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I was looking for a miracle

photo by Gina Dreher

Saturday was Cora’s 5th Heaven anniversary.

It is hard for me to believe that it has been five years since I last held my baby girl. Five years since I was sitting in that dark PICU hallway early on a Sunday morning, my heart racing as I saw doctors and nurses rushing in and out of my daughter’s little room. Five years since I saw Joel pacing back and forth next to me. Both of us feeling so helpless as, what seemed like seconds later, we stood around Cora’s hospital bed and watched our baby girl slip away. Both of us praying for a miracle that never happened.

February 8th, 2009 I was praying for a miracle. And honestly, I was fully confident in God’s ability to intervene and save my daughter’s life. I was expecting Him to. But my miracle never came and I felt like my prayers had gone unanswered.

The past five years have held some of the hardest and darkest days of my life. But at the same time that I have experienced heartache, I have also experienced Jesus in a way that I have never experienced before. I have chosen to take my messy grief, questions and pain and lay it all at His feet. And He has always faithfully met me right in the middle of that big mess.

Can I be honest and tell you that since losing Cora I have struggled as I’ve read through the miracles of Jesus? It’s not that I doubted His power. It’s not that I doubted His compassion and great love for people. But I would often get to those passages and read about these ordinary people who expressed great faith. I saw Jesus acknowledge their faith and miraculously bring healing and I would wonder what I did wrong. Did I not have enough faith? Why did He choose not to heal Cora?

I have been studying Matthew in BSF this year and as we got to the miracles of Jesus I could feel myself getting stuck again. The questions flooding back just as they always did. Then we got to chapter 9. I remember reading through the familiar story of the paralytic man. How his friends, in great faith, went to so much trouble to get this man to Jesus. And how Jesus recognized their faith. I heard Jesus saying “take heart, son; your sins are forgiven” and I immediately felt a familiar let down. I wondered how Jesus could tell the paralytic man to “take heart” when everyone in the room knew he obviously needed Jesus’ healing touch on his body. After all, his friends had gone to great lengths to get him there in the first place! They knew Jesus was the only one who could heal him so what was He waiting for? And then I saw something I had never seen before.

BUT, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” (Matthew 9:6)

The word “but” jumped off the page at me. But what? I quickly skimmed back through the passage and then it hit me. Some standing there that day didn’t believe Jesus had the power to forgive sins. They saw him merely as a man and a miracle worker, not as the Son of God who had authority over sin. But Jesus was telling them it was easier for him to heal this man’s body than to heal this man’s soul. Jesus didn’t come to be known as a great miracle worker. He didn’t come just to perform miracles. He came for something so much greater. He came to be their Savior. And that is where the “but” comes in. Jesus says I don’t need to heal this paralytic man because I have already forgiven his sins–I have already met his greatest need. But to show you who I am…to show you that I am the true Savior…to show you why I really came….to show you that I have authority over sin and disease…

He said to the paralytic man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”

“Jesus’ miracles caught people’s attention. They revealed God’s love and compassion toward humanity. However, every miracle was also a sign that promised a greater spiritual and eternal miracle–rescue from sin. For all who come to Jesus in faith today, His miracles make this same promise.” (BSF, Matthew Lesson 8 Notes)

This was huge for me. I still get teary eyed thinking of how God used this passage to speak to my weary broken heart that day. I heard him saying to me,

Jess, I don’t want you to come to me as merely a miracle worker. You so often think you are the one who knows what is best for your life; that you should be in control. You come to me like you would a genie and then get discouraged and start questioning when you don’t get what you asked for. I want you to come to me as your Savior. I want you to come to me confident that I have already met your greatest need and that you can trust me with the rest. Don’t get me wrong, I still want you to come to me with your requests and questions and fears and dreams. I want you to ask me for those miracles to happen in your life. I see you. I hear you. Lay it all at my feet. But when my answer is no or you don’t get that “miracle” you were looking for, I want you to trust me. Trust me as your Savior. Trust me as the One who loved you enough to die a painful and horrible death on the cross for you. I came to rescue you and give you abundant life in me. I want you to realize the power of my presence in your life and the constant security you have in me. I want you to trust that I desire what is best for you even more than you do.

I wrote in my notes that day…and then circled and starred it so that I wouldn’t forget…

Faith is knowing that God has the power to do it and trusting Him with the outcome.

