Processing Grief Part 2: Discovering Everyday Miracles
In August, I shared my personal experience of “processing grief through sweat and tears,” after my best friend told me in early June she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
This month, I want to share my thoughts about processing grief through exploring the role of miracles – not from the context of why God didn’t miraculously heal her (she died on August 15, 2021), but rather, the healing that came from recognizing and appreciating “everyday” miracles.
When considering miracles in our modern context, it is natural to leap to such questions as:
- What “counts” as a miracle?
- What are we to make of miracles?
- How can we reconcile miracles with reason?
As I have contemplated miracles, I came across an article that has helped my understanding, and would like to share some thoughts from that now.
I believe that God “is not limited to interventions that cannot be explained by science or that go beyond the realm of reason. God can work through means we might label as coincidence or accident or serendipity or luck or natural processes or everyday happenings.”
“Now, it could be tempting to say that this way of thinking may denigrate the majesty of God’s ways. [But], in fact, it might be said that in sending Jesus as a human being, God was putting divine majesty in an ordinary “container,” accessible to each and every one of us.”
But then, what are we supposed to do with Bible passages like the one in Job, where we read that God “performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 5:9)? Or, where in Isaiah, we find God saying, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8-9)?
These passages are sometimes quoted “to emphasize how God can work through means that we humans don’t have available to us, and that is certainly a correct message to hear in these verses.
But, we should not take them as if they are saying that God works only through extraordinary or miraculous means.
God’s higher ways may, in some cases, operate through everyday things — through natural functions of life.
Some Christians have observed that God uses means (or agents, tools, or intermediaries) much more often than God intervenes in the laws of nature — with bright lights and all, such as with Paul on the road to Damascus.”
It is from this understanding that I want to share with you some of the “everyday” miracles I discovered as I reflected on the 25+ year relationship I had with my best friend.
- The fact that I met her, at all, while playing on the Cal field hockey team during college.
- That I had built a strong relationship with her family in Germany over the years. Thus, when I had to plan my trip to Germany during a very difficult time to be traveling at all, due to COVID, and particularly internationally, I knew everything was going to be alright because they would be there for me (providing me a place to stay, transportation, and people with whom to grieve).
- The fact that the travel restrictions from the United States to Germany (due to COVID) opened up just in time (I received the initial news of her illness in early June, the restrictions were lifted in late June, and I flew to Germany in the middle of July) so that I could spend good, quality time with my friend – laughing, crying, sitting in silence and enjoying being in the presence of one another, while also having the chance to say our “good-byes” to one another.
- My husband and I are huge animal lovers, especially cats! As it turns out, just one hour after I received the devastating news from my best friend in early June, I was scheduled to pick up the 3 kittens we were planning to adopt. I can’t tell you how much joy and peace they – Barth, Silas, and Theo – have brought into our lives. Despite the deep pain I was feeling for my friend as well as the many challenges facing the world, time stands still when I play with them.
As it turns out, the more I thought about the “everyday” miracles in my life, the more I became aware of all the other many blessings/miracles I have experienced.
It has brought me immense comfort to recognize God’s presence with me in the past, present, and future… however it unfolds.
While the world right now is facing a lot of turmoil and heartbreak – fires, floods, political unrest, COVID, and so much more – I want to encourage you to take some time to reflect on some of the everyday miracles in your life, perhaps using the following questions as a guide:
- What are some of the “everyday” miracles that have taken place in your life (past or present)?
- Are there some miracles in your daily life that you may be overlooking due to woundedness and/or being in a time of grieving?
- What are some future miracles that God may be calling you to participate in?
In the end, when I think about miracles as they relate to our daily lives, I do not think we should get ourselves too caught up in wrestling with “whether or not miracles occur or whether there are rational explanations for the events that lift us up with meaning, healing, and hope. If we experience God as being in them, we are in touch with the miraculous.” Thanks be to God!
Scripture: “Now to [God] who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to [God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21 (NRSV)
Rev. Dr. Karen Webster is co-founder and executive director of the Healthy Seminarians-Healthy Church Initiative, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and validated ministry of Trinity Presbytery (SC). In addition to being an ordained PC(USA) pastor, Karen is certified as an Exercise Physiologist, Nutrition Specialist, and Health and Wellness Coach.