The Case for Slow Miracles

I was talking to my daughter Megan today about miracles. She was commenting on the fact that just because miracles don’t happen instantaneously doesn’t mean they aren’t miracles.

Surrounded by Oak and Lime Trees - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/AVTG, Image #10807364

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/AVTG

This is certainly the case for Megan and her husband, Joel. They have been patiently working through the adoption process now for more than a year. They still don’t have their babies, but this does not mean that God is not at work.

Perhaps he simply has a different timetable.

Occasionally, God works in an instant. But this, I think, is the exception. Usually, He works over a long period of time. This doesn’t make it any less miraculous, but it is certainly less dramatic.

I recently heard a story that illustrates this point beautifully.

There once was an king who didn’t believe in miracles. One day, while he was seated in a garden, one of his closest counselors began speaking of the wonderful works of God. He went on and on about how God was constantly at work—in the little things and the big.”

Initially the king listened politely. Finally, however, he had had enough. “Show me a sign,” said the king, “and I will believe.”

The sage thought for a moment. He then pulled something out of his pocket.

“Here are four acorns,” said the counselor. “Please, your Majesty, plant them in the ground. When you are finished, stoop down for a moment and look into this clear pool of water?”

The king did so.

“Now,” said the sage, “look up.” The king looked up and saw four enormous oak trees where he had planted the acorns.

“Wonderful!” the king exclaimed, “this is indeed a miracle—the work of God.”

“How long were you looking into the water?” asked the sage.

“Only a second,” said the king.”

“Eighty years have passed as a second,” said the counselor.

Skeptically, the king looked at his garments; they were threadbare. He then looked at his reflection in the water; he had become an old man. His skin was wrinkled and his beard was white.

“There is no miracle here, then,” he said angrily.

“Yes,” said the sage, “but it is God’s work nonetheless, whether he did it in one second or in eighty years.”

Question: Has God failed to work in your life or are you just witnessing a slow miracle? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    By the definition of miracle inherent in that story, everything is a miracle. It follows that the only true miracle would be to find something that isn’t a miracle. This is similar to the uniqueness paradox: if everyone is unique, then the only way to be unique is to be not unique.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yea, it’s a worldview thing. One worldview says that the world runs on its own accord. God occasionally “breaks into” the natural order and performs a miracle. The other view—and the one I believe—is that God is always at work. The “natural order” is simply the way God usually works. However, sometimes He chooses to work instantaneously.

  • http://thesisugroup.org phil stevenson

    We have a flower that has a bud on it. You are just able to see the purple flower that will be exposed when in full bloom. My 2yr old grandson goes out each day to look at the soon to bloom bud. He tells anyone that will listen that it will soon open all the way up, as he unfolds his tiny hands. He shares that the opening is done by Jesus. This is the expectation of a unfolding miracle.

  • http://www.christopherneiger.com/blog Chris Neiger

    I’ve never heard miracles described in this way, but I really like it. We look for something to happen fast for proof that it’s from God, but David waited years before he could become king, Abraham was an old man before he had any kids and the Israelites lived in slavery for years before they were set free. It’s hard not to think that God has forgotten about us, but he definitely has not.

    • Anonymous

      It seems to be a natural human response to feel that God has forgotten us sometimes. Even Christ called out on the cross, those words that asks for the reason God has forsaken him… But through it all, we find he definitely has not forgotten us.

  • http://www.SacredRoutine.com Jodi Schumm

    My heart goes out to Megan and Joel. My husband and I were married nearly 10 years before our first son came along. Whether God blesses through adoption or a nearly impossible pregnancy, God blesses none the less.
    Our oldest son is now 6. Yet even now those years of infertility that are behind us continues to effect my understanding of God’s character. We continue to face different struggles which result in the same cries: “Why?””How long?” “Should I quit waiting for you to bless?” “Will you at least take the desire away so this isn’t so painful?”
    God is faithful. I know that more today because I saw His faithfulness before we had our son. For us, the way He drew us closer to Him and shaped us to be more like Him during those long, hard, painful years continue to be a source of strength for us today.
    We will pray God’s faithfulness will echo through Megan and Joel’s lives as they wait.

