The young woman entering my church office was a stranger to me, but it took only a moment to discern that she had been crying for a long time. Her sobs were more groans than sighs, deep groans that rumbled upward from the wellspring of a fractured heart. I sat waiting and praying, asking for wisdom. After a few moments, she told me why she had come to my door.
Only the day before, her best friend had died of cancer in the prime of life, leaving behind a husband and several small children. But this young woman now found herself mourning not one but two shocking deaths, for she discovered that her own Christian faith had begun to die soon after her friend.
Both women had attended the same church. When the cancer had been diagnosed only a few months earlier, their pastor had organized an around-the-clock, 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week prayer vigil. He told everyone that they would storm the gates of heaven, claim their sister’s healing in the name of Jesus, and if they only had enough faith, then they would prove that the God who brings healing is still more powerful than the devil who breeds cancer.
So the church prayed.
Now, this broken, deflated woman stared at me through swollen eyes and asked, “Pastor, why did God lose? How can the devil be more powerful than Jesus?”
I believe in the possibility of miracles, but I am also wary of whose stories I believe. There are, after all, many imposters even within the church.
I had a good friend who had grown up in central Africa. Her parents were missionaries in the bush, and she was well acquainted with difficult living conditions. I knew her as a sane, well-adjusted woman, not prone to fantasy or exaggeration. Yet, on more than one occasion, I heard her tell the story of how her family’s vehicle had once run out of gas on a long cross-country trip. Her father had underestimated the length of the journey, leaving them stranded in the blistering African sun miles away from anywhere. While his wife and three children tried to find some refuge in the vehicle’s shade, the young father prayed, knowing that his miscalculation had placed his family in a life-or-death situation. The spare gas canisters were empty, but they did have a large canister of water. Raising the water to heaven, he confessed his foolishness and asked the Lord to perform a miracle in order to save his family. He then poured it all into the gas tank. After loading up the family and climbing into the driver’s seat, he turned the ignition. The newly baptized engine roared to life, enabling them to drive nonstop to the next village, where they promptly told anyone who would listen about their Lord’s miraculous answer to their desperate prayer.
All Things Are Possible
for Those Who Believe