My father wrestles daily with his disability. It affects his attitude and daily activity, but it also affects his theology. His struggle is currently shaping his view of God, his view of life and his view of ministry, as it would for anyone dealing with disability.
I’m thankful that I get to be with my father, shaping our theology together. One question my father wants answered before any other question is: “Why?” Why did this happen? What is the purpose of being disabled? Why endure all this suffering?
The good thing we have discovered is that God’s word has much to say about suffering. God is speaking to my fathers situation through his word and we are finding some beautiful truths. There is indeed a purpose for the suffering in this life. There are many purposes. And they are all glorious.
Over the next few days, I’ll share just three reasons why I believe Christians shall suffer in their life.
The Purpose of Suffering is to Display the Works of God in His Healing and Sustaining
I get this from John 9 and 2 Corinthians 12. In John 9, we read the story about the man born blind. Jesus’ disciples ask him if the cause of the man’s blindness was because of his parents sin or the mans sin. Jesus answered,
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. (v. 3)
Jesus denies that sin was the cause. But notice that Jesus does not state the cause of the mans blindness. He instead reveals the purpose of the mans blindness. The purpose is to display the works of God. In this case, God heals the blind man so that the works of God are displayed in the mans healing. The healed man is later convinced that he was healed by a man sent from God.
One day, my dad may be fully healed of all disability. God may one day, grant my dad the ability to walk, talk and eat without any hinderance. God’s glory would be displayed in such a thing. He would gladly proclaim that his healing must be from God. But that’s not the only way the works of God are displayed in the suffering man.
God’s power is also revealed in his sustaining grace. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes his weakness and the power of God displayed in that weakness:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (v. 9-10)
Paul reveals that God’s grace is always sufficient, even in weakness, and it is in that weakness that God’s power is best displayed. Without suffering, it would not be displayed in quite the same way. Paul is therefore content with weakness and his contentment is based on the power of God sustaining him and the power of God being displayed. Paul even says that while in one sense he is weak, in another sense, a more spiritual sense, he is strong.
For my father this means that it is by God’s grace that he is being sustained and kept in the Lord in his weakness and disability to display God’s power and sufficient grace. I pray that my dad, though he is weak, can say confidently, “I am strong.”
The bottom line is that when we are weak, afflicted and suffering, we can be fully content in the knowledge that the works of God is being displayed in either God’s grace of healing or sustaining.