It has taken me five years of questioning those miracles to hear Jesus speak to me personally through His Word. Sometimes I wonder what in the world took me so long to get this?!! But do you know what is really sweet? This was such a reminder to me that my Jesus continues to meet me in my sorrow even five years later as Iย  journey through grief. His Word is alive and powerful and He uses it to speak directly to me. And this year, five years after saying goodbye to my Cora, I am thankful for how He continues to reveal Himself to me in such a real and tangible way. He is truly close to the brokenhearted.

This year I want to stop looking back and wondering where Jesus was when I needed a miracle. Instead, I want to look to my Savior, who was there all along, and has the power to accomplish His good and loving purposes in my life. Whatever He allows into my life I can trust Him with the outcome because He has already accomplished the greatest miracle…He has rescued me from my sin.

  • Kristina - That is powerful. Thank you for sharing how He spoke to you.

    I just started a Bible study called Satisfy My Thirsty Soul by Linda Dillow. Don’t know if you have heard of her, but on chapter 1 and it is great so far. I know you do Bible studies so I thought I would mention it to you.

    Thanks again for sharing this life-changing truth!ReplyCancel

  • Teri SP - Praise God! I am so happy to hear that the Lord spoke to you. Thank you for sharing this with us. I know that Jesus loves you and your beautiful family. I know that he does hear you and that he is so proud of you and Joel and the wonderful parents you both are. I was so ecstatic to read of your pregnancy. The Lord has many many blessings for you, your family, and your new baby. Reading this only assures me that the Lord is up to something great in Kansas. It is so great that I can feel it all the way here in deep South Texas! Awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle from Australia - Jess, Cora’s anniversary marks 5 weeks and 2 weeks since I was asked to pray for your gorgeous girl. And you and Joel. And I very humbly thank you for your inspiration, guidance, example and sharing your family, joy, smiles, tears along the way. God Bless you all.ReplyCancel

  • Jenn - Precious, precious, precious!!! Your honesty and encouragement are a sweet balm. Thank you so much. xoReplyCancel

  • Deb - Beautiful Jess. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • babykatesmom - Love this post. Thank you for sharing your heart. Praying for you.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - I don’t know you except from your blog, but I know you are a beautiful woman. You are an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story and journey.

    I have been praying for you and your family since I came across your blog several years ago and continue to pray.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Johnson - AMEN. Your maturity in Christ leaps of the screen as I read. I often struggle with miracles, too. But then I realize the greatest miracle of all is in Him coming to rescue me from my sin. Thank you for your encouraging words this morning.ReplyCancel

  • Joleen - Beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing such an intimate moment with our Heavenly Father. You are an inspiration!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - Beautifully spoken. God bless.ReplyCancel

  • Deborah - I “met” you through your blog when I followed a prayer request for Cora. I have a daughter about her age. Thank you for testifying about Christ through all of it. I trust that He is faithful, and I am still so sorry for the pain and loss of your sweet girl.ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - Beautifully written. You should write a book, Jess. I think there are so many mothers who have lost their child that would so benefit from your story, your walk, your words.ReplyCancel

  • Mary Ann - Oh Jess…this year’s angel anniversary must have been so hard. The 5th one for me was so so difficult. I did not lose a child but my darling husband in August 2008. I remember kneeling in a hospital bathroom floor begging for a different outcome, hoping for my miracle too. But at the end of that particular prayer, I had to say it: Thy will be done!! I understood that my husband’s life hung in the balance but it was his life and the decision was between him and God. During the process of a doctor trying to place a breathing tube, my husband suffered irreparable brain damage. I made the decision to shut off life support on August 12, 2008. In January 2009 my dad passed away. Then only 7 weeks later, my mother had a stroke and passed away too. My miracles didn’t happen. For so many years, I too wondered if I lacked faith, if I didn’t have enough hope, if I had done something where I didn’t deserve a miracle. But then….my son who was near physically but so far away emotionally with so many issues came back to me. He married his sweet wife. A year after my mother passed away, they had my little grandson who is 3 now. He’s my miracle. He saved me…he gave me something to live for. My life with my husband was also a miracle. We had the most amazing 34 years together full of fun, laughter, adventure, love, and respect. I know God is watching over you. You have inspired thousands with your wise words and your upbeat attitude. I wish I could meet you in person because you are a special person indeed. So sorry for the loss of your precious Cora. She is watching over you too. I think she’s hoping her mama is happy. She will live in your heart forever….the LOVE never ends.ReplyCancel

  • andrea - Reading this was such a blessing. Praying God would bring someone who is also questioning and read it and believe that Jesus is all sufficient for whatever they are walking through.
    (from a fellow BSF-er ๐Ÿ˜‰ )ReplyCancel

