Fishing for Miracles

Casting hope into heaven


My father-in-law, Carl, often said, “It’s hell getting old.”

I always chuckled, though it was difficult to empathize with his aches and pains. But he was a good old guy, and I liked him—especially since he let me hunt on his farmland. My wife, Cindy, would say I married her for the hunting rights, an accusation I am reluctant to confirm or deny.

Pride Goeth . . .

In early December 2007, Cindy and I had to leave the house on an errand. After closing the front door, I walked across the porch and glanced over my shoulder to admire the Christmas lights I had spent the day hanging. Unfortunately, I did not realize how near I was to the concrete stairs that descend to the sidewalk.

As I turned, I stepped into empty air. I sent my feet in opposite directions, fell toward the steps, launched my body toward the lawn (which seemed preferable to landing on the concrete), twisted in midair, plowed my ribs into the edge of a large planter, smashed my knee on the steps, slammed my shoulder into the lawn, rolled down the remaining stairs and came to rest on my back in the middle of the sidewalk. It would have been a perfect 10 if I had kept my feet together at the landing.

The stars were beautiful against the black December night, though some were spinning around my head. Cindy ran over and yelled into my face, “Grady, do not move!” Not a problem, I thought. Carl was right; it is hell getting old.

Extreme pain on my right side made me suspect a broken rib, which the doctor confirmed the next day. He told me there was little he could do but prescribe pain pills and send me home. Weeks went by with little improvement.

Creeping Cynicism

I did not pray for healing and was reluctant to ask others to do so. Why? When I was a boy, I heard testimonies in church about terminally sick people miraculously healed after prayer. When missionaries visited, I listened—completely enthralled—to their stories of miraculous healings on the field: Cancers vanished, the demonically oppressed found peace, broken bones mended before the eyes of astonished onlookers. As an adult, I became a leader in our church. In cell groups, at retreats, in hospitals and at the altar, I prayed for people who wanted healing.

But years passed, and I never witnessed what I considered a miraculous healing. Cynicism crept into my heart. Eventually, I was anointing people with oil and praying for something I believed about as likely to happen as winning the lottery.

I came to believe that the world was a fallen, cruel place, and we should not expect miraculous intervention in this harsh and bitter landscape. This position was validated in my heart after decades of struggling with chronic illness for which I had prayed and received prayer hundreds of times without results.

I grew weary of the kind of testimonies I had believed as a child. I became critical of the church for placing so much positive emphasis on miraculous healings, which I felt caused those—myself included—who did not receive them to feel like second-class Christians.

A Breakthrough

Such was the condition of my heart at a worship service several weeks after my tumble down the steps. Our pastor asked if he could pray for my ribs. I thought, Why bother? But I agreed. He laid hands on me and said a prayer asking for relief from pain, but nothing happened. Just as I expected, I thought.

A few days later, the pain was gone. I contorted my torso every way I could to see if the pain would return, but it did not. It had not tapered off slowly; it had vanished instantly! The suddenness of the healing rattled me.

I later found out that one of Cindy’s coworkers and her husband had prayed for my healing the evening before it happened. The reality broke through the doubt and cynicism—I had been touched and healed by God. It was not a healing from a deadly disease, but it was powerful enough to soften my heart and cause some soul searching. And knowing that I’m a lifelong outdoorsman, God gave me a few insights using an analogy I could relate to.

Something Fishy

Miracles are somewhat like fishing. In Pavlov’s Trout, a book on fishing and life, Paul G. Quinnett writes, “Positive illusions enhance hope, and hope must goeth before every cast.” As an angler, I seldom tire of fishing from sunrise to sunset in blistering heat or frigid weather to catch nothing. Why would a sane person enjoy such a boring activity? It is partly because of those rare days when everything comes together, and I catch fish after fish until my arm is tired of reeling them in. Am I disappointed when I do not catch fish? Sure! But my hope remains strong every time.

True anglers set their expectations ridiculously high. We rise early and go to the water expecting that our fishing skills and special lures will be more than the fishes can resist. The feeling of tense excitement sustains us through endless hours of waiting. If the fish are not biting, we try different lures or change fishing holes, but the pleasant energy of expectation is always there. It does not discourage us much when we catch few or none because we know the fish live in the streams, rivers, lakes and oceans we visit. We do not always see them, but we know they are there. We see other anglers catch them.

Expect a Miracle

My dad used to say, “You can’t catch fish if your hook’s not in the water.” Can we expect to experience miraculous healing if we are not praying for it, expecting it, hoping for it? Of course, some miracles happen without our supplication. But prayer is how we keep our hooks in the water. We invite others to pray for us as we pray for others. And if we grow tired or cynical, we can pass the rod to those who still hope before they cast each prayer.

Will every Christian experience a miraculous physical healing? No. But every Christian can experience the pleasant excitement of choosing hope. We know the power of Jesus to heal is real; we feel it in our heart. Miraculous healings may be infrequent—according to our busy desires—but they happen.

Think of it this way: we never know what will happen with each prayer cast into heaven when hope precedes it. We know miracles are there, and that is exciting!

Best of all, we do not need to fall down concrete stairs to learn the pleasure of fishing for miracles for others and ourselves, unless we have a cynical heart that needs softening.

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