What was life like for Lazarus the week after Jesus raised him from the dead? Did he get his old job back or had his boss hired someone else? Did he have any physical ailments from his journey to death and back? Did he and his sisters, Martha and Mary, get into any arguments?
I ask these questions not to be clever or needlessly inquisitive but because of my own experience. For 36 weeks now our family has lived “within the miracle.” We wake up every morning and see the physical evidence–or in Rachael’s case, bear the evidence–that Jesus performed a miracle for our family as powerful as raising Lazarus. Just this week I shared our story with a few pastor friends for the first time and the look of amazement in their eyes testified to the wonder of God’s work. Yet Rachael and I would not describe the last 36 weeks as wondrous. Rather, they have been marked by exhaustion, frustration, and struggle. Often our “how are you doing” checkups with each other have had the options of a.) above water, b.) treading water, or c.) drowning. “A” has seldom been the answer.
For some reason I assumed that life within the miracle would be much different, that these nine months would not only be above water but walking on water! But if I pause for more than five seconds to scrutinize this assumption, I realize it belongs more to the message TV preachers peddle than examples in scripture.
Take Paul for example. The great apostle went on a journey not unlike Lazarus’, minus the death piece, when he was “caught up into paradise…and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter” (2 Corinthians 12:3–4). His ministry was characterized by signs and wonders as he cast out demons, healed the lame, pronounced God’s curse of blindness on a man, and endured the bite of a poisonous snake. According to Acts 19:11-12, “God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”
Yet Paul’s life within the miracle was rarely easy. “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Corinthians 11:24–27).
Paul’s experiences of both miracles and danger give categories for our struggles within the miracle. Both are the means by which God shines the brilliance of his power, faithfulness, and kindness. He is glorified by healing infertility. And he is equally glorified when, after the healing, we rely on others for help when treading water and drowning. His power is displayed in the triumph and his “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
I doubt any of the recipients of Jesus’ miracles skated through life following their divine encounter. But if they listened to the words of their Healer, they knew that the healing was not ultimately about them. God created the world for his fame and he redeems the world for his fame. When we understand both our miracles and our struggles as opportunities to highlight his fame, we can be content with whatever way he chooses to magnify his grace in our lives.