When something that we consider bad happens to us or others, we may focus on the problem’s cause, not only in order to try to change the situation but maybe also to assign blame, perhaps even to God. In at least one case, however, God challenges us to focus less on the past cause and more on the future purpose for which He can use the particular suffering or affliction.
In the case of the man born blind reported in John 9:1-41, which some at Pilgrim recently considered in two different Bible studies, Jesus’s disciples asked whether the man or his parents sinned that he was born blind. Jesus said that the man was born blind not because of either’s sin but that the works of God might be displayed in him. And, Jesus went on to talk more about those works of God, such as bringing people from spiritual blindness to the light of His salvation.
We have to be careful in understanding Jesus’s statement. Jesus did not necessarily mean that the only reason that the man was born blind was so that Jesus could later heal him physically and spiritually, nor did he mean that displaying the works of God necessarily was the only reason for that healing but also God’s mercy and compassion. Furthermore, Jesus did not deny any and all sin, with its effects of sickness and death, in the lives of the man’s parents or the man himself, any more than Jesus denied that in other cases specific sin can have specific consequences, such as blindness.
More to the point here, several commentators agree that Jesus was trying to change or redirect His followers’ perspective, from only looking back at human causes to at least also looking forward at divine purposes for which God providentially permits suffering and affliction.
Jesus’s suffering worked the greatest good! Certainly in the case of the man born blind, physical and spiritual healing resulted, presumably both for that time and for eternity. And, God wills to use the suffering and affliction that we or others experience to similar good purposes.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore.
You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.