As long as sin exists, there will be pain and suffering. It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or a non-believer, no one is exempt from trials. As Francis Chan said, “Nearly every book of the New Testament discusses suffering, yet we’re surprised when it actually happens.” That said, it’s very important for you to understand that God is not the cause of your pain and suffering. Satan is. When you’re sick, the doctor is not the cause of your illness, right? The doctor is the person to whom you go for healing. In the same light, we turn to God for healing.
Unfortunately, in order for there to be great healing, there must first be great pain.
Healing usually comes in one of three ways. There’s the hands-on approach. Medicine or sometimes surgery if needed. There’s the hands-off approach. We typically call this time and resting. The third route of healing is the radical one. In some situations, doctors are forced to cut off a person’s leg or arm in order to save the person’s life. It’s gruesome. It’s painful. It sucks…but it works. The person is healed. Basically, an unpleasant approach is needed in order to do the greater job of saving.
In the Bible, Christ healed in these same ways. Occasionally, He would touch someone, and they would be instantly cured. Sometimes, He would simply talk to the person. “Dude, you’re fine. Get up.” And they’d be instantly cured. Then there’s the radical route, the unpleasant approach, and that’s the story of healing I want to write on today.
John 9:1-11: As (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” See…back then, it was believed that if you had some incurable disease or handicap, you—or your parents—had sinned, and this was God’s punishment. This would be like if you were putting an entertainment center together, slammed the hammer on your thumb, and yelled, “Son of a—!!” God would strike you and/or your future children blind. Sounds stupid, but that’s what they believed at the time.
So Jesus answers, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Now, this is an important moment. Jesus is saying that it’s no one’s fault that this guy is blind. He was chosen. We live in a fallen world of pain, suffering, and tragic circumstances. Sometimes, bad things happen to us because we make bad choices. Sometimes, bad things happen to us for no reason…and God uses those moments to show the world a great healing.
This particular healing miracle played out thusly: John writes that Christ spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. Now…these people have witnessed Jesus heal in some pretty awesome ways. One time, He healed a kid from the next town over (John 4:46-54). One time, a person reached out and touched Him in a crowd, and was healed (Mark 5:25-26). So…imagine that you’ve witnessed countless miracles, and now you’re watching Jesus—the Son of God—hock a loogie. Furthermore, it says that He made mud from His saliva. How much spit had to come out of Jesus’s mouth to make mud? Then…Jesus takes the mud and smears it on the dude’s eyes!!
“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” – I can’t help but think that Jesus is messing with this guy now. He tells a blind guy, “Go over there.” The rest of the story goes, So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”
But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”
“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.
He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
Notice that no one bothered to tell him how Jesus made the mud?*
Unpleasant story, perhaps, but it has a powerful point: Jesus is the healer—and He does it in a variety of ways. Sometimes He’ll reach down and touch us. Sometimes He’ll simply tell us that we’re better. And unfortunately, sometimes He’ll spit in our face.
Nearly two years ago, my life was falling apart. Steph and I had reached a point in our marriage where we were nothing more than roommates. We never spent time with each other. We never talked to each other. Other than our living arrangements, we had practically no relationship with each other. At school, I was beginning to hate my job. I had stretched myself out too thin, trying to do too much. I was spending more time worrying about every little issue outside of my room that I was no longer enjoying what was going on inside of my room. To add on to that, my twenty-nine-year-old sister-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Three weeks ago, our lives in Washington were ripped apart. A monster tornado touched down and shredded neighborhood after neighborhood. Hundreds of people lost their homes. Those who were fortunate enough to have been out of the tornado’s path were still affected by it, as friends and/or family were hit. Many people were at church and returned to find the destruction waiting for them. Many were in the basements of their homes, and will never forget the agonizing terror of hearing and feeling the storm tear through their upstairs living room.
Here’s where life is hard, here’s the spit in the face. When tragedy strikes, life gets worse before it gets better. Less than a week after Christen was diagnosed with her brain tumor, she passed away, leaving my brother and their two children alone. I have never witnessed such pain and suffering as I did from Joe during that time. I had no desire to return to school—I only wanted to be there for him. Steph was very close to Christen, but as we had drifted apart, I felt more compelled to comfort my brother than my own wife—leaving her to suffer alone—which naturally hurt our relationship even more over the next few months.
The devastation of the tornado is not going to be the worst part of this process. Eventually, all of these people volunteering to help will have to return to their own lives. The news will stop reporting on it. Donations will stop coming in. Those that lost their home will feel isolated. Alone and forgotten. Rebuilding these neighborhoods is not an overnight project. One year from today, much of the wreckage will still be here. It will take years—plural—before people begin to build and move back. It might take as much as ten years before these neighborhoods look anything close to what they looked like a month ago.
Frightened, forgotten, and frustrated. Afraid, alone, and angry. It’s in these moments…these soul-crushing, spirit-breaking moments…that our miracles occur. It’s in these lowest moments that we—through God’s grace—crawl from the emotional wreckage. We climb out of our heart’s basement, look at the devastation around us, and see…hope.
