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What is a Miracle?

How Can You Tell if it's a Miracle?

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Daniel in the Lions' Den by Peter Paul Rubens (c. 1615)
Picture taken at: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA/Wikimedia Commons

What makes a miracle? Ultimately, you decide. Any unexplainable event that piques your curiosity and inspires your awe may be miraculous to you if you believe that a supernatural realm exists.

The top definition for "miracle" in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is "an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs." Skeptics say that miracles may not happen, because God may not exist -- or if he does, he may not intervene in people's lives. But believers say that miracles happen constantly as God works in the world.

Types of Miracles

People throughout history have reported experiencing many different types of miracles, and each person's individual perspective on an event determines whether or not they consider it a miracle.

Miracle stories abound among people of faith, and they seem to fall into two main categories:

  • Dramatic events: Events like a terminal cancer patient's spontaneous remission or a religious figure's apparition may capture your attention as miracles. Dramatic occurrences -- such as an earthquake victim who's rescued after many days underneath rubble -- often are touted as miracles in the news.

  • Quiet yet unexplainable events: You may also consider quiet yet unexplainable events to be miraculous. For example, figuring out how to solve an urgent problem after praying for guidance or meeting your future spouse and somehow knowing that you're meant to be together may be miracles in your life.

Miracles in World Religions

The faithful in virtually all world religions believe in miracles. But what causes a miracle to occur? That depends on your perspective:

  • Eastern religions: People who practice Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism tend to believe that they can make miracles happen by performing mystical acts.

  • Western religions: Those who follow Western religions such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam often believe that a personal God performs miracles in people's lives whenever He chooses to do so.

Biblical Miracles

The most famous miracles are those that the Bible records in both the Old and New Testaments. Many people are familiar with stories of biblical miracles, and some -- such as the Old Testament's account of the Red Sea parting and the New Testament's report of Jesus' resurrection from the dead -- have been depicted in popular cultural media like feature films. Some biblical miracles are dramatic; others are quieter but attributed to divine intervention. But all have the same element in common -- urging readers to trust God.

  • Daniel in the lions' den: Chapter six of the Old Testament book of Daniel records the story of how King Darius had the prophet Daniel thrown into a lions' den to punish Daniel for praying to God. King Darius returned to the lions' den the next morning and discovered that Daniel was unharmed. "My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions," Daniel tells the king in verse 22. Verse 23 declares that the reason God performed the miracle was "because he [Daniel] had trusted in his God."

  • The loaves and fish: Both the New Testament books of Matthew and Mark describe how Jesus fed more than 4,000 people using just seven loaves of bread and a few small fish -- all the food that the large crowd had available. Jesus says in verse 2 when deciding to perform this miracle, "I have compassion for these people," and proceeds to take whatever they entrust to him to give them what they need in return.

Learning from Miracles

If you believe in miracles, you're probably eager to find out what messages God may be trying to communicate through them. Each miraculous event you encounter may have something profound to teach you.

However, no single explanation may be enough to fully understand the miracles you experience. What if you have more questions than answers when you're trying to learn from miracles? You can use your questions to deepen your pursuit of truth and discover more about God and yourself in the process!

Have you ever experienced a miracle in your life, such as a dramatically answered prayer or a time when God helped you do something you couldn't have done without divine help? What happened? What did you learn from the experience? Visit our forum to discuss miracles, or email a brief story about your miracle to: angels@aboutguide.com (please include the story in the email text rather than as an attachment).

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