As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:1-2
Suffering produces an insatiable desire to blame. Surely there must be some reason why this poor man must suffer all his life without sight. We hunger and thirst for some impetus for it all.
Why are we so bent on finding fault? Partly because we hope to prevent future suffering by finding the cause. Just like you may avoid spicy food if it once gave you heartburn. Partly because if the sufferer is to blame, we can accept the hardship as a legitimate recompense to sin: “She deserved that,” or “I had it coming.” If someone else is to blame, we at least have someone to take our anger out on.
So how does Jesus answer the disciples inquiry about the cause of the blind man’s life of suffering?
Jesus doesn’t tell us of a world of needless suffering. There is a reason, but it is one that we have had no category for at all: suffering for the sake of the glory of God.
Growing up as a church kid, repentance wasn’t a good thing. It was like flu medication. If you got the flu, of course, it was commendable to take the medication. But even better than that was not getting sick. Avoiding sin was better than needing to repent. Goody-two-shoes that I was, this was great news. I was pretty good at obedience, at following the rule book. But sometime during those church-going years, I got a glimpse of God in His Word: His character, His beauty, His holiness. Rule-following was no longer appealing. Knowing Him was.
The truth is, our sin is so vile, so wicked, so wretched, so full of anti-God-self-love, that God’s forgiveness of us at the expense of His One and Only Beloved Son should put us into a state of utter shock and disbelief. But if you don’t think your sin is that bad, then God’s grace toward you won’t be that good. And I think this is where other good things (like marriage) creep in and start to look a little more appealing than a right relationship with God.
If you are not shocked that God has offered you a right relationship with Him, then you likely don’t think you’re a very bad sinner. Does the above description of sin sound extreme to you? Then you likely have too low a view of your sin. Or you have excused your sin because of circumstances or by comparing yourself to others. And so long as knowing God is not that impressive to you, you’ll always be looking to something else for deep and abiding joy.