If we were to organize a list of the thorniest problems for the bereaved, certainly somewhere near the top would be the question of miracles. Everybody has heard anecdotal stories of certain people who have suffered incredible, life-threatening injuries or illness, but who have somehow recovered against all odds. A woman who has been in a coma for two years suddenly hears her husband's voice and awakens. A teenage victim of an automobile accident who was reportedly given no hope of recovery finally responds to the unwavering faith and persistent attention of a loving mother...and on it goes.
Depending on who's doing the reporting, the stories can range from inspirational to downright incredible! They demand our attention from the front pages of our daily newspapers or on our TV screens and they are recorded in detail in countless books and magazines. But it is because of their rarity that these stories are so prominent. Those of us whose loved ones died occupy by far the more populous arenas.
Make no mistake here. No one is happier for these victims and their families than the bereaved. The grief-stricken whose outcome was not so positive know only too well the pain and suffering that these families have been spared. We really do rejoice with them in their victories. We also, however, have to wonder if they ever take into consideration that the cavalier accounting of their experiences can be like an arrow through our hearts?
When we are exposed to the gospel of someone who by all rights should have died, but didn't, we are often told that it was prayer or faith or enormous self-discipline on the part of a loved one that "pulled them back." It's not that we question their faith or their determination, we're just wondering why it didn't work for us, too. We wonder why it feels like we failed-or worse, as if God just didn't care about us. (Lots of times, I think we're mad at God when our arrows should really be pointed at some of the people who need a little more education, and maybe some manners.)
We loved, too; we cared, prayed, talked, sang, read and stood by with vigilance while the lives of our loved ones slipped away from us. "Did God love us less?" we ask. "Was there even a moment when our attention was elsewhere, and it shouldn't have been?" We torture ourselves with the inquisition of guilt, regret and remorse. Our muscles turn to jelly, and tears fill our eyes as we replay in our minds the scenarios of agony that have slipped beyond our earthly grasp. We stumble around the "what ifs" and "if onlys"-sometimes for the rest of our days.
Though our faith may tell us that we're just as valuable to God as anybody else, we're tangled up in our feelings. Grief hurts so much anyway, and if we add spiritual failure, it becomes nearly unbearable.
Miracles are just that, miracles. They do not happen casually or often; if they did, they wouldn't be miracles. Their purpose is to alert us to God's message, not to call attention to man's skill or power. They were not meant to make us defeated or discouraged because they didn't happen to us or to those we love.
When Jesus called Lazarus forth from the grave, He said, "Lazarus, come forth." It has been suggested that had He not said Lazarus' name, all the deceased would have been raised! There were surely people in the area who either witnessed this incredible event or heard about it later. They had to wonder why not their loved ones, too? We don't know all the reasons or answers to that, but we do know one thing: Lazarus and all the "resurrected" like him still had to die again, sometime.
So, it would seem kinder if the temporarily "lucky" would try to refrain from sounding too pious and judgmental. They may yet have to stand in the shoes of sorrow.
Personally, I believe that our loved ones who died got the big hurdle out of the way. It looks like they got the real miracle!