Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, like many papers on the East Coast, reported that 12 of the trapped miners had survived the West Virginia mine explosion. The paper described the jubulant scene of family members gathered at a local church: tears of joy were shed, celebrations began, and family members broke out in praise of God by singing "How Great Thou Art."
They sang "How Great Thou Art," in praise of God who had saved their loved ones.
But they weren’t saved. But God didn’t act (is that fair to say?). There was no miracle.
What constitutes a miracle? Are we to give thanks to God for miracles? And what happens to us, to our faith, to our belief in God, when miracles don’t happen? Or, in this situation, what happens when we come to believe in a miracle and later learn that it never happened in the first place?
I’m sure some people out there have answers, but I don’t. I’m not sure how to respond to or understand this situation, except to say that despite our deepest yearnings and the preaching of some churches, God is not in the miracle-on-demand business. I’m not sure how or when God works miracles, but I do know that suffering is not a sign of God’s absence. Our God is a suffering God, a God of the hidden, dark, painful and empty places of our world. And I know of our true and certain hope of God’s coming Kingdom. These things I know.
But is that enough? Is that a comfort? Does a theology of God’s suffering and a promise of a future Kingdom do anything for our brothers and sisters who today mourn such a tragic loss? I just don’t know.