Last week was an event for our church youth group simply called “Mud.” I wanted to make sure we had enough volunteers, so I put on some dirt-worthy clothes to join in. We hosed down parts of an adjacent field and had dirty-water-relay races, tug-of-war over a mud pit, and ‘steal the bacon’ with a watermelon. Plus, there was plenty of good, old fashioned mud-slinging and lots of laughter. I admittedly had as much fun as anyone there, but sore muscles the next day reminded me that I am no longer in my youth. Still, it was as much good, clean, fun as I’ve ever had covered in mud.
After some hosing down with a garden hose and drying off, the group settled down for a lesson from our associate pastor. He smartly chose the story from John 9 about Jesus healing a man who was blind from birth. The method Jesus used was to anoint the man’s eyes with…(wait for it)…mud!
One of the great things about our current youth group, other than the fact that most of them don’t have a church background, is that they really listen to the lesson. They truly pay attention. And then they ask questions. Lots of questions! Tough questions, too. One of the tougher questions – or set of questions – was about the suffering of this man prior to his healing. Why must people be born blind? Or have terrible things happen to them? Why did God give us the choice to turn away from Him if He knew we would? It was the classic problem of evil: If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, then how could He let this happen?
Good question. And probably not the first time you’ve heard it – you’ve probably asked it too. So have I. Tough questions like that can haunt us. If God is so good and powerful, then why ______________________? I’ve talked to many people who have locked that question away deep in their heart. What fills in the blank may vary, but it’s always painful and it usually seems unjust. We live in a world where terrible things happen, plain and simple. Mud happens. And our usual neat-and-tidy attempts at answers are laughably insufficient.
In the healing passage from John 9, those who opposed Jesus were grappling with a tough question: Who was this guy? If He isn’t from God, how does He heal like this? If He is from God, what does that mean? Good questions. Tough questions. The usual neat-and-tidy attempts at answers didn’t help. Then the blind man says something that cuts through to the heart of the matter. In essence, “I can’t help you answer all your questions. All I know is I was once blind, but now I see.” Brilliant.
Have you figured out all the answers to the tough questions that haunt you? No? Me either. Neither did the used-to-be-blind-all-my-life guy. Neither will the teenagers in our youth group. Even when we can get a handle on a tough question, there is another one waiting right behind it. Actually, more than one. I’m not saying they aren’t worth asking. I’m saying what we learn from mister-mud-in-the-eyes is that what we need isn’t a question answered. What we need is Jesus. The physical blindness thing was only ever temporary anyway. And so are the terrible, unjust things in this life. The real story is about Jesus because the real answer is Jesus. Thinking we need answers – a particular kind of knowledge – prior to having faith is an illusion. When we chase after other answers, we’ll wind up just as dissatisfied as when we started. Only what Jesus offers will satisfy.
What about you? Have you found this to be true? Is there a question that haunts you?