As she tries to reconcile praying for a miracle with carrying her cross, Jen Scheuermann realizes the true miracle hidden within the cross.
It started with a text
I picked up my buzzing phone and read the incoming text:
“I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I’m praying every day for a miracle.”
Sighing quietly, I set my phone aside. My father had recently been diagnosed with a rare cancer. Messages with positive thoughts and prayers were not infrequent. Typically they warmed my heart. The outpouring of love and concern from others had been overwhelming, a quiet reminder that we will find beauty hidden in this unwanted journey if we only stop to look. But for reasons I could not yet explain, this specific text left me with a different feeling.
This text irritated me.
Being close to cancer is not new for me. For years I’ve been on the other end of this cancer diagnosis. As a health provider I am blessed each day with the opportunity to connect with my patients in a beautiful and profound way. Most days this fills me with joy, but sometimes this blessing is painful. Sometimes it requires I look someone in the eye and deliver news I know will devastate them, the very same news from which my family currently wanted to run.
During the days and weeks following my dad's initial diagnosis, we learned many details about his rare cancer. We heard statistics, learned how the cancer grows, and slowly realized its treatment would soon upend our lives. And as our knowledge grew, it seemed the cancer did as well. Each bit of information dwarfed us, as the cancer and its pending treatment grew larger. More overwhelming. More scary.
Silent pleas and desperate cries
My prayer life was filled with silent pleas that God carry us through. That He quell our anxiety and fill us with peace. That He guide our decisions regarding the best team to treat this rare cancer. And that He help us view the unknown road ahead, not through a lens of fear, but rather through the lens of His protection.
Not once, however, had I prayed for a miracle.
Several days later, while sitting with God in prayer, my phone buzzed again:
“I’m so sorry your family is going through this. I’m praying for a miracle.”
With an automatic “Thank you,” I replied, but the words were a silent veil, shielding the irritation that resurfaced.
Days passed. Decisions regarding treatment were made. The cancer, that at times still felt abstract, became more real. And in turn, a little more of my heart broke each day.
My prayers became more desperate as I cried out to God - begging Him to help me place my hope in Him, and not a specific outcome. Begging Him to help me desire His presence during this storm, even more than I desired His calming of the storm. Begging Him to help me surrender the longings of my heart and trust that His plan - whatever it looked like - would be better than mine.
But not once did I pray for a miracle.
A message on a bracelet
Days passed and my phone buzzed with another incoming text. A friend had recently prayed for my father at the Blessed Seelos Shrine and wanted to bring me something. Father Seelos was a priest during the 1800s who spent the end of his life serving in New Orleans (where I live). One healing miracle has been attributed to his intercession, and others are under investigation. For years I’ve heard of people visiting his shrine, prayerfully requesting his intercession, but I’ve never been there myself. Opening the bag from my friend, I discovered a stack of rubber bracelets from the Shrine. My world stilled as I read the words printed on the bracelets:
Every day holds a possibility of a miracle.
I recalled a prior conversation with my sister about how much easier it would be if Jesus simply texted me when He wanted me to do something. Considering the two texts about praying for a miracle, I wondered if Jesus had in fact used the fingers of another to do just that. Perhaps it was only my resistance that led Him to now use the more tangible vehicle of a rubber bracelet. I slipped a bracelet on my arm and stared at the words. Reading them again, I felt like an imposter.
Wrestling in silence
The mention of miracles irritated me. I had intentionally resisted praying for one. How could I pray the words “thy will be done” … and at the same time beg for a miracle? How could I willingly pick up and carry the cross before me … while also praying it miraculously disappear? I’ve struggled most of my life with my desire to control everything. It seems the prayer I whisper most is that God helps me lay down this desire, and instead yield to Him and embrace His plans. So despite all of my efforts I simply could not reconcile surrendering my desired outcome with praying for a miracle. And I didn’t understand why it seemed God was asking me to do just that.
For several days I wrestled with these contradictory prayers, begging God to help me understand. And slowly He responded …
A song lyric worth noting
I sat in the dark auditorium, watching the young dancers flutter across the stage. I had not expected to hear from God at a dance recital, but given His recent use of text messages and rubber bracelets, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Because there I was, staring at the stage, when lyrics to an unknown song captured my attention:
We seldom see the miracles in front of us.
