When the Miracle Doesn't HappenFREDERICA MATHEWES-GREEN
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12), and as I write I hear the angry voices drifting in from the television in the next room. There are sick hearts tonight in Upshur County, West Virginia.
During the crisis hundreds had gathered in the Sago Baptist Church to watch and pray. When the initial good news came through last night there was rejoicing and church bells rang. But when the gathering learned hours later that their miracle had not happened after all,"They didn't know what to do. They began to holler and curse," local resident John Casto told CNN, in a voice cracked by tears. "Just a few minutes before that, we was praising God." What had been a place of united praise was now riven by furious shouting.
"Our pastor got 'em settled down and he said, 'Look to God in this tragedy,'" Casto went on. "I don't believe in cussin', but one guy said, 'What in the hell has God ever done for us?'"
When not exhausted and tried by roller-coaster emotions, such a guy could probably list dozens of good things God has done for him. Anger is a brief distraction from grief, but within days it will wash back in, and families will once again look toward the God whom they had sought in the midst of the disaster. They will think about the particular man, or maybe still just a boy, whose voice is no longer heard in the kitchen and whose muddy boots are no longer by the door. Such a death is a risk in mining, and we hear that one of the victims had told his fiancée that he expected to die in the mines. But that doesn't make it any less agonizing for a relative or loved one to imagine that beloved face at last succumbing to the dark.
John Casto tried to explain, in an accent broad as the hills, how this works, how faith can make it so you're not alone. "You know, I'm not kin to none of these people under that hill over there, but each and every one of 'ems a brother to me. Each and every one of them." He then looked toward the reporter and said, "Because you're my brother," and then turning to the cameraman, "and you're my brother. The way I look at it."
There was something electrifying about that moment. In the midst of bitterness and turmoil, Casto broke through the wall. "Because I love Christ," he went on. This is not the sort of thing you usually hear on the news, and the camera was already pulling back. The reporter's voice softly murmured "All right, John." But Casto continued, "We're gonna to pray for each and every one of these people." At this point, the reporter patted him on the shoulder, with a "that's enough, now" gesture. "We're gonna pray that this community will leave today in peace and always be in peace, in the town of Sago," Casto said.
At that point, the film ends. But John Casto got to say his piece. Hope based on a particular outcome is a fragile thing; it can be smashed by events. Hope based in a particular Person can endure. Whether a miracle occurs or doesn't, we are never alone. "Thou who hast made me see many sore troubles wilt revive me again; from the depths of the earth Thou wilt bring me up again" (Psalm 71:20).
Frederica Mathewes-Green. "When the Miracle Doesn't Happen." Beliefnet (January, 2006).
This article appeared originally on www.beliefnet.com, the leading website for faith, spirituality, inspiration & more. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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