Updated: Jul 25, 2018
"It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him." John 9:3
As Christ-followers, we want to make our lives count for the gospel. We long to do something that would be so significant, so lasting, that God's glory would be forever displayed in what we have done. If we could, however, we would also like to select the way in which this takes place. After all, who wouldn't rather bring glory to God by humbly handling great success as opposed to glorifying the Lord by faithfully fulfilling God's plan through suffering?
In John 9 we are introduced to a man who has been blind from birth. The assumption of the disciples is in keeping with the traditional assumptions of the day. Surely, they reason, this man is in this condition because of either his sin or the sin of his parents. While the question sounds harsh to our ears, it is only echoing the thoughts of most who would have known him.
The question is not that unusual (at least not in the first century), but the answer is downright profound. Jesus clarifies that the man's physical limitations are neither a direct punishment for specific sin the man committed, nor a retribution for his parents' rebellion. There is something altogether different happening. Jesus says the condition of the man is such that "the works of God might be displayed in him."
The physical condition of this man had purpose and design. I do not doubt that, had the man been offered a choice, he would have much preferred to proclaim the works of God on the mountaintop of blessing rather than the valley of suffering. Just like us, the man did not choose this particular disadvantage in his life. What he did do is decide to obey the Lord (verse 7).
Are you suffering? Do you have a physical limitation, or perhaps some other difficult issue with which you must contend? Maybe you too, just like the man in John 9, have endured the voices of doubters, the scoffers, and the questioners. For many who suffer, the first curse is the pain itself, but there is then the second curse of putting up with the theories, the questions, and the unsolicited advice.
Remember this, though...your situation in life is an opportunity to display the greatness and glory of God. Sure, you likely would not have chosen this path in life if it had been up to you. Yet, here you are. Will you allow the works of God to be displayed through you? Will you seek to honor Christ and use even your hardest struggle as an opportunity to point people to the Savior?
The question I have often asked when reflecting upon this verse is this: Is it ok with you if it takes your pain to be the stage upon which God's power is displayed?
I know. We had all rather be entrusted with faithfully handling prosperity than pain. We much prefer to be accountable to appropriately deal with triumph than tragedy. We do not choose the pain that is brought our way. Our continual pledge must line up with Romans 14:8 which says, "For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s." Our highest aim must not be to avoid suffering. Instead, it must be to bring glory to God.
So, I ask again: Is it ok with you if it takes your pain to be the stage upon which God's power is displayed? It may just be that the thing in your life that has brought the most pain and produced the most considerable amount of tears will be the very stage upon which God's power is most visibly made manifest.
Sometimes the Lord is glorified through our suffering even though the struggle remains, such as in 2 Corinthians 12:9 which states, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
Other times the Lord physically heals and removes the pain, just as He did in John 9. In both 2 Corinthians 12 and John 9, God is sovereign, and He is glorified. Keep praying to the Lord, keep presenting your requests to Him, and keep obeying what you know from His Word. Most of all, keep displaying the glory of God in all you do.
With each step in the journey -- even when the way is indescribably painful -- you can rest assured that God's power is displayed through your faithfulness. God is working even when you cannot see it.
Is it ok with you if it takes your pain to be the stage upon which God's power is displayed? We could hope for nothing more.
Postscript: I wrote this with Caleb Freeman specifically in mind -- a young man immediately thrust into a very different journey back in December 2017 who continues to use the suffering of his life as a stage to show God's glory. I pray, along with his family and friends, that he one day soon can also glorify God through his complete healing.
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