My daughter’s cross country coach had just received the most tragic news a parent could hear. His daughter had been killed. She was riding her bike through their genteel neighborhood when a gentleman accidentally ran a stop sign and hit her. The father was asking why, and I was contemplating the question myself.
It wasn’t the first time I had wrangled with a confusing and senseless situation, and it wouldn’t be the last. The why of apparent meaningless tragedies that destroy lives and hard earned possessions is never simple to answer. Some suggestions offered are purely insufficient to soothe our anger or sadness and others are theologically incorrect. Time worn responses are just that-worn. Like a thread bare towel, they provide little substance to dry the tears of misunderstanding.
The question predates this instance in Jesus’ career, but Jesus gives a new spin on the ancient “why dilemma.”
Teacher, his disciples asked him, why was this man born blind? Was it a result of his own sins or those of his parents? John 9:2 (NLT)
Jesus and his disciples happen upon a man born blind. Reflecting the typical mindset, the disciples ask Jesus who sinned-the man or his parents. After all, suffering-at least in their philosophical understanding, was always the result of sin. Jesus’ answer was radical. No one. He was born blind so the power of God would be seen in him.
So God created him blind just so He could look good? Jesus’ answer may seem as insufficient as some we hear, but it does challenge us to revolutionize our focus when difficulties intrude on our otherwise serene existence.
Asking God why is not sinful as some have supposed. It is a normal human response to unexplainable or confusing events. But the more appropriate question is what. Redeeming tragedies is more important than wallowing in them. Learning from difficulties is healthier than letting them destroy our initiative.
The healed blind man redeemed his misfortune. Following his healing, he spread the good news about Jesus’ power. We redeem our tragedies by telling others how God’s sustaining grace has kept us afloat when it appeared we’d sink. We redeem our trials by sharing the lessons He has taught us through the “what.” My priorities were wrong...Those wants weren’t needs after all...I’m stronger than I thought.
God consoles so we can comfort even when we still need comfort ourselves. Making the effort to comfort others while still suffering takes the attention from us and reminds us our struggles are shared ventures not solo flights. Faith is not blind, but it does entail trusting God even when circumstances don’t make sense.
Dear Lord, enable us to redeem what otherwise might appear unredeemable.
Dr. Martin W. Wiles is Pastor of First Baptist Church, Harleyville, SC, author of two devotional books and former correspondent for the Baptist Courier. He and his wife Michelle have a devotional ministry called Morning Lite Ministry.