Whatever you’re going through right now, understand that God always wins. It’s going to get tough, but in the end, God always wins. He does some of His best work during times of sorrow, agony, and difficult. – Todd Nighswonger
God’s love is not just a feeling of sentiment. It means He comes down in our times of need and says, “I’ve got this. I’ve got this. I’ve got this.” – Crawford Loritts
When you scratch yourself, you bleed, but the blood clots and the skin returns. Within a couple of days, the scrape is gone. The worst cuts may leave a scar, but even then—the bleeding stops. Nearly two years ago, my brother lost his wife suddenly. This was no cut or scratch. This was a gaping hole that had him emotionally bleeding out. He could have been angry at God. He could have turned his back to God. Instead, he turned to God. He asked Jesus to fill that void…and Jesus said, “I love you. I’ve got this.” He then healed Joe. It wasn’t overnight. It wasn’t a week later, or even a month later. First—Christ showed Joe the love of others. People were lining up to help him financially, help him with food, help him with his two children…whatever he needed. Eventually, those people faded. It’s not a knock against them, but they had their own lives to lead. So God helped Joe learn how to balance his entire life and be a single father. Once Joe had that down, Jesus said, “Okay…you’re ready,” and introduced him to someone new. Soon, they were dating. Now they’re engaged. It’s not that Christen is forgotten. She’s not being replaced. Joe will have that scar with him the rest of his life. But Jesus does heal. He gives us a resiliency to bounce back when tragedy strikes.
I grew up in a Christian home. I have been going to church my whole life. I knew all the answers to all the important questions someone could ask me about my faith—and I believed that I was going to Heaven simply because I could recite memorized answers. The bottom line is that for thirty-three years, I was living a lie. I did not know Jesus. I knew of Him, but I had no relationship with Him, and here I was—at the same age of Christ’s physical death—spiritually dying. My marriage was falling apart. I was beginning to hate my job. My entire life was crumbling around me. To top it off, my on-fire-for-Christ sister-in-law died suddenly.
I was wounded. I was bleeding out. I was dying. At one point during Christen’s funeral, I closed my eyes, lifted my head to God and said one word: Help!! Jesus came down and said, “I love you. I’ve got this.” Again—it didn’t happen overnight, but as time passed, my wounds began to close up. I am once again crazy in love with Steph. I am crazy in love with my job. I am crazy in love with my life. Now I am whole. Now I am well. Now I am healed.
When we understand that Jesus is here, we can make it through anything. People who know that Jesus loves them, who know that Jesus is with them and for them—those people can not only endure pain and loss and difficulty, they can come out the other side stronger and better people. – Judah Smith
Right now, most of you are wounded in some way—whether it’s storm-related or something personal; whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. You’re hurt. You’re confused. Your situation doesn’t make sense. Jesus is the healer. You just need to go to Him. It may get better instantly. It may get better over weeks and months like it did for me. It may get better in a couple of years like it did for Joe. But it will get better. You will be whole again. You will be well again. You will be healed. Washington is going to be left with a scar. The mark of this tornado will always be here, but the wound will heal. The bleeding will stop.
I know it’s hard to see that now. I know it’s hard to see a loving and healing God with spit in your eyes. I know that none of this brings your house back today. It won’t prevent you from flinching the next time you hear thunder, or crying when the town’s siren goes off on the first Tuesday of every month. What I’m saying is if you put your trust and faith in Jesus, He will bless you with the time and peace required to heal. It may be next week, next month, next year, or even five years later, but Christ is going to blow your mind. All you have to do is let Him.
When tragedy strikes, as it will; when suffering comes, as it will; when you’re wrestling with pain, as you will – and when you make the choice to run into His arms, here’s what you’re going to discover: You’ll find peace to deal with the present…(and) courage to deal with your future. – Lee Strobel
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
When we’re sick or injured, we see a doctor. We don’t sit back and suffer silently. We don’t sit in our room and wait for the broken bone to mend itself. We put our trust in our doctors. Oftentimes, they’ll hand us a pill and say, “Take this and you’ll get better.” We don’t know what the pill is. We don’t know what’s in it. We don’t know how it works. We just trust that if we take it, we will get better. Not immediately—it usually takes a few days—but our health does return.
Yet in times of emotional or spiritual distress, we clam up. We run away from friends, family, and God, and attempt to deal with the issues on our own. This never heals the wound. Never. Jesus is the healer. He was sent here to save all of us. People walked for days in order to see Him and be healed by Him. Christ continues to save today. All we have to do is put our faith and trust in Him and ask. My brother will marry his fiancé (ironically also named Christen) on April 5 because in his time of great suffering, he sought the healing of Jesus. I am here today, writing this post, because in my time of great suffering, I sought the healing of Jesus.
Through God’s grace, Washington has shown its strength as a community. We have demonstrated our love for each other in countless ways, but the suffering is not over. There will be continued hardships in the weeks, months, and possibly years to come. In those times, seek the healing that only Jesus can offer. Allow Him to come into your heart and say, “I love you. I’ve got this.”
*A tip of the cap to Perry Noble, who inspired the humor throughout this passage.