And the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or Who makes dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
We have a tendency to get wrapped up in our ability or inability to do a thing. If a person is a talented athlete or performer, there is a tendency to give themselves credit for that innate ability. The reasoning, I suppose, goes something like, “The ability was there, but I had to work at it and hone it and put in countless hours to become amazing at it.” There is truth in that, but it ignores the fact that dozens and dozens of others who do not have that innate ability put in just as many hours and never became as proficient. Music is an excellent example of this. There are musicians who practice for hour upon hour and become technical virtuosos, but never make the transition to the place where a single note can bring an audience to tears.
All that is about ability. What about disability? God is claiming, in this verse, to have made the person born with a disability that way. By extension, it would also mean that He ordains others’ loss of abilities. Why would God do a thing like that? We can understand Him giving one person an ability and not giving it to another—though we wonder how He decides who gets what—but we bristle at the idea that He would make someone disabled. What follows may come across strange, but bear with me. When I was a much younger man, I thought being raised in the church and choosing to believe at an early age was a kind of disability. I heard testimonies about how people had terrible lives and God saved them and thought, “My life isn’t that dramatic.” I sat in services where I was told I should notice a difference between the life I once lived and the life I now live and, in my ignorance, thought, “But I’ve been a Christian as far back as I have memory. What past life am I looking at?” I’ve since learned that today’s walk with God should look different—better—than the walk I had yesterday, -week, -month, -year, or -whatever. Along the line, God gave me glimpses of what I might have become if He had not given me the limitations He did. One example: I’ve always been a big dude and was asked by some of my high school classmates to try out for football, but a knee that buckles when I place weight on it wrong meant I thanked them for the thought and continued swimming instead. It’s a minor thing, but that minor thing kept me out of the path of so many temptations that I have since learned I am really weak against that I began to appreciate how much God knows about which I have no idea. And I could only recognize the dangers in hindsight.
This morning’s verse is usually used as an illustration of how God can turn a disability into an ability so that He gets the glory and the passage definitely brings that message. But I was drawn to the reality that God gives the limitations in the first place. Do I have limitations? Minor ones, but they are there. I have the aforementioned buckling knee. I have color deficiency (the sky really is a different color in my world). And I have a rather generous dose of social awkwardness. Are there others? Probably. But I have nothing as serious as blindness or a missing limb. Reality? Those things could be meant to protect a person from temptations that would otherwise make them spiritually disabled. Those could be meant to show the greatness of God, as was the case for at least one of the guys Jesus healed. Those could be the consequences of things we have done. There are dozens of reasons that make perfect, rational sense, but none of that matters if a person is hurting and wondering why. My understanding, limited though it is, of the “Why?” is that it is not a “Why did this happen?” (though those may be the words used) so much as a “Why doesn’t God love me?”
My point this morning is that God has a reason for everything He does and everything He does is motivated by love. If a person is born blind then God’s love for that person somehow dictated that they should be blind. God is love, according to 1 John 4:8 and that means that we are not only made with love—viz. God’s love for us—but that we are made by Love Himself (See Psalm 139). We are made with love. We are made by Love. And whatever He has made is made with purpose.