  • Cristin Thurman - I just want to say “thank you” for these beautiful words. I needed to hear these words more than anything. Grief has struck my family too many times to count in the last 5 years, and I too have questioned God during these times. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being so candid and honest, and thank you for sharing the word of the Lord!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - I love this post! I’ve read here for years but have never commented, but I’m in BSF also and had this EXACT same revelation in terms of wondering why Jesus hasn’t said ‘yes’ to my fervent prayers for physical healing in my family. Matthew has been SO good this year (I say that every year, though.) ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for sharing your heart!ReplyCancel

  • Traci - Jess, Jesus has you in the Sovereignty of God Grad School. He hears us. He will not stop speaking to our hearts. Several years after Timmy went to Heaven Jesus was still faithfully comforting me in a very personal way. Was He late? no Was I slow to receive? no Is His timing perfect? yes The reminders of Heaven and just how sweet Jesus is even in the most painful moments are what bring hope. (And, yes, Satisfy My Thirsty Soul by Linda Dillow is a great book.) You are on a very special journey of intimacy with God. I appreciate your honesty in brokenness. Cora and Timmy’s lives made huge impressions on our hearts. Through all the pain there is great dependency and growth. Keep going deeper with Him. Our family was in an outdoor drama about the life of Peter every weekend after Timmy died. When the wailing crowd of mourners crossed the stage and Jesus spoke, “Young man,I say to you,arise.” raising the mother’s dead boy, (from Luke 7) I felt mocked. The doubt about my faith or what I had done wrong, set off another avalanche of my brain trying to solve for an impossible equation. He has more for you and me to “get.” And,you said it so well…He is close to the brokenhearted.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - Jess, On the one hand I SOO, SOO wish you had gotten “your miracle”. I have a Cora now too – named so in part because of your sweet Cora and so my mother heart wants *even more so* for you to have your Cora by your side. On the other hand, I *know* you got God’s miracle. It doesn’t feel like the kind of flashy miracle we all would have loved to have seen in Cora’s life and your life and Joel’s but it is amazing that yes, He is giving you a miracle day by day. The miracle of God with us! You can rest in the arms of a LOVING Savior who sees You and hears You and understands You every day. I don’t feel like I am saying all of this particularly well and I confess that I struggle in my own day to day life with wanting my wants more than just wanting Him. (Oh Lord, help me to grow in this.) Blessings on your day and thank you for sharing your faith walk with us. KellyReplyCancel

  • Amy - A friend of mine posted this and it spoke to my heart dearly since this is something I’ve been wrestling with as well in Bible study. I lost my 15 month old son almost 2 years ago very unexpectedly. You are so right that He is so much more than a miracle worker. He is our Savior and the ultimate miracle is His death and resurrection which allows our little ones to be rejoicing in his kingdom today. I had this thought that when Jesus performed miracles, there was so much praise and glory being brought to his name. But what’s even more powerful is when he chooses not to, and still so much glory and praise can be brought to his name. Thanks for doing that.ReplyCancel

  • Amy - Thank you so much for sharing with such transparency. Your words have been a tremendous inspiration to me and to countless others in the last 5+ years. Praise God for His goodness and His powerful, living Word!ReplyCancel

  • Janine - Thank you for this. You put it into words more eloquently than I could even do in my own head. It is exactly what I have struggled with over the years and I love that you came out on the side of faith. I did not, and I am okay with it. Part of me wishes I could turn a switch (I guess it is why I keep reading blogs like yours) and go back but I haven’t found that yet. And now I have some thinking to do thanks to you. I hope you find some peace and comfort during this hard time. Your Cora was and is very special, touching the lives of so many without even knowing it.ReplyCancel

  • Erica - Oh Jess, I can so relate to this. We studied this story in our church this week and I was thinking about it and was amazed by how he looked straight at the man and said your sins are forgiven. What a precious gift that man recieved, an everlasting gift, better than any restoration of his earthly body and that is what I rest in when my heart is torn by the saddness of our losses. What a sweet gift the Word is. Hugs to you from a far on Cora’s heaven anniversary.ReplyCancel

  • emily - I’m in BSF in Ohio and I just love the lessons I learn each Monday while I’m there. ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Courtney Lunsford - Jess- I have followed your story and your journey for a little over 5 years now. You are such a strong woman of God. Thank you for sharing your life, what The Lord teaches you, even in the darkest times and helping us all to gain perspective. Hugs from Texas…ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - I so needed to hear this message today. Thank you for being so open and raw in your writing. Thinking of you and your sweet family.ReplyCancel

