When Jesus and his disciples encountered the man born blind as recorded in John 9, the disciples wanted to know why he’d been born blind. Was it the man’s sin or his parents’ sin that had caused this tragedy?
Why me? Why her? It’s a question we all ask in the face of tragedy and suffering. I know I do. Why did my mom have cancer not once, but three times? Why did her dad die of cancer when she was only 14? Why did my sister die of cancer at only 61?
Why was I raped by someone I thought I could trust when I was only 14? Why was I faced with the impossible situation of a teen pregnancy because of being raped again when I was only 17? Was all this tragedy ordained by God to make me the person I am today? Would I have been less compassionate and more judgmental if I’d never experienced all the suffering I have?
I have a friend who is a Christian and yet she lacks empathy and compassion. Her words reveal the pride and judgment of others that flow from her heart. She hasn’t experienced the trauma I have or anything close to it as far as I can tell. I wonder if I would have been just like her—legalistic and critical—if I’d been spared the fertile soil of suffering that mercy needs to grow.
Or perhaps my suffering and my mother’s suffering are God’s punishment for the sins of her parents, my grandparents, or even earlier generations. There is certainly scripture to support the conclusion that God punishes the children for the sins of the parents even to multiple generations.
Then again, my own suffering may have been the result of my own sin. The first time I was raped happened in large part because I disobeyed my parents and hung out with the guy who did it. And after that it was one sin after another that led to more suffering.
I’ll probably never know why this side of Heaven. I can speculate until I’m blue in the face and never know for sure. So perhaps it’s most profitable to stop asking why and focus on the next part of the story of the man born blind.
Jesus answers His disciples, saying that the man was born blind that God might be glorified. Then He heals the man. He gives the man who had never seen so much as a blade of grass full sight. He took the man’s utter darkness and gave him light.
He did the same for me and that’s what matters. He healed my brokenness that He might be glorified. I’ll admit that there are days when even that answer can cause tears of anger to well up in my eyes. Couldn’t there have been an easier way for God to be glorified than for me to struggle under the weight of multiple traumas?
Then I remember the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers, thrown into jail by Pharaoh for a betrayal he didn’t commit, and then ultimately raised to a position of power in Egypt. When his brothers came to him for food in time of famine, fearing he would punish them for the wrong they had committed against him, Joseph responded: “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV).
I ponder that perhaps God intended the harm that has befallen me for good, to accomplish great things for Him. This helps me let go of the “why” questions and focus on where I can encourage others who have been through similar circumstances and haven’t yet found His healing light. Perhaps I can even be used by God to save many lives.