I was reading in the book of John last week and came across the story that most of us know well. The one where Jesus comes across the Blind Man, and is asked whether it was the man who did something wrong, or his family, that caused his blindness. Jesus uses this occasion to share that people are NOT afflicted because of something they (or their families) did wrong, but rather his healing is to bear witness to the miracles of Jesus and to the power of God. I am paraphrasing, but that is what I have gotten out of the story every time I have read it- except for this time.
This time when I read it, I got to thinking about this man. He was born blind- and through his whole life he was living with this major affliction, why? So that we – all of the generations from that point forward- would be able to understand this miracle of Jesus, and also to understand that people ARE sometimes afflicted for the benefit of the people around them, to learn to know and love Jesus. Our afflictions are not to punish us, but they can be of service to the world. It feels like a huge burden, however it is also a tremendous opportunity.
Many years ago, I met a woman when I was pregnant for my second child. She was lived across the street from me, and I had just moved into the neighborhood with my husband and toddler. The day after I met her, my baby was born- prematurely and via C-section- and died shortly after he was born. As anyone who has experienced this knows, it is a deep grief. My neighbor heard about this and came to my house to offer to be there for me. She was the mother of two children that I had met – but what I didn’t know was that her first baby had also died a few days after birth. She understood my pain. I eagerly took her up on her offer to talk and to listen. She did more to help me heal through that process than almost anyone. Whats more- she was a Christian and I was not. She introduced me to Jesus, and that was a tremendous step forward in my faith journey.
My friend was the Blind Man to me. She suffered something that I would wish on no one- but through her suffering I came to know Jesus. The question for me is, how have I been able to use the suffering that I have experienced to be the Blind Man for someone else? If we could all take our suffering and turn it into something beautiful by not only helping to relieve someone’s earthly pain, but also to help them on their journey to salvation, what a gift that could be!