"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 how 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 enduring suffering?
In John 9, we are introduced to a man who has been blind since birth. The suspicion of the disciples kept with the traditional assumptions of the day. Surely, they reasoned, this man is in this condition because of his sin or the sin of his parents. While the rationale sounds harsh to our modern ears, it merely echoed the thoughts of that time and culture.
In the first century, the assumption of the disciples was not that unusual, but the answer Jesus gives was quite profound. Jesus clarifies that the man's physical limitations are neither a direct punishment for specific sin the man committed nor retribution for his parents' rebellion. There was something altogether different happening. Jesus enlightens his followers by explaining that the condition of the man is such that "the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:3).
The physical condition of this man had purpose and design. I do not doubt that if offered a choice, he would have much preferred to proclaim the works of God on the mountaintop of blessing rather than in the valley of suffering. Just like us, the man did not choose this particular disadvantage in his life. What he did, however, was 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, scoffers, and questioners. For many who suffer, the initial curse is the pain itself. But then comes the pain of putting up with the theories, questions, and unsolicited advice that must be tolerated.
Remember, our difficulties in life are opportunities 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?
When teaching this passage I often ask, "Is it ok with you if it takes your pain to be the stage upon which God's power is displayed?"
I know. We would all rather be entrusted with faithfully handling prosperity than pain. We much prefer to be accountable for how well we dealt 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, our goal is simply 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 circumstance in your life that has brought the most pain and produced the most 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 is the case in 2 Corinthians 12:9, where Paul writes, "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 for the man born blind in John 9. He loved Paul and he loved the blind man. 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 that 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.