69) Only in This Life (part one)

      I will never forget February 13, 2005, the day our first grandchild was born.  Our daughter and son-in-law invited us to the hospital to await the birth of their daughter.  It seemed like a long wait, though it was probably no longer than usual.  Finally the door we were watching opened and our son-in-law came out and said, “Everything went fine.  Courtney has arrived, and she and her mother are doing well.”  That is what you want to hear when a baby is born.  Prayers requesting that outcome were answered, prayers of thanks were then said.  A new life had begun, another miracle of God was here.

     On July 4th, 1995, a baby boy was born to John and Diane Knight in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  They had prayed that their baby would be healthy and strong, and he was; except for one problem.  He was born blind and would never see even one ray of light in his entire life.  There was no doubt about this, because he was born without eyes.

     John and Diane were solid Christians and active in their church.  The day after their baby was born they received a letter from their pastor, Pastor John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist church in downtown Minneapolis.  Here is a shortened version of what the pastor wrote to these new parents of a child born without eyes:

Dear John and Diane, 

     Last night, as I said my prayers, you were heavy on my mind.  I said, “O Lord, please let me be a pastor who preaches and leads and loves in a way that makes the impossibilities of life possible for your people by the miracle of your sustaining grace.  Help me to know the weight and pain of this life, and help me to be sympathetic with others when their world is turned upside-down.  O Lord, make me and my people a burden bearing people.”

John and Diane, my heart is so heavy with your child’s sightlessness!  God is visiting our congregation with such pain these days in the birth of broken children.  Randy and Ann with their baby’s heart problems; Jan and Rob with their baby‘s ongoing illness; and now your precious little one!  Is the Lord saying, “I have a gift for your community.”  This is not one or two or three couples’ burden.  This is a gift and call to the whole church.  This is a word concerning the brokenness of this fallen world.  This is an invitation for you all to believe that “here we have no lasting city” (Hebrews 13:14).  This is an invitation for you to “count every gain as loss for the sake of Christ” (Philippians 3:7).  This is a shocking test to see if you will “lose heart” when in fact God’s purpose is to show that his grace is sufficient to renew our inner person every day to deal with the “slight momentary affliction which is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18). 

     O Lord, open our eyes to your love in this pain.  Open our eyes. “Then Elisha prayed, and said, ‘O Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.’ So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” to protect and sustain him (2 Kings 6:17).  John and Diane, the mountains surrounding your lives are filled with the horses and chariots of God.  Only to the eyes of unbelief does the devil have the upper hand here.  God is at work in ways that may turn this pain into blessings that we cannot now imagine, for others who we may never know.  This is ours to believe and to bear, no matter the cost.  This is ours for this short life.

It seems to me that this life is a proving ground for the kingdom to come.  Some are asked to devote forty or fifty years to caring for a handicapped child instead of breezing through life without pain.  Others are asked to be blind all their lives…

     But only in this life – ONLY in this life.  I want to be the kind person who makes that “ONLY” what it really is– very short, and a prelude to the infinity of joy, joy, joy.  But not yet.  Not entirely.

     How will we ever cope with the burdens of this life if we believe this is all there is?  O Lord, give us your view of things.

     May God fill you with hope in the knowledge that you will be joyful again, for as Paul said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

–Pastor John  

John Piper (theologian)
John Piper

     What Pastor John does in this letter is he takes that very huge problem, that very big sadness, of a child born blind, and he places it all in the much larger context of a much greater happiness.  By including several Bible promises, he encourages the couple to bear this burden as a gift of God, that may turn out to be a blessing in ways they will never see.  He tries to express his deep sadness and sympathy, along with an even deeper faith in and confidence in God.  (continued…)


I Corinthians 15:19 — If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 

Romans 8:28 — And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

II Kings 6:15-17 — When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.  “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.
     “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered.  “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
     And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.”  Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

We pray, O Lord, as Elisha prayed; “Open our eyes so that we may see.”  May we see our lives in the light of all eternity, for you have promised an eternity in which to work out all things for the good of those who believe in you.  AMEN.  (II Kings 6:17)