More from Fernando’s Joy & Pain

I took a few moments to read a bit more in Ajith Fernando’s Call to Joy & Pain. There is so much rich content packed into small chapters.

On suffering…when we don’t have a right theology of suffering, we can stunt our growth as a body of believers, we may find it difficult to accept suffering as an opportunity for God’s good work to shine through, and we are sometimes tempted to skirt a challenging calling.

During painful times, we may find ourselves stripped of our own glory. This hurts! But, it does present us with the choice to seek Him and His purposes.

We don’t live in a culture that openly and adequately addresses the prospects of suffering shame at various points in our Christian walk in order to remain faithful. I would add that it can be particularly uncomfortable to experience that shame in the context of the church body even when it ultimately proves that you prioritize Him over other good things.

A few redemptive thoughts from Fernando: in the midst of this shame, we can trust that true honor is from God and will come in His timing. When we learn to believe Him for this, it frees us up to step away from the bitterness of comparing our circumstances with those who appear prosperous and it urges us on to keep investing in kingdom work.

Jesus turning the world on its head

This week, I’d like to take a brief look at a few of the miracles of Christ.

The first story I want to discuss is the healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41). I think it is worth noting that it is the disciples that asked Jesus, in effect, who is to blame for this man’s affliction? Did he sin or was it his parents fault? The common belief in Judaism was that punishment was the result of sin, so since this man obviously suffered, either he had to be guilty or there was some generational sin exhibited by his blindness.

Jesus has a surprising answer for them: 1) this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him and 2) I am the light of the world. As to an explanation of the first answer, I found F. F. Bruce’s comments to be insightful:

“This does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness…It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light of the World.” (p. 209)

It is puzzling for even believers to grapple with why bad things happen. We often want an easy answer to lay our fears to rest and get on with it. Jesus points out that sometimes things are not as they appear to be from our perspective. So, He challenges the disciples not to be so hasty with their conclusions. He presses them to consider that affliction is not always the direct result of  that individual’s sin.

He also takes this opportunity to do a miracle in the life of this blind man and offer light, life, and hope to people otherwise living in a dark world. Physical blindness presents many obstacles for this life, but spiritual blindness concerns Jesus far more because He knows the eternal significance of those who continue to walk in darkness spiritually.

After reading some thoughts in commentaries, I could not help but consider the timing of these events. From a human perspective, we are often preoccupied with getting our difficulties resolved now. This is important to us. However, on God’s watch, He is often ever so patient about allowing hard things to happen for a period of time so that greater good will come of it. Even so, He does not wait too long and when the time approaches, He may respond rather abruptly.

While Jesus was walking the earth, one reason it was imperative for Him to be in close communion with the Father was that He was otherwise inundated with ‘urgent’ requests from people. However, Jesus knew that the most urgent thing was to bring people to salvation and to equip them to be disciples.

So, a few things I take away from this account are: look for ways in which God is still performing miracles and give Him the glory in them, don’t be quick to judge what we can only see on the surface, trust God for His timing as you endure hardship, and seek opportunities to share your story of how God has revealed His light in your life.