A Different Way to Look at Suffering
Micca Monda Campbell
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." John 9:3 (NIV)
Jesus had a unique way of clearing up misconceptions by helping people see truth as it was meant to be. For example, in John 9 we find Jesus refuting the traditional explanation of suffering when His disciples point to a man born blind and ask, "Who sinned, this man or his parents?" In other words, they wanted to know Why did he deserve blindness? Jesus answers frankly, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."
The disciples looked backwards to find out why the man was blind. Jesus redirects their attention by pointing forward and upward with a new and different perspective.
Usually, our response to challenges or suffering is determined by our perspective.
When our focus is inward on ourselves or outward on circumstances, our natural response is fear, insecurity, grumbling and despair. I know. I've been there far too often. Have you?
Yet, Jesus redirects our questions and our focus. In doing so, it causes us to see suffering in a new light that disproves the old tradition. Not all suffering is a direct result of sin. Pain has a higher purpose in our lives. It's not necessarily there because we deserve it. It's to reveal God's glory.
Suffering is meant to refine us. James says it makes us "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (1:4b, ESV). Pain drives us to seek the heart and will of God.
Perhaps you and I have been going at it all wrong. We've been looking backwards in the rearview mirror of life asking, "Why? What did I do to deserve this?" Instead, we should look forward and up asking, "What's the purpose of my pain? What's the end result? What is God trying to do, accomplish, or teach me?"
These types of questions enable us to hold out hope for the future. They remind us our suffering can be transformed or redeemed. Tragedies and hardships like the loss of a spouse, a child, a limb, a job, or a home can be used to display God's work and make us more like Jesus.
Isn't it time you and I looked up? An upward focus brings about a supernatural response that reflects trust and confidence in God, as He brings about His glorious work in each of us.
Dear Lord, give me a new perspective today. Help me see the real meaning of my suffering. Enable me to trust You with the good work You are accomplishing in my life through this pain. I long for You to be glorified in this trial. Give me the strength I need to make that happen. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Choose not to look in the review mirror of life today. Instead, look forward. Ask God "to what end" is my suffering. Look for evidence of how God is at work refining your faith and character to match His.
What do you think God is trying to accomplish in your life through your suffering?
The blind man learned something about Christ from being healed. What have you learned about Christ from your experience?
1 Peter 4:12-13, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (NIV).