“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parent’s sins?” (John 9:1-2 NLT)
As soon as we are able to talk, it becomes one of our most frequent questions: Why?
We want to understand how things work and see the justification behind them.
Especially when we see or experience suffering, it’s often the question that comes to mind:
- Why did that person get ill?
- Why does it seem that my prayers are going unanswered?
- Why did someone kill a bunch of innocent people?
- Why did God allow it?
We can understand the big picture answer- that we live in a world broken by sin, that is full of all kinds of evil and suffering that were not God’s original intention, but still there’s often a longing to know why in individual situations.
Why that person? Why me? Why them and not me?
If we could only understand it, maybe we could get some kind of control over it, but the truth is we can’t. There are no easy answers.
However, Jesus is clear with his disciples that the answer is not as simple as looking for someone to blame: “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.” (John 9:3-4 NLT)
This answer can bring up other questions though. Is it saying that God caused the man’s blindness in order to show his power? It looks like it at first glance.
However, I have recently been reading “When God Doesn’t Fix It” by Laura Story. She explores this passage and explains that there is some debate amongst scholars over whether the phrase “so the power of God could be seen in him” is attached to the sentence that precedes it or the sentence that follows it. An alternative rendering of the passage could be: “It was not because of his sins or his parent’s sins,” Jesus answered. “So that the power of God can be seen in him, we must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.”
In other words, the power of God being seen is not necessarily the reason for the man’s blindness, but rather the outcome Jesus is working towards in that situation. (I’m struggling to explain this properly and my five minutes is up already, but if you want to look into it more I suggest looking at Chapter 10 of Laura Story’s book or checking out this website.)
We will always have the “why” questions. They’re only natural, and God welcomes us with our questions but so often there are no answers.
In her book, Laura Story suggests that once we’ve exhausted our “whys” there is another question that might be more helpful and productive to ask:
How might God’s glory be displayed through this situation?
“We have to come to a point where we say, “I don’t know why my life looks this way. But I don’t have to understand why. It’s enough for me to believe that God has a plan and that he has promised he will never leave or forsake me, and he will be by my side through every trial I face.”” (Laura Story)
Over the next few weeks on my blog, I’ll be sharing some more reflections on questions people asked Jesus. Click here to find this week’s post on the question, “God, don’t you care?” or click here for an index page on all my Questions posts, including a series from last year on questions Jesus asked people.