We are in the middle of a series called “The Waiting Room” and throughout this series we are asking the question . . . What do you do when there’s nothing you can do?
For all of us, there’s going to be . . . or you are currently in . . . a season of life that you didn’t want, you didn’t expect, you never wished for, you weren’t prepared for, and you’re not sure if it’s every going to get better . . . It is what it is and there’s really no way to change it.
The question is . . . what do you do with that?
Sure, there are options . . . you can run, you can quit, you can throw in the towel but if you do, you might miss what God is doing in and through your life during those hard seasons.
And so, we wait!
But it’s not easy in the waiting room, a lot of stuff happens internally . . . we look at the highlight reels of our friends on social media, then go back to the not so highlight reels of our own lives and we wonder; What’s wrong with me?”
And then we draw some really-bad conclusions . . . “I’ll never be happy again”, “nothing good can come from this”, and perhaps even . . . “God must be angry with me”, or “God doesn’t even care”
And for some of us . . . we look at the mess in our lives and we wonder, “How do I solve this problem?” and to solve it, we begin to ask questions, “Why did this happen? Who’s to blame? And how do we make sure that it never happens again?
It’s perfectly normal to ask these questions . . . and you’re not the first to ask them.
Throughout history, people have been seeing things go wrong . . . and asking some really-big questions.
In fact, some of Jesus’ followers saw something that made them raise their eyebrows and say, “Wait a second . . . I’ve got some questions about this.” Questions that perhaps you and I can identify with.
But the questions aren’t what’s important. Jesus’ response to them are. Because his answer can potentially change the way we experience the waiting room.
Let’s listen to our text this morning . . . John 9:1-7
On this particular-day, the disciples were out on a walk with Jesus having an intellectually stimulating discussion with their rabbi.
And as they are walking along, they happen to come upon a man who is blind—has been, from the day he was born and he is a beggar, because there is no help for the visually handicapped, there is no Braille, there is no job-training, there's no government disability and so to survive he had to rely on the handouts of people.
So, they're walking along and when they see this blind beggar, and ask “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Let’s put this into context because . . . context is everything.
In that culture and perhaps a little in our culture . . . they believed that there was a direct correlation between what you did and how God responded.
- If you were good and did all the right things, then God blessed you and your family.
- If you were bad, then God cursed you and your family.
So, if someone had an ailment, like blindness, it wasn't a question of why it happened but rather who was responsible for it happening . . . who was the sinner?
And this is the question they are asking . . . “Obviously this guy got what he deserved but we want to know who was responsible? Who’s to blame?”
But when Jesus looks at the man, he sees something else altogether. Jesus looks at the man, and he sees an opportunity to show the world just what God is up to.
So, he says to his disciples, “Look guys, I understand why you’re asking this question . . . I get it. But you’re focused on the wrong thing. You want to point the finger, you want to fix it, but this happened so that the works of God might be revealed in and through him.”
And then, casually, as if he does this sort of thing every day, spits on the ground, and makes mud with his spit, and he rubs the mud on the man’s eyes.
Now there are a lot of interpretations as to why Jesus would do this but the one I am most comfortable with says that this action recalls the story of creation.
When God created man, he scooped and molded the earth from the ground.
And here, Jesus scoops the earth from the ground and molds it to this man's eyes as if to say, "I am making you a new creation. You are no longer defined by your blindness. Through me, you are no longer defined by your sin."
And after he places the mud on the man’s eyes, he sends him to a pool called Siloam which means “Sent,” with instructions to wash.
And as the man washes the mud from his eyes, his world changes.
Just like that he can see the world as it is: fluffy clouds, blue skies, flowers pushing up through the dirt. Trees moving, just a bit, from the ocean breeze. He is a man whose blindness has been removed and can now see all of God's creation and all its beauty.
Now it’s easy to get caught up in the miracle, after all that’s what most of us are looking for as we wait but the point of the story is not the miracle. If it were, then what do we do when miracles don’t happen.
The point of this story is the conversation that took place before the miracle. The conversation when Jesus is asked a question that all of us at one point in our lives have asked or will ask . . . who’s to blame? what went wrong? How do we solve it? How do we get out of this and move on with our lives?
And Jesus listens to the questions and says, “I get it. I understand. But you’re focused on the wrong thing. You want to know what went wrong and how to fix it but I see this an opportunity for God’s goodness to be revealed.”
In other words, Jesus is more interested in revealing God’s goodness than fixing a problem. And I think this is true for all of us. God desires to be on display in your circumstances, in your waiting room. He desires to be revealed in and through you.
But, it’s completely possible and understandable that while God can be on display in the waiting room that we don’t even see it. It’s possible that God could be doing something incredible and we don’t even know it’s happening.
The reason is because when you are in the middle of it, when it feels like you’re in over your head . . . you really struggle to see anything other than what’s right in front of you. And then we want to focus on what’s wrong, trying to figure out the problem and how we can move on from it.
But when you focus on what’s wrong, you lose sight of what’s right. When you focus on what’s wrong, you lose sight of what God is making right. When you focus on what’s wrong, you lose sight of what God is doing in your midst, in your waiting room.
So, imagine with me for a second that you were somehow able to focus less on what went wrong and more on, “God, what are you making right in this?”
I know it’s difficult. I know it seems impossible, but God, what are you doing in the midst of these difficult circumstances . . . what would happen?
How much weight would be lifted off your shoulders if you didn’t have to play the blame game? If you didn’t have to worry about what you did to deserve this or if God is mad at you? If you didn’t have to worry about everyone else’s wrinkle free life? And why this isn’t fair.
How would that change the way you looked at your life if you were somehow able to shift your focus away from what’s wrong, and all the noise and the pain, to seeing what God is doing right . . . in your waiting room.
I realize that this isn’t easy but you need to know something . . . no matter how dark it seems, no matter how absent he feels, no matter how hopeless you think you are, or how soon you feel like you need to throw in the towel and give up . . . you can make it, you can survive it, and God will be on display in your waiting room, no matter how over your head you may feel right now.
The man who was born blind is given sight but he is also given faith, but it takes him a while to find it.
By the end of our passage, after having navigated a bunch of people who see him as a metaphor, as a symbol, as an issue, he knows one thing. He can literally see now, he's been restored into community and is no longer defined by blindness.
And so, he proclaims, strongly, “Lord, I believe.” and it is in this moment that the healing is complete . . . not only is he restored into the sighted community but now, through Jesus, he has been restored into relationship with God.
Through Jesus, he has indeed become a new creation.
This is the real miracle in the story . . . may it be so for you. And as you wait, may you see God at work in and through your life.