“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” [Luke 11:34, ESV]
Back in mid-February, I preached a sermon from the Gospel of Mark which included some teaching about suffering and looking to God’s sovereign purpose in it.
Later that same week, I woke up with partial blindness in my left eye. For the next several weeks, waves of panic began to come in the night.
Suddenly, I felt like I had gone from the mental portion of the lesson and straight into the field test. Yet God remains both sovereign and good in every way.
The fact is, nothing will ever enter our lives as believers that hasn’t been lovingly handed down to us by a nail-pierced hand. All that comes into our lives as believers is the outworking and application of Christ’s exceedingly good purpose for us.
Some of those purposes must include temporal pain and temporal losses.
For many years, we’ve sung the hymn “Amazing Grace” by John Newton. As you know, it has that wonderful line, “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
And we understand Newton’s spiritual metaphor as Christ opening our eyes through regeneration. He makes us “see” in a spiritual sense. We were once blind to His grace and blind to His gospel, but now we “see” in that saving sense.
I love this spiritual sight! For over 35 years, I have enjoyed both physical sight as well as spiritual sight. Both forms of sight impact every part of my life from day to day.
Yet spiritual sight is far more valuable than physical sight alone.
In fact, those who are totally blind in a physical sense but have faith in Christ will behold His glory in His presence forever. They will see His glory with eternal vision. There are many beloved Christians who have borne witness to this fact through their physical blindness with joyful confidence in Jesus Christ.
However, those who say they can see and yet reject Christ and never gain spiritual sight, those people will suffer in outer darkness forever (Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30).
But as wonderful as spiritual sight is, I’ve been learning through this recent suffering another lesson about God’s grace. It is this: there is a form of seeing and vision that is actually enhanced through physical blindness or any other form of suffering in this life.
Or to say it another way, all of our infirmities and physical pains have the potential to make us more diligent partakers of God’s grace in the common hours of daily life. And in that sense, all of these infirmities and trials become a rich form of God’s grace to us.
In my case, it has been this “blinding grace” that potentially enhances my spiritual sight.
Since the onset of my partial blindness, I’m now starting to “see” things that I never saw with two working eyes.
For example, I’ve seen more of the love that Christ’s people have for one another. I’ve seen the uplifting influence of praying people who tell me of their petitions on my behalf.
I’ve seen distant friends reach out and make contact again. And I’ve even seen a deepening of relational love and communication in my marriage.
It may very well be that my one blind eye is the best eye I have in ministry.
Don’t misunderstand, I still want God to heal my blindness and I continue to pray that He will. But I don’t want to forget the lessons He’s been teaching me through this affliction.
The scary truth is that God cares much more about the growth of our character than the preservation of our personal comfort. In fact, He will destroy the latter to enhance the former.
In that sovereign sense, God isn’t what we would call “safe.” In referring to Aslan, C.S. Lewis writes about Lucy’s question as to the great lion’s safeness.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Sometimes it is the trials that come our way that draw us closer to God and remind us that He is good… and sovereign. He’s the King, I tell you.
Some of us are dealing with great trials. Some are dealing with smaller trials that are difficult nonetheless. And others may not feel there are any trials at all right now.
In the grand spectrum of earthly woes, my partial blindness appears relatively small.
Yet wherever we fall on the spectrum, we can trust that though we might never understand it, God is actively working all these things out for our good (Romans 8:28).
What doesn’t seem good to me now may make sense later. Yet some things may never make sense in this life. This is why we need doctrine from God’s Word.
Doctrine (the teaching of Scripture) gives us assurance when the lights go out in life and when the affliction isn’t healed. Feelings can’t do that.
When I’m totally honest, I do want my vision back. And even when I’m not totally honest, I still want my vision back. And at the same time I want God to have glory.
The good news is that they’re not mutually exclusive. But even if they were, I’d ultimately choose a greater encounter with God’s glory over any temporal gain… even my sight.
For greater visions of His glory,
“In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows had a part,
He sympathizes with our grief,
And to the sufferer sends relief.
With boldness, therefore, at the throne,
Let us make all our sorrows known;
And ask the aids of heavenly power
To help us in the evil hour.”
– Michael Bruce, circa 1764