The Blessedness of Being Freed from Suffering

One of the most difficult things for believers to defend or to explain is the justice or the goodness of God when we deal with the suffering of our fellow humans.  For indeed it is not fair or merciful that people get struck down with crippling diseases and injuries, nor that innocent children suffer and die.   And despite our many words offered to comfort the suffering and ourselves, we often are dumb when it comes to justifying the pain of this world.

Not that many haven’t tried.  One need only think of Job‘s friends who endeavored to justify God in the face of Job’s unjust suffering (see The Book of Job), only to find themselves condemned by God.

Or, the disciples of Jesus assuming that someone has to have sinned for a man to suffer sickness and blindness (John 9).  They were trying to justify God and explain the world in which they lived.  Jesus said it has nothing to do with justice, but it does have something to do with the works of God being made known through the man’s blindness.

In the Iranian movie, THE COLOR OF PARADISE,   the blind child Mohammad is painfully aware that no one really wants him.  And he cries that even God doesn’t love him, for if He had, He would not have created him blind. The blind carpenter in whose care he has been left reminds Mohammad of a powerful truth.  Being blind is no sign that God doesn’t love you, for God after all is invisible.  There is no particular advantage to having eyesight when it comes to seeing God or being seen by Him.  The blind carpenter even makes the point that the God who is invisible especially loves the blind because they are closer to Him. 

Those who can see, might in fact become blinded to the truth about God because of their eyesight, and relying on the physical to discover the truth about God who is spiritual, invisible, indescribable and ineffable.  Judas didn’t like what he saw in and about Christ.  Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was pleasing to the eyes, and in taking the fruit her opens were opened, blinding her to God.

We do believe that the deaf, the blind, the dumb, the lame, the paralyzed, the mentally retarded, all can experience salvation – and so we baptize and commune them all.  Physical and mental handicaps are no obstacles to union with God. 

Additionally, all the sick and the suffering and the handicapped do and will experience the healing power and love of Christ in a way the rest of us never will.   Only the paralyzed will know what it is to have Christ say, “get up and walk” and then to be able to do something they could not do before.  Only they will know that liberating power of healing which releases them from their bonds and is also but a foretaste of the power which releases us from sin and resurrects us from the dead. 

All those who have suffering debilitating handicaps will be blessed to experience Christ in a way that many of us never will.    They will be given a freedom that the rest of us will never understand.  They will experience a gift from Christ that the rest of us can only wonder what it would be like to experience.  They will know His intimate love in a way that we cannot.  And we will be the ones who are jealous of them, as Father Abraham told the rich man, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish” (Luke 16:19-31). 

None of this however makes suffering any more just or tolerable.  None of this will ever turn this fallen world into paradise or heaven.  But in thinking about the joyful blessing the handicapped will experience when they are completely relieved of and freed from their suffering, we also are given a powerful sense of what it will be like to be freed from our own sickness, sighing and sin.  Those in need of God’s mercy, suffering the pain of sickness and handicaps, are indeed witnesses, martyrs, for the Kingdom which is to come. 

We can share in the joy which they will experience, by treating them as Christ’s brothers and sisters, and doing for them what we would do for our Lord given the chance (Matthew 25:31-46).

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