Are You Blind?~The Rt.Rev. Michael Beckett, OPI

Y’all, I only have one more pair of contacts before I have to get new ones.  That means, eye exam, new prescription, and hassle.  Of course, I’m really thankful that contacts and glasses exist, because I am blind as a bat without my glasses or contacts.  Without my glasses, I really am legally blind.  Ugh. 

In the Gospel for today, we read of Jesus and a blind man.  Picture it:  Jerusalem in A.D. 32 or so;  Jesus is bee-bopping along  with his disciples, and they see a blind dude and the disciples say, “What is up with this?  Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

And Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”  And what did Jesus do, you ask?  He made a bit of mud with spit and dirt and applied it to the blind dude’s eyes, told him to go wash it off, and BOOM, the guy could see!  Pretty kewl, huh?

Well, WE think so, but the Pharisees?  Not so much.  They were pretty bummed because they thought, like many evangelicals today do, that bad stuff happens to bad people, or that bad stuff happens coz God punishes folks who don’t toe the line, and, they say, “It says so in the Bible.”

Ummmmmm…….no.   And not just ‘no,’ but NO.   First of all, God does not ‘give’ us the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that happen in our lives.  Life happens.  Crap happens.  People make poor choices.  Natural disasters occur.  We get sick.  Nowhere does Holy Writ support the claim that any of these things is God’s doing.  What kind of God would we worship if he, indeed, sent us all the trials and tribulations and suffering and horror for which He is blamed?  When “bad” things happen to any of God’s children, God is grieved and suffers with us, and this was experienced most vividly in the hurt and suffering of Jesus Christ for all humanity. Any “bad” thing which happens is never the last word. Rather, God is the deepest and last word, and that word is love and eternal life with God.

The Bible clearly teaches that God does not cause us to suffer. For example, the Bible says that when we go through trials, it would be a mistake to say: “I am being tried by God.” Why? Because “with evil things God cannot be tried, nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) In other words, God never causes the trials we face or the suffering that follows. To do so would be wicked, but “God does not act wickedly.” (Job 34:12.)

If God does not cause us to suffer, then who or what does? Sadly, humans are often victimized by other imperfect humans. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Additionally, we may face calamities because of “unexpected events”—that is, because of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) The Bible teaches that ultimately “the ruler of this world,” Satan the Devil, is responsible for human suffering, for “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19) It is Satan—not God—who causes people to suffer.

God is aware of our suffering. From the very start of human suffering, not a single teardrop has gone unnoticed by our loving Father, whose “watchful eyes” see everything. (Psalm 11:4; 56:8) For example, when his worshippers in ancient times were being oppressed, God said: “I have certainly seen the affliction of my people.” But was he only vaguely aware of their pain? No, for he added: “I well know the pains they suffer.” (Exodus 3:7) Many people have found comfort in that truth alone—the thought that God is aware of everything we suffer, even the trials that we or others may not be aware of or fully understand. (Psalm 31:7; Proverbs 14:10.)

God feels for us when we suffer. Our Heavenly Father is not only aware of human suffering but also deeply moved by it. For example, God was sincerely troubled when his ancient worshippers faced trials. “During all their distress it was distressing to him,” says the Bible. (Isaiah 63:9) Although God is vastly superior to humans, he feels empathy for those who suffer—as if their pain were in his heart! Indeed, “Our Heavenly Father is very compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:11) Additionally, Our Heavenly Father helps us to bear our suffering. (Philippians 4:12, 13.)

We must also remember that our Lord Jesus knows what it is to suffer, to mourn.  He wept at the grave of Lazarus, he wept over Jerusalem, and he suffered horrifically during His Passion.

God will end all human suffering. According to the Bible, God will bring an end to the suffering of every human on the planet. By means of His Heavenly Kingdom, God will drastically change the human condition—for the better. Regarding that time, the Bible promises that God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4) What about those who have already died? God will bring them back to life here on earth so that they too can enjoy life free from suffering. (John 5:28, 29) Will anyone be plagued by painful memories of past suffering? No, for Our Heavenly Father promises: “The former things will not be called to mind, nor will they come up into the heart.” (Isaiah 65:17.)

So there’s that.  Now, Jesus said that God would be glorified through Blind Dude’s gift of sight.  It was a miracle!   Whilst Jesus isn’t around in the flesh these days to make mud and lay on hands, our God has granted us the miracles (yes plural) of modern medicine.  And I would imagine many of us have experienced a ‘miracle’ or two in our lives.  I know I have, more than once.  And for those blessings and miracles, we give thanks to God. 

But we have to ask, in what ways are WE blind, spiritually speaking?  What do we will ourselves not to see?  The homeless?  Inequality?  Inequity?  The poor?  People who are “other” than we ourselves?  I am reminded of a hymn by Clara H. Scott, “Open My Eyes That I May See.”

Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me. Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free.  Silently now I wait for thee, ready, my God, thy will to see.  Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!