Tuesday, June 5, 2012


There is a story tucked away in the ninth chapter of John about a man who was born blind. It offers some insight into one of humanity's most frequently asked questions. If you are a parent, your children ask this question any time you tell them to do something. A majority of teenagers continue to ask this question to anyone in a position of authority. If you are an adult, you ask this question any time things don't go your way. And everyone who has a heart asks this question when evil and injustice are witnessed. If you haven't yet figured out the question, it's "why?"

And we pick up this encounter with the blind man as Jesus and His disciples are walking along the road. It seems the disciples travel this road and see this man on a regular basis. Likely they have stopped and conversed with this man from time to time. Which is probably how they are privy to the fact that he was blind from birth. But this time their Rabbi, Jesus, is with them. And since the question has been bothering them for some time, they finally gather the courage to speak up. They ask the question everyone has been wanting to ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The disciples were searching for answers. I sense what they were really getting at is why God allowed this to happen?

We, like the disciples have asked God the very same question. It is our natural inclination to wonder where an all knowing, all loving God is in the midst of pain. We resort, just like the disciples, to asking God "Why?” I can recount numerous times in my life where I thought things were going well. For the most part, I was doing what I thought I needed to do. Lo and behold, everything came crashing down. Ministry was taken from me. The car broke down. Finances didn't come in. My wife left me. At the onset of each of these situations a wrestling match with God ensued.
The two biggest "why's" of my life occurred within about a 2 year span.
To completely understand the first situation you should know that for the majority of my high school career I ran from the ministry calling God had given me a glimpse of. Nearing the end of high school, after rebelling long enough, I gave in. During those years I had finally come to the realization that God had a better plan for my life than I did. So, I spent 4 years in college pursuing my BA in Pastoral Ministry. It was then I found purpose and satisfaction. It was then that I jumped at each and every ministry opportunity. I would spend countless hours immersing myself in Scripture. The idea of ministry was enthralling to me. I was going to do great things for God and change the world.

Now, for the first big "why." It came at the end of my tenure as Assistant Pastor at a church in Wyoming. Remember that I felt I was finally doing what I was created to do. Almost two years into that position, I was discouraged and burnt out. Due to unforeseen circumstances I left the church and walked away from ministry. That first year I spent countless hours asking “why?” Why didn't my ministry thrive? Why hadn't things gone better? Why did I now despise the one thing I loved just a few years before? You know what? The answers never came. Then, in bitterness, I began to wrestle with God and keep Him at a safe distance. For a short time, I was even on the brink of walking away from the Church completely.
Jump ahead two years in my life for the big "why" number two. I seem to be living out a sitcom. You know what I'm talking about; life is going as planned and every problem can be solved in 30 minutes. My wife and I had just bought a house. We had started trying to have children. I was established at my job and getting raises on a regular basis. I found a church that felt like home. I was beginning to plug back into ministry. Then a wrench gets thrown into the equation. I find out my marriage is eroding and my wife is leaving me. You better believe the "why's" came pouring from my heart. Why did God allow this to happen? Why didn’t He change her heart? Why didn’t He save my marriage? Why did I have to go through this? Why am I being punished? As you might guess, again, the answers didn't come.
In both instances, for the longest time, I lived in limbo thinking God would provide some specific answer. That God would tell me exactly what he was doing and why these seemingly bad things were happening (this sounds an awful lot like the disciples question in John chapter 9). Finally, after months without answers, I eventually came to a point where I gave up. The realization I came to was that the "why's" didn't matter. Knowing why wasn't going to change anything. It wouldn't make the problem more bearable. It wasn't going to alter my past. Having the answers wouldn't drastically change my future. Knowing the "why's" would only give me a false sense of control and contribute to the delusional thoughts that I could change things. That I could make things better. That I could make ministry work. That I could make her love me. And here, we jump back into John chapter 9.

Jesus answers the disciples question. He does not leave us with some mysterious purpose for the man’s blindness. Instead, Jesus offers hope. He rejects the disciples' desire to point fingers at who is to blame by clarifying that God isn't to blame for everything. Furthermore, Jesus shows us the proper response to evil by fighting for this man's healing.

Is it possible this man’s blindness had nothing to do with his or his parents action or inaction. Could it be that, in a sense, they were all innocent bystanders. Perhaps it was part of some master plan in order that the work of God may be manifest in his life. If we believe that, we have to ask why God would make someone blind for the sole purpose of healing him someday? To prove that He could? To bring Himself glory? Surely God, who is love, could find a less harmful way to glorify Himself. Afflicting someone to gain glory by stopping their affliction sounds more like the work of the devil than God. I choose to view this in a different way. Rather than painting a picture of a capricious God who makes a man blind for the purpose of healing his blindness, this passage reveals a loving God who sent His Son to manifest His works by healing a man oppressed by evil.

Jesus instructed the disciples, and us, as to the proper response when such evil prevails. He then modeled what he came to do—to put an end to injustice and to comfort and heal the oppressed. He said, “Let the works of God be manifest in him,” showing compassion for the man. Then he turned to his disciples and reminded them that they must do the same.

Jesus never really gave the disciples the answer they were looking for. Instead he showed them the importance of moving from "why," to "what now?" Seeing the importance of this paradigm shift moved me from fear and trepidation to action. I quit dwelling on the past and began focusing on the future. I took responsibility for the part I had to play in the outcome and started changing the things I could. And I came to the realization the disciples came to...more often than not, the "why's" don't get answered. Because we don't need to understand--to understand doesn't require faith. Following God doesn't mean we get to know everything. It requires we have faith that He knows what He is doing and will, one day, work things out for good.

The conclusion I drew from those times of doubt were priceless. No matter what, I have to choice to push ahead and see how God will make His glory known through any given situation. I continue to move forward trusting that God has bigger and better things in store for me (and you)...some day.

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