, soul, and body--through Christ. Isaiah 53:5 says: "By His scourging we are healed," and Jesus did, in fact, heal during his earthly ministry. It's not like turning a stone into bread, which would break the laws of nature. God did not intend for a stone to become food, but he did intend for our bodies to be healthy. So I'm still not troubled by their objection.

But in addition to natural laws, there are spiritual laws, and these are clearly spelled out in the Bible. For example, Jesus said that it shall be done to us according to our faith. In fact, he talks a lot about the importance of faith. We don't like to talk about faith much, because unscrupulous "faith healers" have used the accusation of lack of faith to blame vulnerable people. But what if faith really is necessary? What if it is the channel through which God's supernatural power flows? The Bible seems to suggest that. Mark 6:5 says that Jesus couldn't do any miracles in his hometown because of their unbelief. When the disciples couldn't cast out a demon, Jesus simply stated that it was because of the littleness of their faith (Matthew 17:20), and in the same vein he said that faith can move mountains. It seems we may be dealing with a spiritual law here. Faith opens us up to all of God's power, but without it, we can do nothing.

When Ingrid was a baby I used to do all sorts of mental gymnastics to make myself believe, hoping that would satisfy God. It didn't work. Then one day I saw a cartoon of a little man sitting on a large hand, trying to move the thumb. The man was breaking into a sweat, but the thumb stayed put. I think God was telling me something.

And he wasn't telling me that his will was not to heal; instead, he was telling me that faith is something very different. The dynamic of faith is demonstrated in John 15, where we are told to abide in Christ like a branch on a vine. We are to rest in him, letting him work through us, just like sap flows through to the branch. This is another spiritual law: if we abide in Christ, we can ask anything we wish and it shall be done for us. (John 15:7) Of course, we won't ask for a more prestigious job or a lot of money. God changes our hearts when we abide in him, so we'll ask according to his will. (1 John 5:14)

But as I mentioned yesterday, God's will isn't just the status quo. Ephesians 3:20 says that God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask for or think, according to the power that works within us. So how much of his power works within me? Nowhere near as much as God wants, because I'm very distractible. Augustine says: "God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full . . . there's nowhere for him to put it." Opening up our hands to release all that junk is the great challenge of walking with God in faith.

1 comment:

Rick said...

So that's why my ears were burning yesterday! ;)