“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?’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’” (John 9:1-3)
John describes Jesus healing a blind man, an incident that raises a question we often contemplate: “Why does God allow suffering?” Indeed, why does He permit adversity, sickness, and trials? Why does He allow terrorists and assorted madmen to wreak havoc and violence on the entire world? Why does God allow catastrophic tornadoes, earthquakes and storms to wreak such destruction? What about the current pandemic? Why does He let such things happen? Is it to punish people for sins? Is all suffering a direct consequence of sin?
These questions perhaps were in the thoughts of Jesus’ disciples. Based on their own questions indicated in John 9, perhaps they were trying to pinpoint a specific reason so they could feel that such a thing could not happen to them. Like us, they wanted easy answers to a tough question. We want to find a cause for everything so that we can gain a sense of control over our lives.
What Jesus said was that this man was born blind so that the works of God would be manifest, that He would be glorified. What about those afflicted by dreadful and debilitating diseases or emotional traumas? How is God glorified in these things? What about babies born with handicaps? How is He glorified in their suffering? Does He want to punish the parents for some sin they committed? That would make our God mean, vindictive and frightening. Yet we know that, while He is awe-inspiring and powerful, no one in the universe is as loving, merciful and compassionate as He. We can trust Him to always do what is good just. Jesus confirmed this by healing this blind man.
Jesus’ response to the disciples is a tough answer. It does not fall into our neat little categories. We find safety in seeing all that happens in terms of logic and reason, cause and effect. But God defies our logic, our attempts to control life. His answers are not always simple or to our liking. And yet He is the Light of the world. He came into the world to give us light, to heal our spiritual blindness so that we would no longer live in the darkness of sin. And by faith we acknowledge that His light indeed sheds light on the reason for our suffering for a life lived by faith is the only way to live.