  • Sherri

    Thank you for this. I needed to be reminded of it today. I also need to remember that while I wait on God to answer prayer, I should be focused on him and not what I am expecting him to do. By that I mean that even as I anticipate his answer and thank him for what he is about to do, I don’t need to be so focused on what will happen in the future (tomorrow or next year) that I miss what he wants to teach me and do in and through me right now, today. God always has a plan (Jer. 29:11), and that plan is not just for the future, but for every moment of our lives.

  • http://twitter.com/OrdainedBarista Barry Hill

    Yes, I love this. Many time our prayer requests look like a “No.” until we are able to look back, over many years, and see what God had been weaving together all along. That’s one of the reasons I love to journal. When you go back (re-read) and see the process unfolding it gives you a real understanding of what God was doing. Sometimes we don’t even realize that a prayer/miracle has been accomplished until we stop and look at what we were asking for a few years back! God is faithful!

  • http://twitter.com/OrdainedBarista Barry Hill

    Yes, I love this. Many time our prayer requests look like a “No.” until
    we are able to look back, over many years, and see what God had been
    weaving together all along. That’s one of the reasons I love to journal.
    When you go back (re-read) and see the process unfolding it gives you a
    real understanding of what God was doing. Sometimes we don’t even
    realize that a prayer/miracle has been accomplished until we stop and
    look at what we were asking for a few years back! God is faithful!

  • http://www.tnealtarver.wordpress.com TNeal

    I prayed last night just before going to bed (no, that’s not the miracle; well, maybe, yeah, but…) that our son would contact his mother in the next 24 hours, it being the twilight of Mother’s Day. Less than two minutes later, my wife said, “I got an email from Daniel (our adopted son, by the way). He says he’ll call me tomorrow.”

    In this instance, the answer to prayer seems instant but, in reality, God, who never fails to work in our lives, had been working in our son’s heart through setbacks, adversity, and tons of parental prayers.

    I’m grateful that the Lord chose my son’s email to encourage my own heart. Because of its dullness, I need such “miraculous” interventions. Not always. Just sometimes. Like last night.

  • http://betterthanideserve.wordpress.com Brian McKinley

    Wow! Talk about putting things into perspective.

  • http://twitter.com/jonstolpe Jon Stolpe

    I have to hold on to the hope that God is working a slow miracle.

  • http://www.mattrob.com Matt Robison

    Just a quick read of the story of Joseph solidifies this fact. Hindsight is always 20/20. I won’t know the slow miracles from the regular plodding in life until I get more wisdom.

  • Kimberly L. Smith

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and while your words often stir me, these particular ones really ministered to me. I work to fight human trafficking, mostly for orphans in war zones. This means I spend a lot of time in dark places like Darfur, Southern Sudan, Congo and other sharp corners of our world. A person doesn’t live in that kind of darkness without a lot of it rubbing off on you. And, at times, rather than crying out to God I fall into taking matters into my own hands.
    Never a pretty sight. God, have mercy on me.
    I wrote a lot about this incredible journey God allows me to stumble along on in my book, Passport through Darkness, but now i am having to face my own limitations on an even deeper level.
    The agony of wanting a miracle for these precious children as bombs are dropped all around them and slave raiders come after them daily, just begs for a miracle.
    At times, I admit that I’d rather hide in a bottle than hang onto a prayer.
    Then, God shows me a bit of His agony in it all–and the steadfast way that He perseveres in His relentless pursuit of the redemption of the world, and the miracle of Hope breaks through once again.
    i greatly needed your reminder today that this battle is not mine, but His in which He allows me to taste.
    love, your sister along the journey, Kimberly L. Smith

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing this comment, Kimberly. It really touched me. I almost didn’t post this.

      Thanks also for all you do to counter the darkness.

