Saturday, August 1, 2009

Modern Miracles

David and I have been reading the New Testament together over the last few months, and it has caused me to spend many hours contemplating miracles. At times I have thought how amazing it would have been to have lived in the time of the Savior and to see the miracles he performed. What an amazing thing to be able to watch as someone was healed of leprosy, or had their eyesight restored or ears opened! Imagine being healed by the Savior himself - what an honor!

But then, I have come to realize that the miracles performed by the Savior are no more amazing or worthy of notice then the hundreds of miracles I have seen in my own life.

We are surrounded by modern miracles. Sometimes they come in the form of an answered prayer, as a result of a priesthood blessing, or by obvious divine intervention (I can think of one particular occasion where there must have been an angel literally standing between me and utter disaster).

But, I think we often discount some experiences because we don't think of them as being miraculous, or because we are too blind to see the hand of God manifest in them. Because we often lack this awareness of heavenly involvement in our lives, we do not always give God the credit He deserves.

For example, when I got strep throat last year, was it any less of a miracle that I could be healed by penicillin than it would have been if I were healed by a priesthood blessing? What about the time my husband got appendicitis? Isn't it miraculous that his problem was diagnosed, a competent doctor was able to remove the infected appendix, and he recovered completely with no ill effects? After having surgery in Latvia, no less! How amazing!

As I have been thinking about these medical miracles, taking notice of them and acknowledging them for what they really are, I feel even more saddened by the recent news story of a father whose seriously ill daughter died because he thought it would show a lack of faith to take her to a hospital. Dale Neumann was convinced that God would heal his daughter of her ailment (which turned out to be diabetes) if he had enough faith. So, instead of taking her to see a doctor (who could have identified and treated her condition), he opted for the prayer-only approach. His daughter died surrounded by praying friends and relatives. Mr. Neumann has since been found guilty of second-degree reckless homicide and faces up to 25 years in prison.

This is a tragedy for many reasons, but most of all because Mr. Neumann thought that taking his daughter to a doctor would be "putting the doctor before God", and not believing what "God said he would do". How sad to think that having faith means that one cannot rely on medical care and its available treatments, which, if you think about it, are surely the result of inspiration and divine guidance.

Just think how many ailments are considered minor today, but have killed hundreds of thousands of people throughout the history of the world. Antibiotics alone are responsible for saving millions of lives. Vaccinations against diseases like measles and diphtheria are responsible for saving millions more. Every day more discoveries and advances are being made, and more illnesses have hope of a cure. Open heart surgery, organ transplants - are not these things miracles akin to the Savior raising Lazarus from the dead?

Faith is not manifest by inaction. Prayer and fasting are certainly an indispensable part of faith, but faith also involves doing everything one can possibly do and taking advantage of all of the medical procedures and expertise available to one. Of course modern science and medicine will not be able to solve every problem, but neither can an ill person sit idly by hoping God will heal her of her infirmity when she refuses to take advantage of the treatments and cures God has already made available to her through medical science.

This has been especially cemented in my mind with the birth of my son. I firmly believe his arrival was equally as miraculous as the birth of the biblical Sarah's or Hannah's or Elizabeth's sons. It does not make him any less of a miracle because an angel did not announce his coming, or because the pregnancy wasn't naturally achieved. Certainly he was the result of much prayer and fasting, and a staggering amount of faith and trust in God and His will for our family. But I think it would be an insult to God to discount the role that modern medicine and science played in my son's arrival. Those procedures were truly gifts from a loving Father in Heaven, tailor-made miracles that allowed my son to make his earthly arrival.

I'm grateful for all the advances that have been made in medicine and science. And to be truly grateful means to recognize those advances for what they truly are - miracles in every sense of the word.


Amy said...

Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. It has often bugged me how the world tries to separate God and Science as if they are two polar opposites. Indeed they are one in the same. Just looking at the world around me it is evident that what we call modern science is indeed just a small fraction of what Heavenly Father must know. I too am thankful for the portion of knowledge that he has allowed us to have and for the miracles that result from proper use of that knowledge.

fiona said...

Yeah, I never get the whole separation of God and science thing either...I mean, it's fairly obvious to me that He can and does do His work through such means. I'm grateful for these modern miracles, too!