And as the verse played a second time, I knew God was speaking.
For the next week this line was a broken record, playing constantly in my mind. And as I reflected on it in prayer, I heard His gentle, but challenging whisper:
Jen, can you pray for a miracle … without trying to control the miracle?
Praying for a specific miracle, one outlined by me, was not what God wanted. He did not want to be limited by my narrow view of the situation. No, it seemed the real problem was not that praying for a specific miracle indicated my lack of surrender. Rather, my all-powerful and all-knowing God knew that by focusing my heart on one specific desire, I would likely miss seeing the miracles He did have in store. God absolutely wants my heart open to a miracle. He even wants me to expect a miracle. He just doesn’t want me to call the miracle.
Slowly my prayer changed again. I repeatedly asked God to grant me the faith and trust needed to boldly ask for any miracle He might want to bring forth. To grant me a heart open to receive any miracle He performs. And to grant me the vision to see each miracle He carries out.
And with tentative steps, I began to pray for a miracle.
An audiobook with an answer
I stood at my door, fumbling for my keys as I half listened to the audiobook playing in my ear. For several days the book When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada had been the backdrop of my life, but at that precise moment my stubborn lock screamed for my attention. I could barely concentrate on the words. But somehow, in my preoccupied state, I heard enough to know God was again using the words of another to speak to me. I finally made it inside and replayed the words with undivided attention.
In the chapter “Making Sense of Suffering,” Tada states:
Pain and death entered the world by the fall of humans;
it wasn’t what God cherished for man.
But when Adam chose suffering over the joys of union with God,
the Lord turned suffering into a way man could know God better.
… a way man could know God better ...
As this line echoed in my mind I realized it was not a flippant attempt to placate those who endure suffering and pain. No, it was written by a woman who, during her teen years, suffered a spinal cord injury from a diving accident and has lived every day since as a quadriplegic.
By a woman who clearly knows the pain of broken dreams and a broken body.
By a woman who admits to praying for years for miraculous physical healing - miraculous healing that never came.
But by a woman who eventually came to see that through this devastating injury, and through not receiving the specific healing miracle for which she prayed, she gained something far better. A miracle in its own right: A relationship with the Lord quite unlike anything she would have otherwise experienced. And one she wouldn’t trade for anything.
Her words grabbed me as I realized the only reason I had wrestled with how to pray - do I ask for help surrendering my desires? or do I ask for a miracle? - was because this cross of cancer had been placed on our backs. Were it not for the cross, the struggle of praying for a miracle would not have been mine. Quite simply, it’s only when we’re suffocated by the knowledge of our cross, or crushed by the weight of it, that we need a miracle. Or perhaps, if the miracle is a relationship with the Lord, it’s the only time we’ll easily admit we need one...
The road ahead
My family is without a doubt standing under this cross of cancer. We are trying to hold it upright, but the weight is heavy, and the road ahead seems treacherous. But maybe … maybe it does not matter if the Lord meets us at the cross and lifts it completely out of our hands, or if He meets us at the cross, falling into step beside us as He helps us carry it. Maybe the real miracle, the one He absolutely does not want us to miss, the one for which He will chase me with texts and bracelets and songs and books just to make sure I hear Him, is that He will in fact meet us there. He will meet us at the cross. And regardless of whether the cross is still in our hands or not as we take our next step, He will be there, offering us the most beautiful gift of Himself. The gift of His never ending presence. The gift of an intimate relationship we would otherwise never experience. A relationship we would not trade for anything - even if it means we must endure the cross.
One last text
My phone buzzed, again signaling an incoming text. I glanced at the message quickly … and froze. My eyes filled with tears as warmth spread through my chest.
“We are thinking about going to the Blessed Seelos Shrine and wanted to see if you were able to join us.”
Copyright 2021 Jennifer Scheuermann
Images: (top) Canva Pro; all others copyright 2021 Jennifer Scheuermann, all rights reserved.
About the Author
While living out her vocations of marriage, motherhood, and health care provider, Jen is often found on the sidelines of a ball game, searching for shade while cheering on her sons. An early riser, she sits with Jesus while it’s still dark and blogs about their conversations at Early Morning Coffee With Jesus. Get to know her more on Instagram or Facebook.