  • http://www.wisewomenwrite.com Dianewrites

    Ever since I heard the phrase “Trust in the slow work of God” that is part of a beautiful prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, I have been using it as a mantra. It works when we look at others’ lives and especially when we look at our own. I hope your daughter and son-in-law eventually receive a child as the result of His slow work!

  • http://twitter.com/SalesSells Wim Wilmsen

    That’s such an inspiring story. Reminds us to stay positive and grateful. Miracles happen everyday, just look around you! Just have to see them..

    Wim

  • Clinton

    “Perhaps he simply has a different timetable.”

    I just spent the last 16 months looking for a job. During that time I worried constantly that I would run out of money and that I would not be able to find another job. Iknew that God had provided for me, but it was tough not to worry.

    The month that my severance pay ran out, the perfect job showed up in my search. I applied for that job like so many others, but this time, within 5 minutes of applying, my phone was ringing and they wanted to interview me. 10 days later I had done 4 interviews and had the job.

    I pray that I learned the lesson God had for me during that time.

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

    I think one of the biggest problems in our Christian thinking is that many of us look at God as a magician. From wisking the world into existence in six twenty-four hour days to instaneous results to prayer, we tend to equate God with speed and not with depth. I’ve come to look at my relationship with God in the terms of Him building His life into my life, and that project is long term. I’m no longer looking for miracles–I’m looking for the righteousness that is greater than the force of evil in our world. Really, that’s all miracles are–the manifestation of the power of righteousness over evil. So, I’m constantly asking God for the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that only He has and believing that His love will not fail.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Well said, Patricia. Becoming like Christ is probably the greatest miracle of all. And it takes TIME! Thanks.

  • Virtual Agents

    Miracles do happen everyday; I guess we all just have to be patient enough and to have faith for us to see that no matter how slow or how quick, He makes it happen for all of us. We just have to be thankful for every blessing he gives us whether it’s huge or simple.

  • Gr82bmom2

    Love this post. Please tell your daughter that she is so very right. She is a childless mother and God will send her His perfect child. We were married 11 years before God grew our family through adoption. I was a childless mother too, but oh when my eyes first met our Peyton’s, I knew…God had handed us a precious miracle years in the making!

  • Anonymous

    Incredible story, and so true! We all have our patience threshold at different levels, but that’s because we’re placing a timetable on God’s creation. Everything we see is a mirale, and grows abundantly according to God’s will in our lives. However, there is a call to be intentional about living out and truly engaging in the moment by moment productivty of our own growth. But that’s the beauty of it; when we’re engaged in the moment with intention, we can see, witness, and embrace the real miracle throughout our days. Thanks for the story Michael…

  • http://www.alwaysandforeverours.blogspot.com Brian

    It took my wife and I 18 months of paperwork and waiting until we finally brought our sons home from Ethiopia last September. My wife and I can definitely relate to your daughter and son-in-law as they wait for their miracle. Their day will come…their miracle will appear.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the encouragement, Brian.

  • Chad

    Michael,

    Thanks for the Slow Miracles post. Currently I am struggling with some decisions about a career change and I have been praying for some kind of sign. I have to remind myself often that God does not work on our schedule. This really drives that home! Keep up the great work. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts.

  • http://brevis.me Robert Ewoldt

    We have a couple in our church who have been waiting for years to adopt a child from South Korea, and this week got a referral from their adoption agency. We are so excited! I’ve also been following Megan’s blog posts about her adoption, and have been praying for her as well.

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  • LesaKMelchor

    Mike –

    This was such a needed word of encouragement for me today. My daughter has PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome) which causes the ovaries to not produce as it should. I have walked a 3 year journey with her and my son-in-love as they’ve tried to get pregnant. There are no words to express the complete devastation and heartbreak we all experience each month as the fertility drugs don’t provide the baby they are looking for. Watching her get her hopes up and then crash has been a grueling test of a mother’s resolve to hang on to God’s promises for her child.

