As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (JN 9:1-2)
One day Jesus and his disciples pass a poor blind beggar in Jerusalem. The passage doesn’t tell us how they know he’s been blind from birth. Maybe they ask him or know because he’s a standard fixture along the road. But the disciples ask Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Back then the Jews believed all sickness was directly caused by sin. Some even taught you could sin in the womb. The disciples were wrestling with the fact that he’d been born blind. Had he somehow sinned or was he suffering for the sins of his parents?
Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (3)
Jesus says the man’s blindness was not caused either by his own or his parents’ sin, but is an opportunity for God to show his glory. Not that God afflicted him just so he could heal him, but that God was now going to triumph over this terrible blindness and glorify himself by healing him.
God doesn’t afflict us just so he can get glory from it – he’s not sadistic and never does anything evil. He’s in control of all things – he could prevent us from suffering if he wanted to. But sometimes his plan includes that we suffer so he can triumph over it for his glory.
Sometimes God displays his glory by ending our trials; sometimes he triumphs in the midst of them.
The apostle Paul was afflicted by “a thorn in the flesh” – whatever it was, it was grievous to him. He pleaded with God three times to remove it. God answered him:
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. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Paul said when he was weak then Christ could display his power through him in a way he couldn’t if Paul were strong all the time. So if Christ would manifest his strength and power in Paul’s suffering he would be content.
When we suffer physically, financially or in other ways, yet continue to trust God and declare him to be good, faithful and loving, it honors him. This doesn’t mean we deny our pain or that we don’t continue to ask for relief. But if by his power we endure, and continue to praise him, it brings him much glory.
Thankfully God doesn’t always glorify himself by making us endure trials indefinitely. Sometimes after a season he glorifies himself by healing or delivering us like he did for the blind man. And usually the longer we’ve suffered the more we appreciate God’s mercy and power when he finally frees us.
God knows best how to display his glory in our lives, whether by giving us grace to endure a trial or delivering us from it. So cry out to him, trust him, and pray that he will be use your trial as an opportunity for his power and grace to triumph.