And his disciples asked him, saying, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
John 9:2-3, KJV
In just a few weeks I will be traveling to Haiti, for the purpose of ministering to the parents of children with special needs. There is no blog post for them to subscribe to, no website or Facebook group to join for their child’s specific condition or disability. It is a world I, as yet, cannot even fathom for a family like mine.
Their greatest challenges for raising a child with disabilities in a third-world environment are not the physical ones. I mean — the physical hurdles are gigantic: no running water or electricity, sleeping on a mud floor, walking as the only means of transportation. Just take a minute and consider the accommodations your child requires and figure out how you would do it in those conditions. But I imagine the mental, emotional and spiritual hurdles are even greater. The culture in Haiti commonly holds that birth defects are curses, and babies born cursed are more often than not abandoned. So the stigma and scarlet letter that those families carry around with them, combined with virtually no support or assistance available in the community, must exact a great toll on their hearts and minds.
As I studied and prepared my heart for the trip, God brought to my attention the story in John of the man, born with a disability – blindness. The disciples were curious as to whose fault it was that he was born disabled. I became aware, through my studies, that this belief of a birth defect being a “curse” has been around since Bible times, and even the Jews had a variety of beliefs about those being born ill or disabled, and all of them were negative and held a stigma that went far beyond the disability itself.
Jesus cut through all their misinformation and false beliefs in an instant. And His words can cut through any doubts or questions we may still have today. “WHY?” Is not an ancient question, nor one asked only by the uneducated minds of a third-world country. We ask, in our hearts, all the time. We encounter family members, church members, and people at large who ask the same question. Maybe not out loud, or by making bold accusations, but the question is asked in hearts, all the time.
“…but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Jesus completely avoids the conversation about cause. He goes straight to the purpose behind it. One might read the story and say, “Sure. So that he could be standing there and be healed by Jesus, so miracles could be seen.” But then what about my son? As of this day, my child has not been healed. So then, where are the works of God? I did a search on that term “works of God” and found every instance in the Bible where it was used. Do you know it was never used of miracles or physical healing? In the Old Testament it was used to label creation. And in the New Testament — every single time — it referred to salvation.
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 (NIV)
You see, the more I studied this story, this man, his parents and neighbors, and the response of Jesus, it became abundantly clear. The reason that disability, physical defects, special needs are allowed to be present, is for the salvation of mankind. For God’s perfect love and perfect plan of sending Jesus to redeem us, to be seen in the world. The man’s blindness wasn’t allowed simply for the show of a healing miracle. It was for the purpose of a lasting transformation in his life and many many others. All the neighbors, family members and religious leaders who would see him would not be entertained, but rather they would be SAVED.
What if, instead of looking for healing, we were looking for salvation? What if we viewed our call as parents and our child’s call as one to spread the “works of God”? If I view my son’s life in that aspect, I believe he has already fulfilled that purpose many times over. I see the difference he has made in the lives around him. I see hearts softened and turned towards Christ. This is the message I will take to Haiti with me, the message of salvation. And It is also the message I will turn my focus to here at home. By shifting my perspective to the eternal purpose that we are each called to, I can now see my son as much more typical than I did before. I can see that he is perhaps much more successful than most kids his age, in accomplishing his call. I don’t need to know what happened to cause the genetic disorder, but I am certain of why God allowed it, and that empowers me to take up the call more emboldened than ever before.
I believe in healing. I believe it is possible today, just as when Jesus walked the earth. I believe that God can heal my son today, in the blink of an eye. I want to be careful to point out I’m not suggesting for a moment that any of us stop expecting miracles. But make no mistake that the greatest miracle of all is salvation. And all that God allows, or heals, is for that purpose.
A prayer for today: Lord, I have so many questions and things I don’t understand. Help me, today, to shift my focus on the answers that you ARE providing. There is a clear path you have designed for us, and I need your help walking it out. Give me the confidence to follow where you lead, and the boldness to know that you have a divine plans for your works to be made manifest in my child’s life.