04 Oct

Among the cynics and sceptics among us, miracles are no longer something that we consider with wonderment. The rise of science has taken away the poetic interpretations of things that we should be thankful of – and replaced with cold scientific facts that it is so

However, from time to time, God reminds me that miracles are real – it’s just that we are oblivious to them. We attribute them to other things besides God, and thus, we take them for granted. It’s like praising the lightbulbs when we know that the power is generated elsewhere. 

What got me thinking about the misattribution of miracles is what happened to my sister-in-law just recently.  My wife and I returned to Indonesia in July for my mum’s 78th birthday – and in the family gathering, I noticed that my sister-in-law was looking quite jaundiced. Supporting good scientific method, I compared her when she was standing next to Yani, my wife – or to my other siblings. 

I mentioned my concerns to my siblings – who then managed to convince her to get herself checked. The blood report showed that her bilirubin level was high, along with low haemoglobin level. She was ordered to go to the hospital right away, along with a strong order to have a USG scan. 

The scan showed a possible blockage and growth around ductus pancreaticus – which prevented the bilirubin to be broken down. The doctor suspected pancreatic cancer – a death penalty pretty much with a life expectancy of 6 months to 1 year. Even Steve Jobs with his money, or Aretha Franklin with her fame and connections couldn’t beat it – let alone my low-profile sister-in-law. The doctor advised that a stent could be installed in the pancreatic duct, but removing the cancerous growth was out of question. Too risky. He suggested that she could be brought over to Penang, Malaysia to get a second opinion and possible surgery.

To cut a long story short – two of my sisters, my brother and her went to Penang for an initial consultation. The doctors who they met over in Penang confirmed the prognosis – that it was highly probable that it was cancer. A surgery was then scheduled in a fortnight to remove the gall stones, install a stent, and to possibly remove the cancerous growth (Whipple surgery). However, when the surgery was conducted, the doctors found out that the cancer had spread to other parts, and that there was nothing else to do apart from installing the stent and remove the gall stones. Only a small section of the pancreas was removed – she was given 1 to 2 years’ life expectancy.

Upon their return to Indonesia, the whole family were told to pray for her. The situation was pretty dire. They stayed with my second sister’s family in Jakarta to recuperate, before they were due for another check-up in Penang. The Sunday before they were due to go, there was a guest speaker at my sister’s church – who invited those who were sick and in need of a prayer to come in front. Altar calls were quite rare in her church, she said. My brother and my sister-in-law came to the front to be prayed for, although they are Catholics and are typically uncomfortable with altar calls.

Now came the clincher – when they went to Penang for a check-up, the doctors couldn’t find any cancer in her body, and reported that it was very likely that she just had an inflamed pancreas. No cancer.

In this instance, it was automatic for us to say – how good it was that the doctors made a wrong diagnose! Excuse me to disagree. How can three highly educated, highly respected, intelligent and experienced doctors made the same mistake and came to the same wrong conclusion – independently. I believe that through God’s grace, she had received a miracle.

This gives me an epiphany that God still delivers His miracles – even to non-believers. It’s just that we misattribute His miracles to the methods or to the delivery persons rather than to God himself. We are so easy to say, “Thank God, the doctor was wrong!” (What if the doctor was right all along, but God changed the prognosis?). We are quick to recommend certain diets, methods, drinks, doctors, persons to help us – and we don’t question when somebody is healed through one method, and not others. What if God used diet for one, and not for another – a particular medicine or drinks for one, and not for the other. When we do get the miracles, we don’t want to attribute them to God. For some of us, we think it’s almost loathsome to attribute our blessings to God.

Miracles are still happening all over the world – sometimes we are just too blind to see them, deliberately so, even.

Why can’t we attribute miracles to God?