The Age-Old Question, "Why Do People Suffer?" (V. 1 and 2)
After miraculously escaping yet another attempt of the Jews to stone Him, Jesus and His disciples came to a blind man who had been blind from birth. Jesus naturally sees a man in need, but the disciples are distracted by a puzzling question. “Lord, who sinned that this man should be born blind? Was it his parents? Did he sin in his mother’s womb?”(Based on the story of Jacob and Esau, which the disciples surely would have known, it was not that strange of a thought that a newborn baby could come out of the womb, already a sinner.) The truth is, this is a form of a question many people still ask today.
For all the many arguments out there for the existence of a Creator, among self-proclaimed “atheists” there are basically only two reasonable arguments, which aren’t really reasonable at all, that cast doubt on the existence of a Creator. First, they ask, “If there is a god, why can’t we observe him or her?” Of course this really isn’t a strong argument at all as there are many things we have come to accept that we can’t physically see. The second question is “If there is a god, why would He allow pain and suffering in this world?” Again, that is a poor argument. Even if God’s behavior was something we considered “evil,” that still can’t be evidence that He does not exist. Besides the failure for those questions to support an atheistic view, God’s Word does answer these questions to the satisfaction of Bible believers. Here, we will just examine our text to see how Jesus answered the disciples question and how it relates to the general question regarding pain and suffering in the world.
The Biblical Answer
Before we look at the Biblical answer, though, let’s use some logic. First of all, what good would we do to thumb our nose at the Creator and decide for ourselves what is fair and just. If we have a proper perspective, we will realize that the Creator of the universe has every bit of liberty to decide for Himself what He will and won’t do. All we can do is hope for some grace and mercy. Also, we are limited in our understanding of what He is doing because we are the creation, not the Creator. We don’t know God’s plan; we can’t see how one person’s pain and suffering fits into a greater picture; we can’t see the future. We have no idea what “bad things” that happen in our life may be the cause of “better things in our lives, or in the lives of others, further down the road. So, if God should lay out an answer from His written Word, we should recognize that we still will not be able to fully understand it.
Jesus’ answer to the disciples' question was, “Neither this man sinned nor his parents (not that they were totally without sin, but their sins weren’t the cause of the man’s blindness).” Then Jesus proceeded, “This man was born blind so that the works of God should be made manifest.” Not only does this answer the specific case and foreshadow what Jesus was about to do for the blind man, I believe it also is a general answer for why there is any pain and suffering in the world, and it is also a spiritual picture of the salvation of our souls. I’ll explain, but we must go back to the beginning of the Bible.
A basic comprehension of the Genesis account of fallen man reveals that at least much of the pain and suffering is a result of a curse upon all mankind for his rebellion against God. The punishment was mortality, the eventual death of the body. With this necessity of death comes certain laws (laws of decay, genetic laws, etc.) which may not have been present before the fall of man. Therefore, all of us were born with the results of sin already in us.
So, if pain and suffering is the result of sin, why would God provide the opportunity to sin in the first place? Knowing man would sin, why would He allow it to happen? Why not stop it? The answer, I believe, is the same one Jesus gave the disciples when they asked why this man was born blind from his birth. Jesus said it was so "the works of God should be made manifest." God had a plan from the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20 ) that each of us would be born in our sins, spiritually blind and destined for eternal death in Hell. God had a plan from the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) that "the man" Jesus Christ would provide everlasting life for all who believe, thus manifesting the "work of God (John 6:29)."
It might not make complete sense to us, but neither does Jesus spitting on the ground, making clay, and rubbing it in a blind man's eyes before telling him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. We may not be able to comprehend how an eternal God creates time/space, the universe and everything that is in it, exercises His soverenty over it all, and yet makes allowance for a freewill so that we all might have equal opportunity to hear His word and accept it or else reject it. But...He is God, and we are not!
In the next post, we will take a closer look at the story, and we'll see the picture of the "blind man who sees" and the "seeing men who are blind." Hope it will be a blessing to someone. Thanks for reading.