136 surgeries.

136 miracles.

It had even become predictable. We would get to that lowest moment when we were on our knees and hope did not seem possible. Arms outstretched, hands empty, hearts surrendered. And at that very last second . . . with every odd stacked against us . . . we would get our miracle. Friends and family shouted in praise “But God” and “God’s not finished yet”. 

We rejoiced every single time. We bowed in humble thanks and watched His great mercies overflow. It was hard not to see the face of God all over such an extravagant miracle.

How simple is it to glorify the mighty work of God in the midst of a miracle?

People love a God story. They gravitate to situations that move the heart. When the impossible is done. When good wins. When God shows up. Those moments when miracles happen.

But on that day . . . there was no miracle.

All the prayers in the world suddenly didn’t seem to matter. Death had it’s mighty hold. And the painful sting of defeat ripped through our lives. In merely minutes, the past four years amounted to . . . well, nothing.

The perseverance, the joy, the grace, the healing were gone in one fell swoop. And when we should have left the hospital with our boy in arms, we left with only a plastic Ziplock bag of his belongings.

The aftershock of death rippled through our little community. There was visible disappointment, tremendous grief, gut-wrenching sorrow and the startling realization that this time…there was no miracle. Perhaps even, that God didn’t show up.

As I grappled with grief I found myself face to face with a God who had chosen not to save. Not this time and not my child.

It was disheartening to watch prayers around me being answered and I added shame to the horrific list of feelings death had rendered me helpless to.

Death is the most unavoidable fate. The final act. The irreversible end. And we are completely powerless in its grip.

But death can not defeat what God has overcome.

I let the weight of that sink in. Death had come to destroy. But God had come to conquer. Victory is His. Those words that had only been murmured in the presence of miracles had now been uttered in the shadow of grief. The paradox was not lost on me.

God’s grandiose show is not only visible in miracles. His splendor is not only set in a radiant display of healing and joy. It is not only the answered prayers that acquire the extraordinary wonder of His work. God simply does not perform for the applause of man.

What if the miracle is still here? Right amidst the tears and pain?

This isn’t how a miracle typically shows up and it certainly isn’t how we are accustomed to recognizing it. But what if the miracle is here in the healing? What if God’s name is written all over the mourning?

Maybe it is here where suffering becomes rejoicing.

Could I offer up the same glory in sorrow that I would have in joy? That became the question that haunted my heart. If the hand of God was visible and miraculous in my son’s life . . . why would it change in his death?

Death is not a community for the weak and powerless. It is not simply a place where life is taken and hope ceases to exist. In fact, quite the opposite; in death, life goes on bearing new fruit and the eternal promise of abiding, relentless love.

On the outside, it appeared as though our prayers weren’t answered. Maybe it looked like the miracle didn’t come. But let me assure you: God was faithful.

When death becomes the greatest act of love rather than a battle we are forced to spend our lives fighting, everything changes. There is no longer a great divide. Life becomes our mission and death our journey home.

Our wounds hold the intricate details of our lives. Pain, suffering, anguish . . . the scars that tell the story of our brokenness. But it does not end there.

When we take that brokenness out and display it for the entire world to see, the darkness is overcome by the light. A splendid and magnificent transformation occurs. A resurrection. Beauty rises from the ashes of defeat. 

And there we find the greatest miracle of all.

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Shannon Shpak

Shannon Shpak is a writer and social media manager who is rebuilding life after loss with her 5 children. She believes in hope, perseverance and being strong . . . all legacies her son left behind.