The Hard Truth About Why Western Christians See So Few Miracles

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This article originally appeared on Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s blog “Standing on My Head,” and is reprinted with permission. Visit his website, browse his books, and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.

I’ve heard church workers report that the growth of the church in Africa is attributed to a rush of miracles happening there.

So why no miracles here in the U.S.?

First off, because to see a miracle you have to believe in miracles.

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C.S.Lewis said he had only ever met one person who had seen a ghost, and she didn’t believe in ghosts afterwards either. I also remember the story of the famous atheist A.J. Ayer who had a near death experience and visited what sounds to me like hell. He had a few second thoughts, but he soon bounced back and reverted to his usual atheist mindset. The person who has ruled out the possibility of miracles will always find another answer or will simply leave the data on one side and remain agnostic.

Why then, are there not more miracles reported amongst those who believe?

There are a couple of reasons. For one, very often our “belief” in miracles is purely academic. We say we believe in miracles because it is part of our whole Christian belief system. But in practice we don’t expect to see one.

Secondly, I think we don’t experience as many miracles because we don’t need them. Why should God perform a miracle of healing when we’ve got the best health care system in the world? Why should God provide for us miraculously when we’ve got a good salary and retirement plan all set up? It’s not that God is being mean. He’s just saying, “You get on with it. If you want to provide for yourself and do it your way–why then go right ahead.”

However, while I think these things are true, it is more complicated.

I think miracles of provision and healing are happening in our society all the time, but we don’t have the eyes to see them. How often, I wonder, are we delivered from accidents and preserved from danger, but we miss the fact that it was the guardian angel? How often are we healed in the hospital, we recover more quickly, or we are delivered from a disease–and we credit the doctors, the excellent health care and all the technology, but we therefore miss the invisible factor that God was working within all of these other elements preserving us and healing us. How often are we provided for in unseen ways with an unseen hand blessing us and directing us to be in the way of receiving everything we need?

What makes me think this is that I have seen miracles in my life, but I have seen them most clearly when I was living in a certain way. When I had nothing but the clothes on my back and whatever I could fit into my backpack and I was on a three month hitch hiking pilgrimage from England to Jerusalem. I saw miracles then! When I was living as a young Anglican curate and deliberately gave away half of my income to “live by faith”–I saw miracles then! When I left everything to become a Catholic and had a young family to support–then I saw miracles.

This is why miracles are more abundant in the poor countries of the world: they do not have the educational “sophistication” to make them doubt miracles. They are open hearted and ready to see and believe. They do not have the screen of materialism and greed shielding them from miracles. They have very little, so a miracle is more likely to be on their doorstep.

We need to learn from them. We need more prayer, more reliance on Divine Providence, more understanding of how God works in the world, more trust in his goodness and more awareness of the fact that he is at work all the time, answering prayer and doing miracles in our midst.

We simply need to open our eyes to see his mighty hand in all his works.

Do you have a story of a miracle in your own life? Share it in the comments!

Courtesy of “Standing on My Head” at Patheos

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