Chaplain’s Corner: CXXX
“Do Miracles Really Happen?”
First, do miracles really happen? And second, if they do, why don’t miracles happen to everyone-to every person for whom we earnestly pray? Both questions deserve serious consideration. Acts 3:16 is a guide.
When inquiring about the reality of miracles we need to know what we’re talking about. We’re not focusing on something trivial (“after my third trip around the block, God answered my prayer for a parking spot right in front of Jack’s Donuts”). Or something that can be explained psychosomatically (“and suddenly my headache just went away”). Or the dramatic ending to a basketball game (Ball State won on a last second shot).
Instead, philosophy professor Richard Purtill suggests: “A miracle is an event (1) brought about by the power of God that is (2) a temporary (3) exception (4) to the ordinary course of nature (5) for the purpose of showing that God has acted in history. Luke who is almost universally credited with the authorship of Acts, was clearly trying to show by means of his reports of healing miracles that God is able and willing to act in history.
In his book, The Case for Miracles, Lee Strobel cites a 2004 survey of 1,100 physicians by HCD Research which reveals that three-quarters of them believe that miracles happen today; that 55% of them have seen results in their patients that they would consider miraculous; and that six out of ten of those doctors pray for their patients individually. But do contemporary “miraculous events,” which we can now examine with rational inquiry and medical technology turn out to be compelling? Strobel reports a number of such events, including the experience of a woman named Barbara.
Two of her doctors, Dr. Harold Adolph and Dr. Thomas Marshall were so astonished by her case they have written about it in books of their own. “Barbara was one of the most hopelessly ill patients I ever saw,” wrote Adolph. She had been an active high school student-an enthusiastic gymnast and flute player. Then she began to lose motor control. Barbara was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis. She deteriorated for 16 years. One lung became non-functional. She lost control of her body functions. She became legally blind. A tracheostomy tub was inserted into her neck. She needed continuous oxygen and her muscles and joints were becoming contracted and deformed. She was confined to her bed. Her life expectancy was less than six months.
Then something remarkable happened.
In the spring of 1981 Barbara’s aunt and two other friends were reading aloud some prayers for healing. That’s when Barbara heard a man’s voice speak from behind her-even though there was nobody else in the room. The words were clear and articulate and spoken with great authority, but also with compassion. The voice said “My child get up and walk-reminiscent of the words Peter spoke to the lame beggar. Barbara began to move. One of the friends plugged the hole in her neck so she could speak. “I don’t know what you’re going to think about this,” she said, “but God just told me to get up and walk. I know he really did! Run and get my family. I want them to be here with us!”
Here is Dr. Marshall’s account of what happened next: “Barb felt compelled to do immediately what she was divinely instructed so she literally jumped out of bed and removed her oxygen. She was standing on legs that had not supported her for years. Her vision was back and she did not need her oxygen. Her contractions were gone and she could move her hands freely. That very evening there was a worship service at her church. When the pastor asked if there were any announcements, Barbara “casually strolled toward the front, her heart pounding.” The next day Dr. Marshall gave her a medical examination. The intestine that had been vented in the abdomen wall was reconnected normally. “This is medically impossible,” he told her. “Go and live your life.” That is what she did.
As a pastor for over 50 years I have been witness to a few stories like Barbara’s. One even happened here at Westminster Village when a patient was admitted and was told after Covid he would never walk again. With our wonderful therapists, nursing care and prayer that man is walking, driving and singing in his church choir. Let there be no doubt God uses doctors, therapists, nurses and prayer to do amazing things!
These remarkable stories are evidence of the power of God. But then you ask why are there hospitals and so many funerals? Why hasn’t God healed my loved one? Why isn’t God healing me? I will cover those questions in next week’s Chaplain’s Corner. But the Book of Acts belongs to a different dimension of reality- namely that God is capable of the miraculous.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain