“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3 NIV).
Jesus healed a man born blind and created a remarkable stir in Israel. The religious leaders, suspicious and skeptical of Jesus’ activities, summoned and questioned the formerly blind man. He explained what Jesus had done, but since mud pies were not known to possess medicinal properties, the man’s answer seemed like nonsense.
They were applying the wrong paradigm to the matter.
The Disciples, displaying another false paradigm, had surmised the man deserved his blindness, in effect agreeing with the skeptics who shouted as they threw the man out of the Temple, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” (John 9:34).
The account reminds us of Job’s friends who blamed Job for his tragedies, arguing that God punishes those who deserve punishment, not the innocent. They believed the converse also to be true—that God rewards those who deserve rewards. Such arguments lead to the conclusion God is obligated to punish or reward based on our worthiness.
Job had a problem, however; he knew he was blameless, and he concluded God had treated him unfairly. Application of the paradigm of cause and effect is dangerous because it is not always correct and it entices us to judge others; both Job and his friends used Job’s circumstances to judge God.
Yet God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Isaiah 55:8 NKJV).
The Bible is silent about the Disciples’ acceptance of Jesus’ answer. The human mind looks for fairness.
We also look for answers. Unlike Job who never knew why he was afflicted by Satan, at least the blind man might have overheard Jesus’ response to the Disciples as He was mixing the mud. But did knowing Jesus’ answer provide him comfort? Did he mutter under his breath how happy he was to have been created blind in order that God’s work might be displayed in his life as he walked to the pool?
Maybe not, but he was very happy later. When Jesus found him again and introduced Himself as the Son of Man, the seeing man worshiped Him. He had come full circle: being blind meant nothing in comparison to knowing Jesus. Not only had he gained his sight, he had gained his soul.
Meeting God had the same effect on Job.
Soon after the birth of my third daughter, Melody, I had some “why” questions on my mind. Melody had a difficult birth; in addition to a serious blood disorder, she was born with Down syndrome. I struggled with many thoughts during her first three months. Guess what? There was no answer forthcoming from God on “why.”
What there was, however, was sweet little Melody Dawn, a beautiful girl who was fearfully and wonderfully made. I no longer care why or how Melody was formed with Down syndrome; I, too, have come full circle. God blessed me with her birth, and He has given me strength and comfort even when I did not hear Him or see Him do it. Melody Dawn displays God’s work in our family and that He stands with us in difficult times, just as He promised.
The skeptic questions God’s fairness and so questions God’s character. To avoid questioning God’s character outright, some people want to give God a pass and say God didn’t want whatever the sorrow happened to be (for example, hurricanes and tornadoes, murder, accidents, illness, drought and famine, and atrocities of every kind), but He allowed it to happen. Yet others will say a God who allows such things to happen even though He has the power to stop it is not a good God.
Sometimes I think the outcry from the world sounds to God like some massive out-of-tune orchestra struggling to achieve its harmony—we can’t keep time and can’t carry a tune in a bucket. The truth is our human paradigms struggle with almighty God and His purposes.
Jesus told us why the man had been born blind, and so we know, but we know nothing else. In the end, the blind man was joyful over his life circumstances—yet what did he think about Jesus when he saw Him hanging on a cross? Likely, he couldn’t believe his eyes, but he could believe his heart. Earlier, when summoned before the Sanhedrin, he had given the only testimony any of us can give about the manifestation of God’s power in our lives—“I was blind, but now I see!”
It is dangerous to apply any motives to God’s works today—we do not have the mind of God. But if we believe in Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit living inside us. With Jesus and the Holy Spirit, what we have, what we know, is that God is good and He cannot deny Himself.
We may not always see clearly, but we walk by faith and not by sight, trusting our safety to His hands and character.