Sometimes, bad things happen to people, and they wonder, “Why did this happen to me? Is God punishing me for something I did?”
There are times when God will let us go through suffering because of our sin. But I would say that most, if not all the time, it’s not so much that God is punishing you, as he is letting you reap the natural consequences of your actions. Just because you are a Christian does not mean that you can sin and expect to escape the natural consequences of your actions. There is a price to pay for what we do. And we can hardly blame God if he does nothing to keep us from suffering those consequences. It’s how we learn, and it’s part of the process that leads to holiness. A refining by fire if you will.
But there are times when bad things happen to us through no fault of our own.
In this story, Jesus and his disciples came across a man who had been blind from birth. And his disciples asked,
Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? (2)
It was a very common belief in that day that if you were handicapped, it was because God was punishing you. But this man was blind from birth, and so that provided a conundrum for the disciples. Was this man blind because his parents sinned? Did God see that he was going to sin in the future and so he made him blind from birth? Did he somehow sin in the womb of his mother?
But Jesus answered,
Neither this man nor his parents sinned…but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (3)
What was Jesus saying? He was saying that there are times when bad things happen to us, not because God is punishing us, but because God wants to do something glorious through us.
A woman named Joni Eareckson Tada immediately springs to my mind as an example. She was a woman who in her teenage years had a diving accident leaving her quadriplegic. Many people have prayed for her healing over the years, and yet God never healed her. But through her, so many people around the world have been touched, and not just people with disabilities. God wasn’t punishing her. But through this accident, God’s work was displayed in her life in a way that would never have been done had she not had this accident.
While I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (5)
While Jesus may no longer be physically present here on earth, nevertheless, he shines his light on us that God’s glory might be revealed to us, and he shines his light through us that others may be touched as well.
So if you’re going through suffering, don’t wallow in your misery. Rather ask God, “Shine your light on me and let your light shine through me in the midst of all this.”
And if you do, God will be glorified in you and through you.