Last night I was reading through a section of the BST commentary on John written by Bruce Milne as I prepared for a Bible study. We are looking at John 11, part of which is the story of Lazarus' death and being raised back to life by Jesus - and Mary and Martha's response to these events. In thinking about how Mary and Martha grew in their faith during these events, Bruce Milne said this:
Jesus' attitude to sickness here is parallel to 9:3: the sickness provides a platform so that the 'work of God might be displayed in his life.' What is true here at the level of physical illness can be extended to all the trials we face as Christian disciples. Our natural response is to rebel against them as alien intruders, which must be expelled from our lives as quickly and painlessly as possible by every means available, including God's miraculous intervention. With hindsight, however, another perspective is possible. We can offer our trials to God for him either to remove or retain as He pleases, thereby bringing glory to his name and deepening our faith, and possibly that of others too.
Joni Eareckson Tada, a paraplegic sufferer, authentically expresses this second alternative. "I do not care if I am confined to this wheelchair provided from it I can bring glory to God." The same conviction is expressed more generally by Hudson Taylor. "Trials afford God a platform for his working in our lives. Without them I would never know how kind, how powerful, how gracious He is." While we may feel daunted by the heights of devotion reflected in these quotations, we can all make a beginning in our present pains by offering them consciously to God for His using. From such small seeds a new maturity can blossom.
The Message of John by Bruce Milne, BST series, 1993, page 158