Emily M. DeArdo


Miracles (and suffering)

essaysEmily DeArdo1 Comment

(This might not make a lot of sense, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about this week, so I thought I’d share with you.)

How do you define a miracle?

Normally we use it in the sense of something extraordinary, out of the ordinary, that can’t be explained. Generally it’s a life-saving thing—a miraculous healing, a miraculous escape, a miraculous rescue.

And the other thing we tend to associate with miracles is perfection. The person is perfectly healed. The person is perfectly restored to life and health and family.

But is that true?

Jesus did a lot of miracles in the Bible. He still does them today. I know I’ve been the recipient of several.

But you know, Lazarus still had to die. So did the little girl.

I will die, eventually. So will you. So will your family.

(#LivingMementoMori, y’all! :) )

Sunset—no filter required—outside Orchard House.

Sunset—no filter required—outside Orchard House.

Miracles are great. Believe me, I believe in them, as the song says. I believe in them strongly. I pray for them.

But I’ve never had a miracle that fits the definitions above—the “perfect” part. I’ve received miracles, but there are other aspects of them too.

I’ve lost hearing. I almost lost my arm. And those things, in the grand scheme of things, are small, because I’m alive. But when I was sick, I didn’t ask God for perfection. I asked Him for life. I asked for the chance to keep on living.

(In order to get my CF diagnosis, we had to switch pediatricians, which happened because my old pediatrician died. The connection of all of us in the grand story is impossible to unravel. )

Some people don’t get that miracle. Why did I get it, and Sage didn’t? Why are some people healed, and not others?

But there are other kinds of miracles—miracles of grace. The miracle of acceptance, of fortitude, of grace and cheerfulness and continued life even in the face of darkness and doubt and despair.

A miracle doesn’t necessarily mean perfection. It doesn’t mean that we get exactly what we want when we want it, because God knows so much better than we do, which is crazy to think about. What good was achieved by Sage’s death? What good is achieved by so many of the losses, of the pain, of the darkness? What good is achieved when babies die and people commit suicide and people starve?

I don’t know. And neither do you.

God does, though.

God sent His own son to die for us. Every single one of us will face death, and we will face pain and loss of those we love and things we can’t live without.

We beg for miracles. That’s true. That’s right. God wants us to ask for them.

But…..sometimes the miracle isn’t the physical miracle.

You know, Mother Angelica once said she could go to heaven with a broken body, but she couldn’t get there with a broken soul. That’s true.

Pray for the miracles. Pray for God’s intervention. Ask, seek, knock, beg.

But remember that if God doesn’t give you what you want, it doesn’t mean that He didn’t hear you. It doesn’t mean that He’s smiting you. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t have enough faith. (That one gets me, big time. Mary’s baby boy died—and no one had more faith than she did!)

Be thankful for imperfect healing. Be thankful for imperfect life. Be thankful for acceptance.

And the thanks might come on the far side of a lot of yelling at God, or screaming, or almost despair. God I do not understand.

You’re not alone in that. The apostles didn’t understand either. We can’t understand.

What we need to cling to, though, is that in every situation, in all circumstances, God is with us.

This isn’t airy fairy talk. This is talk I know. I know even in the darkest moments, in that valley of death—the real one, actual, true death—God is there, even if I don’t feel Him, and there are times when I haven’t. It’s not like I’m always walking around in a cloud of Blessed Assurance, y’all.

Miracles are gifts to us. But we aren’t owed them. I didn’t do anything to “deserve” getting a second chance at life.

The psalmist says that God’s ways are mysterious. There’s no better place to see that than at the precipice between life and death.

The miracle you might need the most might not be the one you’re asking for.