Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
As Jesus passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him.”
John 9: 1-3
Allow me to share something very personal with you today. When I was a teenager, I had some challenges, which at the time were quite significant, for me at least. I had a couple of health issues which resulted in multiple surgeries. I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t date, not because I didn’t have interest, but because no one had interest in me. I didn’t go to the prom, or homecoming.
At times, I really questioned where was God and, if there even was a God, why was He allowing these bad things to happen to me? When I graduated high school, I was happy at the thought of never seeing a teenager again. Fast forward now to over twenty years of ordained ministry, and for just about all of these years, I have been involved in youth ministry to teenagers. I’ve found that this is a ministry that I both enjoy, and am pretty good at. Why? Because I remember my teenage years and I feel that they paved the way for me to have empathy and understanding for teens who struggle. I’m actually a better pastor because my teen years were difficult. Where I once was angry with God for my teenage struggles, I now thank Him for paving the way for me to do youth work in the way that I do.
My challenges were nothing compared to the challenges that others face—I’ve never faced a life-and-death health crisis, or a permanent disability or poverty—so in no way am I belittling people who have very serious challenges. And no, I haven’t found an answer, cause or reason for every problem. Some just can’t be explained—why does this person get a miracle or a reprieve and another does not?
What I do know is that in every challenge there are two things—the first is God. God walks with us in our struggles, He never leaves us. Even in those times when I thought God was absent from my life, I now realize that He was very present, and His hand was guiding me through challenge and on to triumph. The second thing that is present in every challenge is the opportunity for good, the opportunity to glorify God in some way. God can make something good come out of anything, even something bad.
Today’s verses of scripture show us that back in Christ’s time, and still to this day, there is a need to place blame for something on someone. Certainly the blind man or his parents must be the cause of his misfortune. Christ tells us that is not the case at all. But his blindness provided an opportunity for a miracle. We know that the blind man went and witnessed for Christ. Perhaps that miracle was the impetus to his salvation, and his blindness was the impetus to that miracle. Christ made something great come out of something terrible.
There are three causes to bad things in this world—our own bad decisions, the bad decisions other made that affect us, and being equal sharers of a fallen nature, which has led to disasters of nature, unclean water, unclean air and imperfect gene pools, among other things. We can control our decisions but not the decisions of others and we are all affected to some extent by the fallen nature. However, good can come out of all of these bad things.
It’s hard to feel grateful when things go wrong, but when God brings us through tough times and good things result from the tough times, we can look back at those tough times with gratitude, that God brought us through and that He used them for something good.
Lord, thank You for the many blessings I enjoy. Please be with me in my struggles. Help me, by Your grace, to have strength to face my challenges. Help me to honor You in them. Allow me to show Your goodness, even in my difficult moments. Amen.
Thank God for bringing you through a hard time in your prayers today!