Faith and Miracles Part VI: But If Not
"But see, there's a problem when Grandma prays to be healed and she isn't healed. She thinks she doesn't have strong enough faith or that God doesn't love her. What about Grandma?" - An anonymous skeptic
"...Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Dan 3:17-18 (emphasis added)
There are many times in our lives when we say, "God, if You love me, You will do X, Y and Z." We mistakenly believe that if God doesn't answer our prayers the way we want, it's because He doesn't care about us. Remember the three young men faced with a fiery furnace; they did not know what God was going to do, but they trusted him anyway.
The Bible is very clear that God loves us (John 3:16, 1John 4:10, Jer 31:3, Rom 8:35-39). God's Word declares that He loves us more than we can possibly know, that He IS love (1 John 4:8). We can go to God with confidence in His love for us, ready for whatever glorious things He wanted to do in us and through us. That's the heart of God.
No matter what happens, we can still trust Him implicitly.
In January of 1992, Tony Darmanin went for a ride with Jeremy Benson in his sweet 1973 Chevy Nova hatchback. Jeremy and his father had spent a year fixing up that Nova for Jeremy's 16th birthday, and he loved it. Jeremy hadn't had his license long, though, and inexperienced teen boys with muscle cars generally spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
On a rainy winter evening, Tony Darmanin climbed into Jeremy's Nova with Brandon Wright and Billy Walters. As soon as Jeremy started up the engine and took off, Tony knew he was in trouble. They sped down North Shore Drive in Bellingham, Washington at speeds worthy of the car, but unwise considering the weather conditions. They came to a hairpin turn, Jeremy hit the brakes, and the car naturally hydroplaned on the wet pavement.
Tony said, "So, we're not slowing down, and now Jeremy can't steer." They shot off the cliff edge and flew through the dark night air. They should have all died.
A tree at the bottom of the 40-foot deep ravine helped save the young men's lives. The car smacked the tree, which changed their trajectory just enough to keep the car from landing upside down and crushing all its occupants. Instead, the Nova smashed nose-first into the ground.
Tony dangled in the back seat by his seatbelt. The hatchback had popped open and its cover had slammed down into his neck and back. His internal organs were gashed by the force of the seatbelt, and his ankle was injured. Tony only knew that he'd never felt that much pain in his life. Billy had cracked the windshield with his head and his brain had started to swell. (After temporary blindness, he would recover.) Miraculously, Jeremy and Brandon climbed out unharmed and went for help.
Tony woke up outside of the car in the rain. He knew he had to get some help quickly, and he saw no friends around. He began to pull himself a little bit at a time out of that ravine in excruciating pain. As soon as he reached the top, flashlights shone in his face. People in a nearby house had seen the Nova's headlights fly off the cliff and had already called 9-1-1.
At The Hospital:
Tony's mother Alice Darmanin raced to the trauma unit at St. Luke's Hospital ahead of the ambulance. When they brought in Tony on the gurney, she thought he was already dead.
"He wasn't moving and he was a grey color, and my heart just sunk. Of course they couldn't tell us anything. We sat there praying and praying, and the kids were calling everybody they knew to pray. We still didn't know anything about Anthony. Finally they told us that there was so much blood in the pictures they had taken, they couldn't could tell if it was his liver, his kidney or spleen that was bleeding. They said , 'If he survives the next half hour we'll take another set of pictures.' I only heard the 'if he survives' part."
Tony was conscious as the doctor probed his stomach and felt for damage and took him in to get a CAT scan. All he knew was that there was serious internal bleeding. "If you do not go into surgery in 15 minutes, you will die," the doctor told him. "Do we have your consent to take you to surgery?"
Tony gave the doctor permission to save his life while a sense of excitement filled him. In 15 minutes he could be standing in the presence of Jesus. If they did surgery and he got better, that was great, and if he died, he realized that was also great. Tony told us, "It makes you realize the significance of 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? [1Cor 15:55]'" Already his veins had started to collapse and he felt pins and needles through all of his extremities.
