And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. 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.
I believe that I have come to understand something about God and about life. Or maybe I haven't.
Psychologists several decades ago discovered that if you tormented an animal long enough, it would not try to escape even when the opportunity arose. Maybe I'm just cowering in a corner, calling pain bearable because trying one more time to escape seems more frightening.
But, I think that I have discovered that God usually does not want to heal our pain.
In the verse above, Jesus explains why a certain man was blinded from birth. He was blinded/blind/allowed to be blind so that the works of God could be demonstrated by the Messiah. God allowed this man to spend decades blind for the sake of His kingdom. Someone, somewhere prayed, "Thy kingdom come," and this man was born blind. Jesus was the kingdom of God on earth, and the Father had decreed that His kingdom would be declared, so Jesus healed this man.
By this miracle some amazing truths about the essence of God were demonstrated to everyone who saw it, heard about, read about it, or even just heard sermons about it. By this miracle the kingdom was advanced on earth, and God's purpose was made yet more certain. God's character of kindness was revealed, and Jesus' power was certified.
What's more, every miracle ever performed was done with this same purpose in mind. No miracle is of private edification. God moves to advance His kingdom.
Now, though, the kingdom is different than it was 2,000 years ago.
In the first days of a tree's life, it shoots upward as a tender green sprout. Within a month, though, it begins to form bark and grow strong. When Jesus walked on earth, the church was still a seed beneath the ground, and it needed to burst out in a fit of miracles. When Jesus rose from the tomb, the sprout breached the ground and tasted its first real air. In that tender first generation, the miracles continued. But one day, just like the tree sprout grows bark, the church began to live more on love than miracles.
Miracles are fast, but love works slowly - very slowly. That's OK. Miracles burst forth, but love never fails.
Today, when I meet a man blind from birth, I will assume that he is blind for exactly the same reason as that man Jesus saw 2,000 years ago. The man is blind that the works of God should be made manifest in him. But today, the works of God are works of love, slow, patient, unfailing love. I don't believe that God's kingdom answers that man with sight any more, but now with adoption.
The upshot is that I doubt that the pains God has allowed into my life were brought merely so that He could remove them.
I think God has something better planned for me than a miracle. And I think if I drive myself crazy trying to find that miracle, trying to save my life, I will lose my life. But if I decide to lose my life to pain, it just may be that I will find a love in Him worth dying for.
I have seen miracles and heard of miracles that are clear markers of God breaking into time. I will pray for miracles for myself and others. I will ask for healing and deliverance wherever they are wanted. But maybe I won't despair if it turns out that the works God has planned for my situation are greater than any miracle.