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A Story of Rejection
You may be familiar with the story from the Bible of Jesus spending time with his disciples when they walked by a man who had been blind from birth.
With surprising efficiency, Jesus’ disciples quickly assessed the blind man’s physical and spiritual condition, and asked Jesus:
“Who was it that sinned [resulting in the punishment of blindness], this man or his parents?”
Maybe you’ve been in the blind man’s shoes before (I have). People like to figure things out. Sometimes we fallible humans make the mistake of trying to figure out other people’s problems for them (in 10 seconds or less).
Throughout your suffering, you may have experienced this quick (and ungracious) assessment and accusation.
It’s not a fun place to be. You’re begging for God’s mercy, for Him to send help.
God, please just send someone to love and comfort me during this trial.
But that friend you saw coming, who you thought might be your answer to prayer, ends up judging and accusing instead.
Job knew how this felt.
Eliphaz, Job’s friend, finally broke the silence: “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” (Job 4:7-8)
Bildad, Job’s second friend, says much the same. “See, God will not reject a blameless person nor take the hand of evildoers.” (Job 8:20)
And Zophar repeats the refrain. “If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, do not let wickedness reside in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure, and will not fear.…Your life will be brighter than the noonday, and its darkness like morning.” (Job 11:14-15, 17).
Can you imagine being the blind man who had not done anything to cause his blindness?
Yet snap judgments were made about his condition on a daily basis.
He couldn’t even see his accusers, but I’m sure he heard their words.
Accusing Words in Your Life
Who are your accusers?
- Maybe your loss has left you in a place where you don’t even recognize your own life anymore. The hole of grief is so deep and vast, it seems like you will never be able to move out of and beyond it. But yet you’ve been mistaken as being “un-spiritual”, or your waves of grief misunderstood as a lack of trust in God’s plan for your life.
- Sometimes these accusations come from a spouse that doesn’t understand. Even though they live with you and see your suffering, they think surely you can’t be enduring the pain you feel. “You’ll be fine.“
- It could be your close friend who can’t understand why you’re suddenly unreliable, non-commital, so “selfish” and always thinking of yourself. In reality you’re just trying to cope, hanging by a thread. Survival mode. Just trying as hard as you can to keep it all together.
- Or, that doctor you seek out (or maybe that 15th or 20th doctor you seek out), who gives you a pat on the hand and offers you his best option: admit that your problems are “all in your head” because certainly you must be making up your symptoms to get attention.
I know you’re suffering. That you’ve become this person you never anticipated, never chose, never wanted.
But what do you do when they don’t understand?
God’s Purpose in Your Suffering
What if, in your lonesomeness and sorrow, God is drawing you to Himself, desiring that you learn more about His love and care for you?
What if He wants you to care more about His opinion of you than the opinion of your accusers?
Rather than giving us trials in our lives for the mere reason of punishment (as people often think), the Lord is loving and kind and allows us to go through hard things – sometimes excruciatingly painful things – to remind us that He is our perfect source for strength, for comfort, and hope.
I love these words from Gloria Furman, recorded in her husband’s book, Being There:
“When you can’t see what the Potter is making, you trust the Potter. He delights in his sovereign will, so we don’t have to apologize for God or feel embarrassed or embittered about what he has designed.
“He loves us with an everlasting love and is willing to put us through trials in order to purify us for himself. So we do not lose heart…. By the grace of God in Jesus Christ, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”
Jesus’ Conclusion to His Disciples
Going back to the story of Jesus, His response to his critical disciples had two components:
1. Answering their question (“Who sinned?”):
“It was neither him nor his parents who sinned.”
2. And then explaining the purpose for the blind man’s plight:
“This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
My Expectations of Serving God
I don’t know what comes to your mind when you envision God’s works or glory being displayed in your life as you serve Him.
Maybe your expectation includes trendy catch-phrases we have in modern Christianity today.
You know the popular phrases. They go something like:
Following Jesus – with reckless abandon
Being “sold-out” for Him
And sometimes like these phrases from a song:
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.”
“Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.”
These phrases often make us feel good about ourselves, and cause us to get excited to “do” whatever God would want us to, and to “go” wherever He wants.
How thrilling! How exciting!
But what if the reality of glorifying God in your life looks like the last thing you ever wanted to do? The last place that you ever wanted to go?
How is a Christian supposed to live when their life isn’t actually catchy phrases with consitent mountain top experiences and triumphs?
When, instead, “fully surrendered” dedication to Him looks like constant valleys and struggle?
To the Praise of His Glory
Sometimes it’s easy in our limitations to feel much like the blind beggar. Beaten down and lonely, it feels like no one cares.
What if, despite the accusations of others, despite your inability to be some super “all-in” Christian involved in every activity you wish you could be, what if your life actually does have significant impact?
What if God can use your cast-out, looked-down-on self “so that the works of God might be displayed in you“?
My personal experience with suffering has enlarged my heart for people who may not “have it all together” according to the church’s or world’s standards.
I know God loves us mis-fits just as much as those who have boxed-up, packed-with-a-ribbon-on-top lives.
In fact, us “sub-par” people are often the ones God chooses to use according to 1 Corinthians 1:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1 Cor. 1:28-29
Can you imagine the sadness and disappointment of the blind man’s mother when she realized that her son couldn’t see?
The hard circumstances that he had to overcome in his life growing up and as a beggar to meet his needs?
The abuse the blind man endured daily by people who, like the disciples, judged and perhaps showed their hatred?
“What good will he ever do in the world?”
Despite the misunderstanding of people around him, this man was blessed to know (this side of heaven!) the purpose of his suffering – to bring God glory and put His power on display.
Jesus essentially said to him, “It was for this moment that I created you!”
Take heart, my friend! You are not alone in your suffering, even though it may feel that way.
God, in His wisdom, knows your weaknesses, and guess what? He can – and will – love, protect, guide, and use you anyway.
Your life and the heart-breaking circumstances can be the way that God chooses to display His glory and His power.