As He passed along, He noticed a man blind from his birth. His disciples asked Him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind? Jesus answered, It was not that this man or his parents sinned, but he was born blind in order that the workings of God should be manifested (displayed and illustrated) in him.
John 9:1-3 (Amp.)
In the days that followed the crushing news that the tumor had returned, in the exact same location, the exact same size (a little larger actually), and only four weeks after its removal, Jaime began to think that all of this was God’s punishment. “I’ve been so selfish recently. I have said horrible things to you. I’ve done things and said things I would never do. Now, God is punishing me.” It was difficult to console her then because she had been selfish and she had said and done things that were completely opposite of the person I had fallen madly in love with. Though, I did not (and still do not) believe this was God’s punishment. Fueling her wrong way of thinking were messages and conversations she had with “friends.” Instead of lifting her spirits, they took the opportunity to remind her of her recent decisions and began telling her how they would proceed if they were in her place. Just like Job’s friends, though, their intentions were wrong and their “friendly” advice drew her away from her faith in God. When did all this change for Jaime? It happened over a short period of time. Jaime had a persistent friend – someone who loved her like a sister – someone who prayed with her, for her, and for us. Carrie never reminded Jaime of the past mistakes, only of the beautiful future promised by her loving Father. Another moment of breakthrough occurred in early August, after Jaime had completed her daily radiation treatment. We had gone to speak with Carol, the social worker, about disability, Medicaid, and food assistance. Carol could see that Jaime was not her self and asked how things were going. Jaime eventually opened up to Carol and told her that she wondered if all of this was God’s punishment on her and our family. Carol stopped her so quickly and said, “If God is giving cancer to people as punishment for being evil, why aren’t there more patients out in the waiting room?” What a great question/statement! Carol continued, “Jaime, you have cancer because there is a tumor on the surface of your brain that is malignant. How God uses your cancer we will find out in the days ahead.” And that was it. Those moments and very special people ended Jaime’s thought that her diagnosis was a deserved response to her life. Dr. Alemany would later share with Jaime that it was very likely that her out of the ordinary actions and behavior, prior to the diagnosis, were caused by the tumor pressing on her brain.
What Jesus’ disciples asked, from the passage shared above, should not be seen as their display of ignorance. Their ancestors, no doubt, had shared the stories of God using physical distress to change the mind of pagan kings as well as to correct and guide the faithful. It is Jesus’ response that should change the way we view the hardships of life, disability and sickness. Why does God allow anyone to lose everything, be born blind, have a physical impairment, or have terminal illness? Jesus answered that question – [so] “that the workings of God should be manifested (displayed and illustrated).” God uses all things to reveal Himself – even those things (people) who will only bow to Him when they are confronted with reality on that final day that they were wrong and that Jesus Christ is Lord. For His good purposes, though, He has determined to use those individuals whose lives and stories squeeze our hearts and remind us that our concerns are not as big as they seem. We, of course, are fine with Him using lives and experiences to display His greatness, just so long as it is not painful and that it ends with everyone living happily ever after. God has never promised any of that, though – in this lifetime! My beautiful wife, my best friend, the mother of our daughter had cancer. It was a horrible experience that God used and continues to use [so] “that the workings of God should be manifested (displayed and illustrated).” I think of Jaime’s blog and the way it reached out and touched the hearts of so many people. I also think of her joy that emanated from a sick, swollen body. She was such an encourager to those who received chemo with her. Jaime hated her cancer, but with God’s grace and strength found joy in the journey and ended up living her final days as a showcase of God’s greatness.