I was going through a rough patch in my life and I said a very silly prayer.
I prayed that God would give me a sign.
You must know this kind of prayer, even if you aren’t a particularly religious or prayerful person. It’s an urge that psychologists tell us is built the very fibre of our being: that tendency that seeks help from something bigger. And it is the prayer is a kind of begging of that something bigger to let us know that it’s in charge, that there’s some kind of plan.
It’s the prayer we make when things feel hopeless or desperate or out of control. It’s borne of a desire for clarity and love.
“God,” we pray, “if you’re there and you’re in charge and you really exist then please give me a sign!”
If you think about it, it’s the same reason that babies or young children sometimes cry: they want to know that a loving caregiver is there and in charge.
We are exactly the same.
And so, I prayed that prayer.
To be perfectly honest, I felt helpless. I had received some bad news and felt like situations which God has been orchestrating in my life were simply falling to pieces. Not only that, but I felt like the plan which God had been slowly and steadily revealing in my life—what I thought was a clear and direct path I was faithfully following—crumbled beneath my feet.
Suddenly I was in quicksand.
And I hadn’t the faintest idea what to do next.
I know now, being older and, I hope, a little bit wiser that God often shuffles things beneath our feet to keep us on our toes. To bring us back to Him in prayer. To remind us that it isn’t ourselves and our own intelligence and ambition we should be relying on but Him. The God who clothes the lilies of the valley and feeds the birds of the air. Our Christian life, in fact, can be summed up quite simply as a constant returning to God of what is His: ourselves.
I know now that God uses these things in our lives—bad news, hopeless situations, unfortunate circumstances—simply to remind us to draw, again and again, nearer to Him. And, that that drawing near is what makes us holier, and more fit for Heaven.
I know that now.
When I prayed, back then, for a sign from God I got it almost immediately.
Riding with some friends back from a lecture on campus a particularly meaningful some came on my friend’s car stereo. It was, literally, the song which punctuated the latter part of my life up to that point. It had been not just a meaningful song in a mix of other equally meaningful songs that I’d listened to often—it was the meaningful song. The theme of the last few years of my life and its suddenly appearance on that car ride home, moments after my heartfelt prayer, felt like the drop of a ton of bricks. I felt as if I were free falling through space. I couldn’t believe it.
And as I quietly caught my breath, in the backseat of the car, something even more incredible happened. The next song came on.
The next song, on my friend’s random playlist, had been the definitive theme of my past few weeks.
Since receiving bad news, since closing one chapter of my life and opening another, I’d been listening to this particular song on repeat, over and over, for weeks. I knew it word for word and beat for beat. I had been, for me, a kind of catharsis. The song.
And there it was, playing in the car, just after the other song, just after my prayer.It was a kind of cosmic mic drop.
I was going through a rough patch in life and I mumbled a small prayer, a cliche, asking God to give me a sign. I needed to know that He was there and that I was being faithful to His plan even if it didn’t make sense to me anymore. And God delivered. God sent me not only one song, the song which had been my faithful theme for the last number of years of my life but a second song, the unmistakable theme of the last few weeks of my grieving.
It was as if God said, “Just in case you weren’t sure about the first thing, here’s a second…”
I was stunned. I broke down in a blubbery mess of emotions. My friends thought I was nuts.
In hindsight it seemed a little silly: God sent me two songs on a random iTunes playlist when I was going through a difficult time? Is that really a miracle? Is that really meaningful? Telling others about the miracle even years later I spoke about it sheepishly. It didn’t underpin my belief in God but it certainly helped to buoy it; helped me through that difficult time to believe that He was in control. But it felt a little silly.
Like believing I’ll get 100,000 miles out of my expensive new tires because the salesperson says so. Is that really believable?
Years later I was recounting this miracle to a friend. I prefaced it, much like I did here, as being something kind of silly. A cliche request met by a silly little answer that seemed meaningful but also pretty goofy.
“But it was meant for you,” he said. “It was a miracle—it was important and powerful and meaningful—just for you.”
And he was right, and something struck me then that hadn’t before.
This miracle was incredibly powerful for me. It was a clear and unmistakable indication that God was listening. It meant that no matter how helpless or lost or confused I felt that the God of the Bible—the God who promised to keep me and look after me—was listening. And loved me. It was a one-two punch which couldn’t be denied.
And, sure, it sounded a little ridiculous. It sounded, sometimes, downright juvenile, but what made the miracle truly profound was, like my friend said, it was meant for me.
It was, I realized, the most powerful kind of miracle precisely because it was so personal.
Its power was in its sheer precision.
Think about this with me. The amazing aspect of this miracle is not like Jesus feeding the five thousand or casting out demons in front of crowds of onlookers or even raising Lazarus from the dead to go out and evangelize. The incredible part of this miracle was that it was tailor-made for me. That the God of the universe condescended to bend down and demonstrate just to me that He cared.
It was the smallness of this miracle that made it that much more profound.
God of all Heaven and earth cared so much about me in particular—my life, His plans for me, His purposes—that He would reach down through all space and time and everything to send me a message. To let me know it’s all going to be OK. To answer my desperate cry. And, sure, the retelling of these silly little miracles—and I’m sure you may have some too—sound goofy sometimes. They are personal and profound and that’s exactly the point. God cares about us that much to reach out just to us. To you and me, on such an individual level. Isn’t that the most amazing miracle ever?