On His Blindness
February 28, 2023
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12, NIV).
He was beaten down by loneliness and a cancer that brought him pain, but he loves Jesus the Christ. When I asked him how he was doing on this visit, he said, “Not so well.” I was surprised at his continued response, unrelated to the issues above: “The main reason I’m not doing well is that I want to serve the Lord again, and I just can’t.” He was too weak and too displaced by his circumstances to have a solid foundation from which he could serve, and his heart was deeply committed.
Many of us have experienced times in our lives when we have been weighed down by health, finance or family issues that have held us like chains and have prevented us from serving the Lord in ways we deeply desired. Are you there now?
Of course, we have to be careful that we are not blaming external forces for that which is actually a problem of our will. God does have a plan for our service with eternal value in our present time whatever physical, financial or relational state might be holding us back. We must never use our circumstances as an excuse for avoiding the mission He hands us, but sometimes it is very hard.
A better understanding of service held back by circumstances was described by John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, as he was losing his sight and his ability to write, in his poem “On His Blindness,” part of which I have copied below,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
As we long to serve our Lord, we need to be very clear that He does not need us. He blesses us instead with a partnership in His work. As He does, He assigns us tasks that are best carried out within our present circumstances, whether they seem constrictive or not. God does know what He is doing. He is aware of our circumstances. He has a great plan for our lives exactly where we find ourselves, even if we are poets who cannot longer see, patients strapped by illness, or healthcare workers chained to work and great family needs.
Whatever state my life, let me serve you faithfully.