When I was very new in the faith life, I spent some time in Nova Friburgo, in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro, along with two other missionaries. It’s a beautiful city with German and Swiss architecture, nestled between some of the highest mountains in the state.
I recently reflected on how my perspective on miracles has evolved throughout my life. Although I’ve had faith in Jesus since childhood, I often compared myself with those who’d witnessed healings and other dramatic miracles—thinking I’d missed out. I then came across an eye-opening definition of the word miracle: “An event that is contrary to the established laws of nature and attributed to a supernatural cause.”1 This caused me to reflect further on my past, and I realized that I’ve lived through several events that perfectly fit this definition. Starting with the very beginning.
It never ceases to amaze me how Jesus shows up in the dark and difficult places of our lives. One such example is told in Luke 8.
Jesus, already being thronged by crowds of people eager to hear His words, is begged by Jairus, a cleric and a man of some importance, to come to his home and heal his dying daughter.
There are many instances when we pray for people and they are healed immediately or within a short time. But we also experience situations where we pray for some very serious afflictions repeatedly over months and even years, and still don’t see the results we’ve asked for. We could then be tempted to wonder what has happened. Has something gone wrong?
I had walked to the health store, ten blocks from home, to pick up some vitamins. Though I loved walking and made this trip often, something felt different that day. I had fumbled with my change and forgotten my list.
On my walk home I stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to change. After some minutes, I noticed people looking at me strangely. I realized I had been waiting at the crosswalk through several light changes. Then it seemed like a very long walk home.
I must confess that I have never been one who could easily believe in miraculous forms of healing. In fact, I prided myself a bit on being “rational,” “logical,” of which skepticism was an integral part. Perhaps it was also because of feeling that what happens to us is just part of the big game plan—our destiny. I think that I too, like the Jews demanded of Jesus, “required a sign.”
When our son Pete was three, he was diagnosed with leukemia, and from one moment to the next, our lives changed drastically. There are no instruction manuals that can prepare you for how to cope when your child is facing a life-threatening disease. Even though we found shelter in the loving arms of Jesus, our tender Shepherd, we still had to find a way to face the scary events of the following weeks and months.
The winter had been an exceptionally long one in the Balkan Peninsula. How we had been waiting for spring to come! Finally, the beautiful flowers sprang up, the trees budded and then burst forth with new life, and the birds sang their praises that winter had ended once again.
Eiko was 31 kilos (68 pounds) that Christmas. Her skin stretched tightly across her cheekbones, and even her bulky winter clothes could not hide her extremely thin body. Only thirteen years old, she was suffering from a severe eating disorder that had begun at the age of nine. My parents and we, her siblings, hadn’t been fully aware of her struggles in the earlier stages, but now their impact was glaringly apparent.
Every year, a month or so before Christmas, I used to go to the same office to renew my visa. My visit there was usually made easy by the help of Judy, one of the office staff.
One year, after several minutes of small talk, Judy burst into tears. Her husband’s cancer had returned—he had already had one tumor removed from his liver—and his doctor said he didn’t have long to live. “Thomas is only 42,” said a tearful Judy, “and our two sons are so young!”