    Today, unfortunately, after 3 months of “possibility” – it became a no, again. This journey, while painful, has caused my first born to seek God in ways that only this trial could have provided. She has learned that sometimes we put things, dreams and/or desires in the God spot. God is not obligated to prop up our idolatry when a believed lie is at the root. I could have never taught her that no matter how much preaching I’ve done. God has carved a deep relationship with her during this time and for that, I’m grateful. This miracle is slow in coming but I know it will arrive in God’s perfect time. I think the biggest miracle is the change in her during this journey. God knows what He’s doing.

    Thanks for sharing your story which reminded me that God is in control and will carry on to completion that which He started in her – in all of us. No matter how long it takes.

    I’m praying for your daughter and her babies.

    Lesa

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lesa. I appreciate you sharing your daughter’s journey.

  • http://www.thegiftofmondays.com/ colleen laquay urbaniuk

    it’s hard to wait on God’s timing when we have so many plans of our own. part of me wonders if the wait is more about us than it is about Him. through every obstacle God is shaping our hearts, building our compassion, getting us ready to “see” through” new eyes. though the process is rarely easy, i find strength in knowing that He’s never left me, even when i was in the middle of the darkest valley. sometimes He shows up in a word of encouragement. sometimes in a song. sometimes in a prayer. but He always shows up. and it’s just that exact bit of strength i need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. i’m amazed at God. i’m amazed at how He works. i’m amazed that even in the middle of a chaotic world, He still finds time for just one.

    i know without a doubt that God has His eye on megan and joel. i know He hasn’t forgotten them. i believe nothing happens by coincidence. that moments are not created by chance. through a series of unusual events, God placed on my heart the desire to post a certain blog yesterday. i wasn’t ready to do it. i didn’t know where it would lead. i wanted to wait until later. but i obeyed. because i know when He asks like that, He has something to say and someone who needs to hear it.

    http://www.thegiftofmondays.com/2011/05/adopted-babys-talk-with-god.html

    though miracles are never in our timing, your post reminds me that they are still miracles nonetheless!!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/dianaflegal Diana Flegal

    A great reminder of God’s faithfulness Thank you for the encouragement.

  • HMGullett

    Thank you for posting this one. I am encourage by the story while waiting for the answer from God for us in this situation. I always believe in miracles that God can do and of course He is able only the question is: “Are we patient enough to wait on God to reveal his glory?”

    We are still waiting for God and always think that God is working – either slowly or fast – but HE IS STILL WORKING!

    Be blessed!

  • http://www.solobizcoach.com SoloBizCoach

    The key is being able to recognize those miracles that take longer to happen. We often forget what we once asked for, and then when it occurs we just treated it as commonplace. I think that it is important to think about the blessings that occur in your life and look at the journey taken to bring them to fruition.

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  • Faythe Furman

    Thanks for this reminder that I so much need today. However, I have a reminder regarding your daughter and her husband’s adoption process.
    I had a young Dr. staying in our home for about 6 weeks as he prepared for foreign missionary service, as my husband a surgeon with missionary surgery experience, was taking him to work with him every day and mentoring him. His young wife, a nurse during the week, would come up and join us on the weekends. She was also going through fertility treatments as they wanted to have a baby before they left for a foreign country. They were finally told that there was no hope of every conceiving! They adopted a beautiful baby boy and left for the mission field. After arriving at their assigned post, and before the baby’s first birthday, she found out she was pregnant. She went on to have another child as well..
    realizing, that God is in control, they knew that God wanted that first adopted child to be theirs and that would not have happened if He had answered the prayers for a child earlier.
    He is at work even if we are impatient. He can be trusted!
    I have prayed for your other grandaughter who is having health issues. How is she?
    God bless you!
    Faythe

  • Lenore Buth

    Great post, Michael. Slow miracles sometimes look like no miracles for a long time. Waiting is like wandering in the wilderness. My husband and I learned a life lesson after a time when we counted on a “sure thing” which turned out to be anything but. Since we had prayed and felt absolute peace, it made no sense to us. Wilderness time and growing time followed. After our confidence in our plans and our ability to make things happen had ebbed away, God placed before my husband an opportunity he would not have thought right for him. It turned out to be a perfect fit and led to a satisfying career.

