Glorious Suffering? – John 9:3

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.”

We are still today surrounded by disease and suffering. Those with physical handicap are no less common in our world of doctors, nurses and hospitals than they were in Lord Jesus’ day. Theologians are no different today either. The debate continues over the source of disease and disabilities. Who sinned? Is this God’s will? Is this one faithless? Jesus makes it clear that no personal sin is the source of this young man’s blindness. In effect, it is no person’s fault – at least in this instance. He doesn’t even speak of God’s will nor the individual’s faith. His perspective on this true tragedy is quite different than ours. He doesn’t look to place blame. He doesn’t grovel in the unfairness or inequity. He doesn’t patronize or make a sermon illustration of this man. His theology is different than ours. He sees this tragedy as an opportunity to display the glory of God. This one is blind so that God’s work might be done in him. Jesus is direct and forthright in His pronouncement.

Dare we view our suffering and tragedy in this same light? Is it possible for the follower of Christ to look at the weaknesses, sicknesses, handicaps and tragedies in his or her life as opportunities? Is Jesus out of His mind? Granted, as one who is not truly suffering in my life right now, it is easy to quote Jesus and urge others to have this solidly Biblical perspective. It is existentially much easier for me to preach this than for the one who is in the midst of suffering to receive it. Jesus makes no excuses for truth and He does not provide a bunch of talk to explain Himself. It is as if He says, ‘Here is the truth. God’s glory through His work supersedes anything we face here.’ It is both comforting and disconcerting at the same time. Our focus must be above our physical existence.

Once again I feel the irony of a pretty healthy old man reiterating Jesus words. It really is easy for me to say. I do still remember, however, the fear in the voice of my oldest brother, who was like a father to me and raised me as his own, when he faced a dark day in the hospital as he lay dying from kidney cancer. He had deep faith but the reality of the imminent passing from death to Life was overwhelming him. The strongest, bravest man I knew was afraid. The implications were terrifying for me, even at age 39. Such tragedies cannot be taken lightly nor approached with pious platitudes. Lord Jesus never does such.

Those dark days of my brothers illness and eventual passing were some of the most difficult of mine and my family’s life. The pain and loss was almost unbearable but for the tangible presence of God. Through this process we did see Father God’s glory. My other brother bowed his rebellious knee to Jesus at my dying brother’s behest. Our family came together in faith in a way we had never experienced before. Petty religious arguments and concerns vanished in the face of this ordeal. The Presence of God overshadowed the entire event and we glorified Him in ways I really didn’t think possible. It seems almost strange to say it; yet, I am certain that from my brother’s current perspective he now sees those days much differently. He now sees from somewhere closer to Father God’s perspective and must be pleased with the glory Father God received and that God displayed in this ordeal. ‘This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.’

Dare we view our own personal struggles, illnesses, handicaps, weaknesses and failures in this light? Does Jesus lie or mislead? NEVER! I simply pray that as my life continues I may have the strength of conviction in Lord Jesus to practice this truth that He shares. All we do and even the seemingly evil things we endure serve one ultimate purpose: that God’s works might be displayed in us. Grant us the faith and hope to live with such a conviction gracious Father. Give this Hope to those who even now face the almost unbearable stress that accompanies such tragedies. May You be glorified in them and they in you.

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