from Chapter 6
“Not Why? but To What End?“
I have been with sick Christian people who agonize over the question, “What is God trying to teach me?” Or, they may plead, “How can I find enough faith to get rid of this illness? How can I get God to rescue me?”Yancey, Philip. Where Is God When It Hurts? (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1990), 92-93.
Maybe such people have it all wrong. Maybe God isn’t trying to tell us anything specific each time we hurt. Pain and suffering are part and parcel of our planet, and Christians are not exempt. Half the time we know why we get sick: too little exercise, a poor diet, contact with a germ. Do we really expect God to go around protecting us whenever we encounter something dangerous?
The disciples wanted to look backward, to find out “Why?” Jesus redirected their attention. Consistently, he points forward, answering a different question: “To what end?” And that, I believe, offers a neat summary of the Bible’s approach to the problem of pain. To backward-looking questions of cause, to the “Why?” questions, it gives no definitive answer. But it does hold out hope for the future, that even suffering can be transformed or “redeemed.” A human tragedy, like blindness, can be used to display God’s work. Sometimes… the work of God is manifest through dramatic miracle. Sometimes it is not. But in every case, suffering offers an opportunity for us to display God’s work. [emphases mine]