Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
1 Samuel 1:17-18
As I have been looking closely to the miraculous moments in my life and hearing the testimonies of others, I began realizing that God can work miracles in and around human possibilities. The body’s own reaction to expectation, hope, and trust in what a healer or doctor says can be helpful for people with IBS, chronic pain, anxiety, certain types of asthma, and other diseases. It might be that by human chance, one’s positive confessions in rare cases actually help people make decisions that save someone’s life or limb. It could be that claiming in some cases actually helps negative attitude transfer enough endorphin from the brain to help one’s body to respond to a disease in a way that helps the disease to get better or disappear faster. There are even possibilities that cancer and tumors can shrink with better habits and better attitudes.
In many of these areas, it is going to be difficult for someone to discern weather God worked a miracle or weather the body naturally did its work, helping bring health to the person facing disease. The true believer will usually give all the credit to a miracle, but in reality, it may be natural or it may be God working with the human body and helping direct a natural process within the body to do its best. I am convinced that many times, God allows – and even encourages – the body to do its own process without any miracle beyond what He designed from creation.
Miracles in my life have left me with a lot of questions such as: “Did God miraculously heal me, or did my body simply do its thing? Did God help my own body to do its work faster and better, or was there an all out miracle that took place?” I don’t always know, but I still thank Him in the end. I also thank God for modern medicine, the scientists who work to find cures, and the medical community that works so hard trying to make people’s lives better.
Sometimes I see the hand of God before or after healing more than I see it in the healing. The miracles I saw that took place around a natural and medical healing in Africa were obvious to me, as were miracles surrounding an infant in Haiti whose mental abilities came alive through human attention I gave him. In both of these events, I saw the hand of God guiding and preparing for natural and human cures.
Most miracles I read about in the Bible are beyond the realm of human possibilities. They cannot be performed through placebos, positive outlooks in life, better attitudes, or whatever. But there is one story in the Bible that looks very much like the type of healing I see so often – the type of healing that makes me wonder, “Was it natural human response or was it a miracle?”
1 Samuel tells the story of a wife named Hannah who could not get pregnant. It is a common story told in different times and with different people in the Bible. Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren and at an old age got pregnant. She received a miracle and gave birth beyond child bearing years – this would be a miracle. But there was no issue with Hannah’s age. She was still within child bearing years.
She just didn’t get pregnant, and because she didn’t get pregnant, the other wife (her husband had two wives) gloated and provoked her by pointing out that she was a worthless wife for not having children.
Her husband loved her a lot, and I suspect he loved her more than the childbearing wife which may have been the cause for the mean jabs at Hannah. Besides being mocked by the other wife, her culture and her belief system let her know that God was responsible for closing her womb. Hannah’s closed womb was a constant attack on her emotions and feelings telling her that she did not have God’s blessing.
So much pressure and negativity thrown at Hannah put her in depression and stress, and we now know that depression and stress can hinder women from getting pregnant.
Hannah went to the temple with her husband and the other wife to pray. At the temple she poured her heart out to God and made a promise: If she got a child, she would give it to God.
In the temple, Eli the priest saw Hannah moving her lips in prayer and thought she was a common drunk talking to herself. So he went up to Hannah and scolded her, “You need to stop drinking!”
Hannah explained that she was not drunk, but was pouring her heart out to God in prayer.
Eli saw his mistake and told Hannah, “In that case, may God answer your prayer.”
Hannah saw this as a word from God. Eli was the only priest for all of Israel and the words he spoke were taken very seriously as if they were from God Himself. Today that same authority and trust is given to faith healers from the people who follow and look up to them. Because Hannah took Eli’s words to heart, her depression immediately lifted and her stress left. She felt free and that liberation released her body from all that was fighting it from within. Her new confidence and relief from stress may be what allowed her to get pregnant and give birth to a son.
So I wonder where the miracle lies. Was it in opening her womb? Was it in the timing of Eli and Hannah’s encounter? Was it in Eli’s rebuke that opened up the conversation that freed Hannah from stress?
Personally, I cannot tell if the miracle was a direct opening of the womb or if it was the natural results of stress relieved. Some miracles are like that.