Why are some children born with birth defects? Today is another very difficult question and one that a lot of people have wrestled over (I myself have), one that’s not easy to answer and one for which I don’t have a satisfactory answer in my own heart or mind.
I have some degree of an answer but not one that’s fully satisfying. Any parent who’s ever given birth to a child who’s less than perfect physically or mentally, or something is less than what they were hoping for with that baby, faces this very difficult question. Why? Why?
Especially when you’re serving the Lord and you see other people who have babies that have no birth defects. And then your baby was born blind or born deaf or born with some physical abnormality or something that makes them less than perfect. It’s tough. My heart goes out to those people. I’m sure God’s heart goes out to those people, although I can’t understand or explain why He allows these things.
Something To Think About Before Counseling Others
We certainly don’t want to be Job’s “comforters” and tell people, “Well, there must be sin in your life or God would never have allowed this or done this to you.”
That’s passing judgment. Unless you heard an audible voice from heaven tell you that, you best not say that. Because that’s so hurtful and you just don’t have any right to say that.
Job was an example of a guy who suffered by the permission of God. But it wasn’t because God was judging him for his sin. It was because he was so holy and righteous. Maybe that’s something to think about before we criticize people who are suffering these kinds of troubles. It could be the exact opposite of what we’re thinking.
A Helpful Passage in the Bible
There is one passage of Scripture that helps me a little bit. That would be a story in John 9.
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?
– vv. 1-2
They made the assumption that either he or his parents had sinned. That had to be the reason. Really, it’s a false dilemma because it’s as if there were only two possibilities. They didn’t say if it’s not either A nor B, what is it? Give us the reason. They just assumed. It has to be one or the other.
Children Do Not Sin in the Womb
Now, think about this. They obviously believed that a person could sin in the womb. I totally reject that idea because God is just and God is fair. Even if you could sin in the womb, like for example, kicking your mother in the kidney so it hurts her, even if that is a sin, God’s not holding that baby accountable. Because that baby doesn’t know any better.
God is not holding any babies accountable for any little selfish act. They don’t have any control. They don’t know what’s right or wrong. God knows that.
The other possibility is that the parents must have sinned. But that also would seem unjust, wouldn’t it? That the child would suffer for the parents’ sins, that’s completely unjust.
If they had asked me that question, I would say both are crazy ideas so ask the question differently. Ask, “If it’s not one of these two things, what is it?”
Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents… – v. 3
Both of their potential answers, their assumptions, Jesus says they’re both dead wrong. Let’s think about that. Any time we might be faced with this question of someone being born with a birth defect, don’t make an assumption that the parents sinned and God’s punishing the parents, as well punishing the child for the parents’ sin. Don’t, of course, make the assumption that the child sinned in the womb.
Now, we keep reading here and the New American Standard has Jesus saying, after a semicolon, “but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
It’s translated as if Jesus answers their question, “The reason the man was born blind was so that I could come along and heal him. Here we go. The purpose has been fulfilled.”
But that also raises many questions, doesn’t it? Is everybody who’s born blind born so God could heal them? Well, they aren’t all healed, are they? Well, some would say they have to have faith. Well, if you read this story, this guy had no faith. It wasn’t his faith that healed him in this case. There are cases when Christ said, “Your faith healed you.” Not this case.
What Jesus Could Have Meant
In the New American Standard, at least it’s honest enough to put the two words “it was” in italics, indicating that those were not really a part of what Jesus said. Literally, Jesus says, “Neither this man sinned nor his parents; but so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Also in the Greek, there are no punctuation, there are no periods, there are no capitals, there are no commas.
It’s up to translators to decide where to start and stop sentences. It’s possible that Jesus didn’t exactly say it like that. It’s possible that He said,
Neither this man sinned nor his parents. But so that the works of God might be displayed in him, we must work the works of him who sent me as long as it day. Night is coming when no man can work.
That is, the implication is that it’s not the work of God that he was born blind, but now healing is the work of God.
Another Tough Question
I’m not going to answer your question as to why he was born blind except to say that we don’t want to pin the blame on God. Because that is not His work.
Now, that doesn’t answer the question fully, does it? If it was the devil who caused him to be born blind, what gave the devil the right? Well, you’d have to think God gave him the right.
There is a Scripture in the Old Testament where God himself says,
Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? – Exodus 4:11
Questions Without Answers
Boy, just all the questions that we might have are not answered. We have to just trust what we do understand, that God loves us.
The one consolation we have is that anyone who believes in Jesus gets a new body one day without any defect. Praise God! That’s a consolation.
We also should thank God that He is a healer and it’s worth our time to study what He said on that subject and endeavor to receive the blessings that many people have received.
This is a Little Lesson and that’s a big question. Thanks so much for joining me. God bless you.