Fred Clark who blogs at Slacktivist is one of my favorite bloggers. He’s posted a few blog entries regarding the mining tragedy that happened recently in West Virginia. In one of the entries he raises the issue of how we use the word “miracle” to describe so many of the positive events that take place and how our liberal use of this word could pose a problem in regards to how we view God’s interaction with the universe.
First of all, what happened in West Virginia was a tragic event. It’s horribly painful to even try to consider what these families went through. First being told their loved ones were alive after being buried for over forty hours, then to be told three hours later that there was a miscommunication and that only one miner had survived. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. How could anyone actually deal with that?
In addition to being such a heartbreaking story for this nation to watch unfold, this event has provided us a very unique glimpse into our interaction with God in the midst of both pure joy and shocking tragedy. When news of the miners being alive reached it’s way to the families, their natural reaction, like anyone else’s would be, was one of enormous joy and thankfulness to God for this apparent miracle. They had all gathered at a near-by Baptist church to wait in worry for the status of their loved ones. Throughout the ordeal they held prayer vigils and called to God for some kind of miracle to take place in order for these miners to emerge alive and well. After the initial news of joy and relief set in, three hours went by until their hopes were shattered by the news that only one of the miners had survived and the rest were not found alive. Fred Clark writes in his post:
Then we watched as the families’ joy turned into grief and their hope turned into despair. Their joy had been infused with theological meaning and gratitude for a miraculous answer to prayer. When it turned out there had been no miracle (or, in Gov. Manchin’s words, 11 fewer miracles), their grief was likewise infused with theological meaning.
“We’re Christian people ourselves,” one grief-stricken family member said. “We have got — some of us is right down to saying that we don’t even know if there is a Lord anymore. We had a miracle, and it was taken away from us.”
This whole event has led me to ask the question: “What am I to expect from God?”. Is it silly for me to pray to God that I have a safe flight to Pittsburgh? Should I ask him to keep my wife and child safe on the roadways? If I loose my car keys, do I pray that God somehow leads me to them? When a loved one is on the verge of death, do I pray to God for a miracle to keep them alive somehow? Did John the Baptist pray to Jesus to ask that he wouldn’t be decapitated?
We look back to the the Bible and over and over we find that God clearly does not care too much about the safety of those who are in relationship with him. Over and over he challenges his followers to leave the comforts of a safe life and follow him into a more dangerous faith. Abraham, David, Jesus, Paul, John the Baptist and many others clearly did not care more about their safety than their calling by God. Their mere willingness to seek God and have a relationship with him is the precondition to a more dangerous, perhaps shorter, life.
Maybe if I allow God to mold me and shape me, I will pray to him for the betterment of the things that God cares about, not what I care about. Maybe my relationship with God shouldn’t be defined by what I expect from him but rather what God expects from me? Does God care where my car keys are? Or does he care more deeply that I have neighbors and friends who need love and compassion? Does God care about my career more than He cares about His relationship with me and what kind of fruits are the result of my connection to Him?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately I guess and this event was something that really jumped out at me. Who knows, I guess trying to put God on the couch and get into his mind is impossible but I want to be open to looking at how to pattern my interaction with God in ways that glorify His role in this world, not mine. Regardless of any of these kind of thoughts, my prayers will still be with those families that lost loved ones. I pray God will comfort them and bring some kind of redemption through this dark time.