Lee Strobel has been praying for a miracle for his wife, Leslie, for years. Leslie suffers from fibromyalgia and deals with varying degrees of pain every single day. They’ve sought all kinds of treatment, including acupuncture and deep massage, but the muscle pain remains.
You’d think Lee would have given up on praying for a miracle. You’d think he’d give up on miracles entirely. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
The Lee Strobel Story
Atheist-turned-apologist Lee Strobel had already spent two years of the 1980s researching one miracle: the resurrection of Jesus. But he wasn’t researching it to understand or explain miracles; he was attempting to dissemble the Christian faith. After all, if he could disprove the resurrection, he could disprove Christianity and, subsequently, get his wife — who became a Christian through a faith-filled neighbor — back to normal, away from all that Christianity stuff. In Lee’s mind, if he couldn’t get her back by disproving Christianity, he’d have to divorce her. He never considered becoming a Christian himself.
But (spoiler alert!) he did. His journey from skeptical atheism to Christianity is chronicled in his most well-known book and now PureFlix movie, “The Case For Christ.”
But now, almost 40 years later, Lee is back to investigating miracles. Not the miracle of the resurrection — that case is closed as far as Lee is concerned — but the work of God in modern-day miracles. You know, those things people experience that just can’t be explained away by facts or natural means. Other than some supernatural force — like God.
Lee says it is his skeptical nature that drives his research on the miraculous. Lee had studied journalism at the University of Missouri and holds a master’s degree from Yale Law School, both of which lent themselves to skepticism and made Lee more than qualified for his work then as legal editor at The Chicago Tribune. And as an investigative journalist, he had even won Illinois’ highest honor for public service journalism from United Press International. You could say Lee was making bank off of his skepticism.
It was during his stretch at The Chicago Tribune that he researched Christianity and consequently — surprisingly — became a Christian.
“But after I came to faith, my skepticism and my skeptical nature didn’t disappear. It’s kind of part of my DNA,” Lee explains.
The Skeptic in All of Us
We’ve all heard stories of people who suspect they’ve met an angel, like some good samaritan who stopped to help them with car trouble but seemingly disappeared before trading names. Or miracles, like someone’s cancer going away quicker than usual. Or what about those weird, out-of-body experiences you see on “60 Minutes”? What if they’re just coincidences? Like in the movie, “The Last Holiday,” where a defective MRI machine misdiagnoses a fatal disease?
“When I would hear stories of modern miracles or contemporary miracles of people being healed and so forth, my skeptical antenna would go up,” said Lee. “I’m wondering. ‘Does God really still do this these days? And how credible really are some of these accounts?’ ”
So, Lee set out to examine the possibility actual miracles might be happening —to see if God is really still active in this way. He spoke with both hard-core skeptics and devoted Christians and met some people who tell stories of bonafide miracles.
Like Barbara Snyder, who suffered from progressive multiple sclerosis for sixteen years and entered hospice care with six months to live. One day, a Moody Bible Institute’s radio program broadcasted a request to pray for Barbara, and she subsequently received over 400 letters from people who had been praying for her. One day, she heard a distinct, male voice — one she says was authoritative and compassionate — say, “My child, get up and walk!”
Only Barbara, her aunt and two friends were in the room. No men. But the voice was clear. So she did.
Muscles that hadn’t been there for years held her legs and body upright. Oxygen tubes came out, and she breathed freely with her own lungs. And her eyesight, which had vanished, rendering her legally blind, returned. Exams and x-rays confirmed everything was strangely, miraculously, back to normal
That was in 1981, and Barbara has never experienced a recurrence of her illness.
Barbara’s is just one of the stories Lee encountered in his research.
He also spoke with scholar and author Tom Doyle, who tells amazing stories about the dreams — miracles — happening in the Middle East. Lee explains that in these unusually vivid dreams, Muslims see Jesus, dressed in white, saying He loves them. And they feel an overwhelming peace. These dreams are ones they wouldn’t typically have since embracing Jesus is a death knell for Muslims, “punishable by eternity in Hell,” Lee says. What’s more, these dreams are usually confirmed by an outside source, like the story of Noor, who met in real life someone else she had seen in her dream. Someone she didn’t know.
Kamal, an underground church planter, felt compelled to go to a crowded market in Cairo one day. Noor, a Muslim woman, walked up to him, shouting that he was the one. In the dream she’d had the night before, Jesus told Noor to ask His friend, Kamal, whom he showed her in the dream, more about Him the next day. She said Kamal was wearing the exact same clothes and glasses in her dream as he was wearing that day in the market.
Goosebumps, people. Goosebumps.
Doyle says dreams and stories like Noor’s are not uncommon in the Middle East.
The Power of Miracles, The Power of Stories
All in all, Lee spent two years on the researching miracles project, and he says he’s thrilled with the results. He says the project has given him another way to point people toward God and His love.
“It’s Jesus’ love that motivates His miracles,” Lee says. “Miracles communicate the soul of God, the love of God, in a unique way — His care, His compassion, His mercy, His grace — and that’s why these miracles, stories that are validated and corroborated, point people powerfully toward a God who is still supernaturally active.”
And let’s be honest, miracles are also some of the best stories. We believe we must keep telling the stories of God at work in the world — whether or not they’re technically miracles — lest people think He’s not working.
“I think our experiences are a form of evidence in and of itself,” says Lee. “It’s not the only evidence, and if it were, I would be skeptical. But a person’s story of their encounter with God and how God changed their values and character and their story of their ongoing interaction and relationship with God, you can’t disprove that. … I think there’s something powerful and persuasive about a person’s testimony.”
So do we, Lee. So do we.
Back to Lee’s wife, Leslie, who has fibromyalgia. Lee and Leslie have, of course, been praying for a miracle for years. But to no avail. Nevertheless, the Strobels’ faith is stronger than ever. Their belief in God and their love for Him is not based on whether or not God heals Leslie on this side of Heaven.
“Ultimately, Leslie will be healed,” says Lee. “In the meantime, I think she would say that what she has gone through has deepened her faith and given her more perseverance and character development that she wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
Lee says his faith has been deepened, too, even though they’re still waiting for a miracle.
“I’m going to say, ‘God, I relinquish this to You; You are sovereign. I trust You. You want what’s best, so we want what You want for us. And if that means she continues to endure this, then that’s what we want for ourselves.’ ”
Maybe that’s the real miracle — or at least a great story: Lee Strobel, spiritual skeptic and former atheist, trusts wholeheartedly in God who still does miracles, even when there isn’t one for him.