I’ve got friends who are dealing with a variety of issues. They range from multiple sclerosis, cancer, pneumonia, arthritis, bursitis, heart issues, back issues, family issues, financial issues, and a whole assorted list of ailments and/or difficulties. One of my friends is blind; I’ve got a nephew who’s deaf, and several family members who toil under the oppression of depression. In fact, if I were to ask, you could probably share some painful problems and ailments you have, or have experienced in your life. I suppose we could view difficulty as the fabric that forms the patchwork which connects each of us in this sin-scarred world.
But instead of asking “why” and bemoaning these pains of life – what would happen if we were to embrace our difficulties, diseases, and discouragements and allow God to permeate them to the extent that His glory shows through us? I’m not talking about seeking out pain, but rather redirecting our focus in it. Instead of looking within – what about looking up?
Can pain and/or disease really bring glory to God? Yes. Not only do I think it can – I know it can. Let me give you a couple of biblical examples, both found in the Gospel of John. In the ninth chapter of John, we are introduced to a man who was born blind. The chapter opens with the disciples trying to discern the one who sinned to bring about such a condition. Here’s that discussion from John 9:1-2: “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” There was a peculiar belief at this time that a child could actually sin in the womb and thus be punished with some form of ailment. That left the disciples with only two explanations for the man’s blindness. Either he or his parents must have sinned. Jesus, as He often does, offered a third explanation: “Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3). Huh? Did I read that right? God permitted this man to be born blind and grow up blind so God could be honored? Yep. That’s correct. I love how Jesus fixed this man’s sight. “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing” (John 9:6-7). Here’s my question: “Are we willing to let God do His work in our lives...even if He uses spit?” Am I willing to trust Him – even when I don’t like what’s happening? Maybe God will use my circumstances – no matter what they are – to bring glory to Himself. God works in ways we can neither grasp, nor fully understand. That’s what He told Isaiah. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are our ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher that the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The second example is found a few chapters over, and this time God didn’t use spit – He used death. In John 11, Jesus gets word from sisters Mary and Martha that their brother, Lazarus, is very sick. These were dear friends of Jesus, so one would assume that He would go immediately to their home in Bethany and help Lazarus. But that’s not what Jesus did. Upon hearing about the sickness, Jesus delayed His trip and said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). Reading further we discover that Lazarus did die, but the death was short-lived. In this instance, Lazarus’ death lasted for four days. Upon His arrival at the burial site, John 11:43 tells us what Jesus demanded of the deceased: “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43). The passage tells us that Lazarus obeyed and was loosed from the burial clothing that wrapped his fully alive body.
Based on this episode, did others believe that Jesus was sent by God? Did God get glory in this event? Well, here we are more than two millennia later, still talking about it. I’d say both things happened.
You never know what God will do. Maybe God will heal your ailments. You know He can, right? But maybe He’ll do for you what He’s done for millions of believers, including me. He may not heal you, or solve your dilemma the way you want Him to, but He will give the necessary grace to endure your pain. You could be the next shining example of the glory of God. But regardless, remember this: God does His best work in the lives of those who leave the choice to Him.
John Burleson is the Pastor of Calvary Church of Conway. Email him with questions and comments at email@example.com.