Even as they sent Tony in for a CAT scan, though, he knew people were praying for him. "I felt their prayers. It was the first time in my life where I could actually feel the prayers of people praying for me."
About 45 minutes after she'd first visited them, the doctor returned to the Darmanin family in the waiting room to give them the relieving and unexpected news that their son was okay. According to Alice:
"All she says is, 'Do you want to see your son?' We walked back there and he's sitting up. The doctor said, 'I don't know what to tell you, but we don't know what happened. We don't know where the blood came from. We don't know where the blood went.' There was no blood. There were no wounds. She said, 'He has a very nasty crack on the back of his neck.' Actually, he should have died from that. The crack was on the hangman's vertebrae, and we were told only one in a thousand survives that."
The doctor kept Tony overnight, For the next few days Tony had some soreness, but that was it. He never had surgery.
"But even though God did that miracle and healed my internal organs, for the past 18 years I have lived every day with pain in my back and neck from when the hatch slammed into me. I've gone to chiropractors, done physical therapy and deep tissue massage, and I'm still in constant pain.
"People tell me, 'You just don't have enough faith. If you had more faith God would have healed your whole body.' And I think, 'No... I have faith.' Or they say, 'You have unconfessed sin, that's why you're not healed,' and I think, 'No... I have my faults, but I don't have unconfessed sin.'
"No, this is what I've learned. I've learned that pain is not the enemy. I have learned that God has allowed me to have this pain for His reasons and for His purposes."
God's Love In Every Detail:
A year later, Tony was at college living in the dorms when he ran out of all his toiletries at one time. "I squeezed out the last of my toothpaste. I used the very last of my shampoo and conditioner (yes, I condition) and even my deodorant had been completely used up. All on the same day."
Tony walked down to his bank to see if he could take out five dollars. When he checked the ATM, though, he had only $3.67 - too little to draw out on a Saturday afternoon.
"Well, Lord," Tony said, "If You don't want me to be stinky, please help me out here."
He walked back to the dorms. As he was heading to the door, his friend Margaret walked up to him with a paper bag in her arms. She said, "I don't want you to be offended, but while I was at the store shopping this morning, I really felt God wanted me to buy these things for you." Tony took the bag and looked inside. It held shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and deodorant.
"And after all these years," he said, "It still brings tears to my eyes. Because it told me that God really cared about me, even in the little things. And it wasn't that she gave me money. Anybody can hand you money. She handed me the very things I needed."
It's Not About Toughness:
People often think that the proper response to pain is to be tough and pony up and push through it out of sheer determination. But, that's not the heart of God. Everything He does is for good, and He desires that we learn to completely depend on His love for us, no matter what things look like. He is willing to give us all we need, down to things as seemingly small as toothpaste. Almighty God who created the stars and calls them by name cares even for the sparrows.
"But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows." - Luke 12:7
"The fact is that God cares intimately about me and knows about the smallest details of my life, and yet He's allowed me to live with this pain for the past 18 years. It's not that He's doing these things - He didn't cause my suffering. But, He's allowed me to suffer pain. None of us escape it. It's part of the territory of being human. What God has promised is He'll never leave us. He'll never abandon us. And He'll never let us suffer more than He can carry us through. Some people ask why does a loving God allow pain? And I've learned that it's because of God's love that I can live through the pain."
Is suffering always God's plan? Of course not. Jesus had great compassion and healed people constantly, and he promised that we would do greater things than he did (John 14:12). God wants us to know Him and He wants to form us into the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-29). He wants us to trust that He loves us, and when we go to Him for help, to go boldly (Hebrews 4:16). And whatever happens, as the Hebrew children said before Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the fiery furnace, "But if not" - But if not, we will still trust Him, we will continue to follow Him alone. Whatever He decides, we need to have confidence that nothing is able to separate us from His great and perfect love.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." -Romans 8:35-39