    Later we saw the pattern of the miracle, how we had to make the first decision so that we would be in the place and be ready for what God wanted to do all the time.

  • http://profiles.google.com/hellseherphilosoph Brett Gracely

    I’ve seen magnificent, “slow” miracles. See attached.

  • http://profiles.google.com/pauladavispeace Paula Davis

    Michael, this is such a good reminder. I find myself often shortsighted when it comes to what God is doing in my life and in the lives of others. Sometimes we have to look twice to realize what miracles are taking place all around us!

  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    We were spared by the HUGE outbreak tornadoes here in Alabama. However 3 years ago we were directly hit by one. Part of our house was wiped out. Others were destroyed. Like I told our church, “It is a miracle no one was killed in that storm. However, even if our house would have been completely destroyed. Even if a dozen people would have died. Even if we were still without a home… God is STILL a good God.” That’s a hard idea to process, but I believe that’s where faith comes into play. We also can witness miracles within those hard times. We’re seeing it now in those areas that were destroyed by the recent tornadoes and storms. In some of these places, our churches are being put on ‘standby’ because people are helping in such large numbers. People’s needs are being met. People are hurting and are being consoled the best way that can considering the circumstances. God is being seen. Some may say it’s a miracle.

  • Anonymous

    Great story! In my lifetime, they have come slowly, but not 80 yrs slow! We ran into pretty difficult financial situations years ago, but whenever I desperately needed a little money to feed my kids, it somehow came to me…albeit at the last possible moment, but still i never had to do without.

  • Anonymous

    This reminds me of a book that I read by Bill Hybles call Just Walk Across the Room. He talks about the process of evangelism and how people are moving along a time line until they reach the point of accepting Jesus. It could be a slow process on the time line or a quick one or it could be that you are the person that brings them to believing or someone else. The point is it is not about us, but about what God does and we are just instruments for the Lord. I think that the same can be said for miracles. We tend to get caught up in the issue of waiting to see something that happens dramatically. Often times , we are waiting to see what we want too rather than what God may want for us. It is like the old Garth Brooks song Unanswered Prayers.

  • Anonymous

    Great illustration. Evernote “Illustrations folder” worthy. Speaks of patience while waiting. I’ve experienced plenty of that in my 32 years. Each time, enduring with patience paid off in the long run. Thanks Michael.

  • Marianne Takac

    I believe in miracles, quick and slow, as I’ve seen them happen in my life time and time again. In 1998, my daughter was very ill with a “mysterious” illness. After searching for 9 months for an answer to the illness overtaking her, we found our answer. By this time, our daughter was unable to walk, and it was uncertain if she would live anymore years here on earth. The next several years were spent in full time care of my daughter, and God was present in miracles, of different magnitudes. Some, to the outsider, may have seemed “not really miraculous”. But to our family, who had prayed and witnessed the prayers of literally hundreds of people across our country, God’s workings were never small. Answers and progress for our daughter’s recovery often came slowly, but they came. Our daughter was told she would never walk again, she is now a runner! God had many lessons for us to learn. Now we have the privilege of sharing them in the form of a 30 day devotional, being published through the West Bow division of Thomas Nelson! Marianne Takacs

  • bethanyplanton

    I love Megan’s point about miracles. Living in the instant age, we tend to expect miracles instantly and when it doesn’t happen that quickly we are disappointed. We all need to remember God does not operate in time like humans do.