  • eileen - One of the directives @ church this past Sunday was to give thanks and praise to those around you. I would like to tell you your words are powerful and resonate to all of us listening. Your kids are lucky to have you as their mother.
    May God continue to bless you and keep you safe.ReplyCancel

  • Melinda - Beautiful, thank you for sharing this with us. I first found your blog about a year after Cora passed away, and I have been a regular reader since. I have learned so much from you, thank you for being so open and honest.ReplyCancel

  • Laurie - This is beautiful and so very powerful. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Allison - That was probably the most powerful post I have ever read. I am studying BSF right now as well and this past November marked five years that my mom went to Heaven. In fact I came upon your blog because I was in search of someone who was experiencing grief and we could walk side by side. The blog I went to lead me to you as she was praying for you. I have followed you since. You have been an inspiration to me in many ways, and the legacy of Cora lives on through you and through your life. And the life of your husband. That is what God does. He takes beauty from ashes. The ashes of your life is turned into something beautiful, the lives that are saved through your testimony, the strength you show and the way your life is pointed to God. Feb. is such a rough month for so many. I have had two friends deliver 35 week old babies stillborn, a friend loose their nine year old after a complication from surgery, and some friends loose their daughter in a car accident. All of these happened between 5-6 years ago. But through it all, God have used their lives and their ashes to bring Him glory. So today and this month I am going to remember what you said. God has a bigger picture than we do, He is sovereign and we can always trust Him even when we don’t understand. He can take our hurts, our anger and take it on our shoulders so we can go and bring glory to Him, our Savior. Thank you Jess for all you do, and although we don’t know each other personally, you don’t know the impact you have had on my life: Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Toni :0) - Hard to believe it’s been five years. You’ve all come so far. I still pray for your family and sweet Cora-your angel. Praying always for peace and comfort. xoxoReplyCancel

  • Jennay - As I read this I was in tears. So powerful and touching. I’m so blessed to have been reading your blog for sometime now and I pray that God heals your heart. I don’t have children so I can not imagine what you have been through. But know, that I’ve kept you and your family in my thoughts and prayers every day. I know Cora is smiling down at her wonderful and loving family. Thank you for your beautiful posts.ReplyCancel

  • Liz - I am so sorry for your loss, and am grateful for your words of insight and encouragement today.ReplyCancel

  • Laura - Jess, this was so great. I struggle with God not answering prayer sometimes even when I believe in faith that he can change the outcome. Thank you for your insight in that verse in Matthew.

    I love following your blog and IG. I have a boy similar in age to Levi and my daughter is similar in age to Cora. My parents both grew up on a KS farm and this OK girl loved visiting grandparents there. It’s so fun for me to see your farm pics. Thanks for letting us see a little snapshot of your life and sharing His truth through your journey.ReplyCancel

  • Amie - Tears! You are an amazing family! One that we never stop learning from! Thank you for always putting things in perspective for me! Miss you! Your journey and faith are one I will never forget!ReplyCancel

  • Gloria - Wow! I love how you put it in words so well. The questions were a part of my journey/story as well. God met me too – He is so faithful! God bless you!ReplyCancel

  • Jackie - That was a beautiful post! Only he know the reasons why and in him we must trust. May God continue to bless you and your family.ReplyCancel

  • Debi - Thank you for sincerity in this post. I can’t imagine how hard it is to lose a baby…your honesty though and Christ centered focus are amazing and encouraging! Your testimony has a ripple effect as you share your heart and point people back to Christ. Even through the struggle and the questions, know that God IS using you and Cora’s story to turn people’s hearts to Him. Praying for your heart as you continue to wrestle with such difficult things.ReplyCancel

  • Deborah Raney - I can’t tell you how much this post touched me today. A message I needed to hear and remember. You have been such a wonderful testimony to the world these past 5 years. Thank you for letting Jesus use you in such a powerful way, despite the pain and sorrow of losing Cora. It’s such a joy to see how He has blessed you now with your precious boys and such a wonderful family. I so appreciate your honesty and transparency. You have touched far more people than you know.ReplyCancel

  • Paula Aspacher - That is a true revelation and also answers some of the same questions I have had over the years. I will read your post several times as it is so powerful. You are an amazing woman of God with a beautiful family!ReplyCancel

  • Heather - jess, this might be my favorite post you’ve ever written.
    your words are just so perfect! they express exactly what is in my heart, too.
    He really has given us the greatest miracle…the ability to be with our children again!
    i’m so very thankful for that. love you!ReplyCancel

  • Amber - This is so preciously written. You quote on faith spoke to me! Thank you for sharing your journey and how God has been faithful.ReplyCancel