A Different Path

Learning to see the unique design of the Creator.

by Sanet Smit

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3, NIV).

OK, now we’re cooking! I thought as I read this familiar scripture. God made this guy blind, but He had a good reason for it. Through this blind man, He would show His power to the people. I felt I finally understood what Jesus was getting at here.

But still, somewhere in the back of my mind, a treacherous little voice spoke up: It seems kind of cruel to let an innocent baby be born blind just so Jesus could use him to prove a point.

Pain of deafness

I thought of my three-year old son, Wynand, who had been born deaf. I remember how I had felt when he was diagnosed, realizing that my baby had never heard the sound of my voice nor any of the stories I had read to him, that he had no idea he had a name.

I thought of people turning their heads to stare at my son in supermarkets, embarrassed mothers quickly pulling away their small children when they point with innocent curiosity at Wynand’s hearing aids. I thought of the pain and bewilderment on my son’s face when children laugh and then run from him.

Silent God

And then I thought of God, silently watching it all.

Suddenly I didn’t care if He had some brilliant miracle planned for my son’s future. A wave of bitterness engulfed me. My Bible slipped from my loose grasp and fell to the floor. I left it there.

Despair and depression

I had given my heart to the Lord only six months before. Since that momentous occasion, my life had been filled with hope and joy such as I had never experienced.

But as I sat there on my bed, staring at the Bible lying on the floor, I felt it all slipping away from me. The old familiar cloud of despair and depression settled around me, cocooning me in its suffocating grip.

Spiritual distance

For almost three months I didn’t pray or open my Bible once. I went to church, smiled at the people around me, hugged my students, and played with my children. But my heart was full of bitterness and confusion.

Once or twice I almost talked to my pastor, but the timing just never seemed right. Besides, I drew a certain amount of comfort from my busy life. I simply didn’t have time to think about God.

And then the school holidays arrived. Lots of empty hours to fill. Now I had plenty of time to think.

Questioning God

By the end of the second week, I went to see my pastor. My first question to him was ”If God loves us so much, why would He make someone deaf just to show His works through that person?”

The pastor blinked, then he held up his hand. “Wait — hang on a minute.” He leaned forward to look me straight in the eye. “God didn’t make your son deaf, Sanet. Where on earth did you get that idea?”

I flipped my Bible open to John 9 and tapped it with my finger.

Good God

My pastor sat back in his chair. “Ah, yes, I see.” He thought for a while, then asked me to list all God’s good qualities — all the positive things said about Him in the Bible.

I was surprised, but did as he asked. The Bible says that God is omniscient, omnipotent, without sin. He is loving, patient, forgiving, wise, and gentle. He exists outside of time and space. He’s the Creator of the universe and everything in it. God is full of mercy and grace, unselfish, reliable, always on time. He’s our provider and healer. He gives direction, protects us, saves us. He teaches us to love Him, each other, and ourselves.

‘Bad’ God

The pastor nodded. “Good. That’s all true. Now list God’s bad qualities — things you believe He needs to work on.”

It was my turn to blink in confusion. “I beg your pardon?”

He smiled encouragingly. “You heard me. God’s bad qualities. Go ahead.”

I thought for a while, then fidgeted in my chair and thought some more. I glanced at the pastor for help, but he was staring out the window as though he had completely forgotten I was there.

“Well, if God didn’t make my son deaf, then who did?” I burst out.

The pastor didn’t even turn his head. “That’s not what we were talking about, Sanet.”

Parent and child

I sighed. “All right, here’s one. His punishments sometimes seem a bit harsh to me. Like wiping out hundreds of people for some form of disobedience.”

The pastor turned to me. “You’re a parent, right?” I nodded. “If you see your child running into heavy traffic after you’d explained to her that it was dangerous and forbidden, what would you do?”

I told him I’d give her a good paddling. He lifted his eyebrows, and I laughed. “Yeah, OK, I understand. God punishes those He loves to protect them from harm. But what about Wynand’s deafness?”

Understanding punishment

The pastor explained that if my child ignored my teaching and discipline, ran out into traffic, and got hit by a car, I would certainly use that bad incident to teach other children the dangers of disobedience. Just as getting hit by the car wouldn’t be punishment for the child’s disobedience, rather the result of it, Wynand’s deafness is not a punishment from God.

“You’ve listed everything that God is,” he said, “Think. Does it make sense to you that a God who possesses all those amazing qualities could be mean enough to create an innocent baby with a disability such as deafness?”

Divine intelligence

I thought carefully. “So, is Wynand deaf because of my disobedience?”

“You’re turning it into a punishment again,” he answered. “What did Jesus say? Neither Wynand nor his parents sinned. It’s not a punishment. But we live in a world where, right at the beginning of creation, we gave away our authority over this world to Satan. That is why bad things happen to good people. God didn’t make your son deaf, but if Wynand allows Him, God will use his disability and his life to lead others to the true Light of this world.

“God isn’t waiting for your son to be ‘fixed’ before He can use him; He is using him now. Wynand isn’t ‘broken’; he just has a different path than you. Remember, God loves your son more than you ever could. He will never leave him alone. You are his mother, but apart from being connected to you, Wynand is first and foremost connected to God, and he is on a very intimate and personal journey with God.”

 Seeing the path

I understand now that I can really trust my heavenly Father. He doesn’t have a hidden agenda; He doesn’t have bad days where He does things that He regrets later.

God showed me that deafness is not a dead-end street. It’s simply a different path to the same destination.