  • http://twitter.com/plantedinchrist Brandon Weldy

     “Usually, He works over a long period of time. This doesn’t make it any less miraculous, but it is certainly less dramatic.” I really liked this line. Sometimes Christians get caught up in the dramatic. We thrive on big events, huge responses to those in need, a thriving youth group that seems to sprout up over night, etc. While these things are good in so many ways and God uses them all the time to change our lives and to spark a deeper love for Him, if we are only relying on the dramatic experiences then we are missing out on so much of the daily works of God. They may not seem as amazing with one glance, but just like the acorn to the oak tree, there is a miracle that has happened none-the-lessUsually, He works over a long period of time. This doesn’t make it any less miraculous, but it is certainly less dramatic.” I really liked this line. Sometimes Christians get caught up in the dramatic. We thrive on big events, huge responses to those in need, a thriving youth group that seems to sprout up over night, etc. While these things are good in so many ways and God uses them all the time to change our lives and to spark a deeper love for Him, if we are only relying on the dramatic experiences then we are missing out on so much of the daily works of God. They may not seem as amazing with one glance, but just like the acorn to the oak tree, there is a miracle that has happened none-the-less

  • Anonymous

     I am 55 years old and war-torn after a long and difficult divorce.  My former husband decided to leave after 15 years of marriage.  My son, at the age of 14, went to live with his dad. That was 3 years ago, and I only get to see him twice a month on weekends.  I am back in college again, after 35 years, working on a Bachelors degree.  I must find a job that provides health care in the next 3 months.  That is only the tip of the iceberg.  I have a difficult time and struggle with all of these demands.  I miss my son like I miss breath itself.  I do not understand, and have come to the conclusion, that I may never understand why these things have happened. 
               
    That being said, and as low as I may feel at times, I know that God knows the beginning from the end, and that I do not.  And that’s okay.  He is God, after all.  It’s a trust thing.  Many have deserted me, and I find myself wrestling with the concept that God will always be here for me.  It is difficult to comprehend. 

    I have found that being conditioned to earthly and human reaction,  puts a dent in my ability to trust Him.  But God is not man, and man is not God.  He will not brow beat me or condescendingly scold me or rub my nose in my mistakes.  I have learned that I must constantly push beyond what I experience here, and depend on Him, trusting that nothing comes to me but by His hand. 

    Why He has allowed such painful things to happen, especially when I’ve found myself in a sinking boat, sans oars, and stalled engine intact, is challenging to say the least.  It is a constant battle.  A shear battle of faith alone.  But in the end, God seeks my safety and security as He sees fit to position me.  His plan, not mine.  I think that it is the relationship that He seeks.  The liberation of being able to shout my protests and weep once again, knowing that I am heard, and that I matter, opens a stream of communication.  Perhaps at some points of silence then, God and I will become as the seasoned married couple dining in silence, a silence that spells understanding and comfort and trust.  A silence, however, that demands time to develop.  Simple math: patience plus perseverance equals endurance.   

    I am learning.  It is an on going process.  I have found that God most often works through this process, which is my eventual progress.   A tough row to hoe.  But I hear the harvest is an amazing one.    

  • Carolyndyck

    One of the people on my daily prayer list is my son.  As a child he committed his life to Jesus – loved Him passionately & even prevailed on the Pastor to baptize him (before he was 10 years old) because he felt so strongly about it.  Then life happened.  His father & I divorced when he was 13 years old – at this critical time of his life, his rock & ‘ground’ Oma passed away and his life fell apart.  His Dad was not walking a Christian life & I was basing my walk & behavior on fear & so he also, lost his way.  Throughout his turbulent defiant teen years I prayed & kept him before the Father.  Nothing.  More time passed – he was rejected by a girlfriend he thought would become his wife and ‘ran’  overseas for 4 1/2 years.  I continued to plead for him before the Father and last year he moved back home.  God had been hearing me, in that he came back safe & sound, a FAR more mature man than when he left , albeit with a still somewhat jaded attitude.  But God is faithful to His Word - He’s promised never to let us out of His Hand & I can see that occuring in my son’s life.  God has never let him go & continues to this day, in spite of the skid marks, to gently steer my boy back.  The challenge for me is to NEVER GIVE UP.  It is my personal  on-going lesson in faith. 

  • http://bernardshuford.tumblr.com Bernard Shuford

    Much about the transformation of sinners is similarly natured.