Earlier this week we discussed our desire for God to appear before our eyes and our frustration when he doesn’t. We talked about Old Testament precedent for God appearing, and how it doesn’t always have the effect we think it will. We also talked about Jesus coming for all of us in a way that goes beyond eyes or beliefs, that transforms our whole relationship with God.
Still, we’re left with the question of other miracles. What about the times when God does show up in ways people can see or experience. Does Jesus coming mean those sightings are no longer valid? Or does God still play favorites among us even after Jesus came to redeem us all?
Other miracles aren’t absent, they’re just temporary. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in John, Chapter 11. Where is Lazarus now? He’s not hanging out on a Mediterranean beach sipping cocktails; he’s dead, just like all his contemporaries. Jesus fed the 5000 an all-you-can-eat buffet out of five loaves and two fish. The next day they were hungry again. Those miracles were real. They were not the point of salvation, rather they were meant to demonstrate the power and purpose of salvation.
It’s the same way with the events of our lives. Sometimes we recover from illness or get out of a tight spot. Those things are worth celebrating! They are miracles, but they’re not THE miracle. God’s redemption isn’t confined to a single person in a given place or time. It’s the life blood running through the veins of the universe, through all of our lives and times. The real miracle is that even when we don’t get a positive outcome, God redeems us. Our lives are precious and important. Ultimately, we are not the center of the universe.
God appearing to me right here in this room as I’m typing would be awesome. But me claiming that he was here with me would mean that he wasn’t in New York or Bangladesh or at an Antarctican research station at that moment. My gain would imply everybody else’s loss. “God was with me in a way he isn’t with you! Neener neener! He loves me best!” God doesn’t operate like that. To the extent that we perceive him in particular ways, that’s the least important aspect of his work…a nice side-effect of him existing, neither the proof of it nor the central reason for it.
One person recovering from an otherwise-terminal illness is a fantastic event, worthy of celebration. It pales in comparison to God saving an entire universe of people (who otherwise would have died without hope) to eternal life. It pales even more when you consider his miracle would have taken effect whether or not the illness ran its course. Disease is not the ultimate power; God is stronger than anything that assails us. His redemption doesn’t pop up in a glorious moment then fade like a firework. It shines like an eternal sun, bringing life, illumination, and warmth.
The proper answer to why God doesn’t show up is that he does, no matter what, now and always.
God showing up in the ways we ask for would also distract us from the ways he actually wants to be seen. As I type this our church’s Women’s Bible Study is meeting in the room next door. The walls are thin and I can hear them clearly. In just a few minutes I’ll pop in to say good morning. I can hear God in their conversation and struggle with each other. I can see God through the sparkle in their eyes and the worry wrinkles on their faces. His presence is etched into every line of them. As we care about each other, learn about each other, and trust in each other, our vision of God becomes bigger and more solid. Instead of dividing us from each other (“I saw God and you didn’t!”) God’s appearance unites us. As we perceive him we’re pulled together in love, forgiveness, and unity. That’s what every father wants for his family. Our Father does too.