A few years ago there was a poem about parenting a child with disabilities floating around on the web. I think even Dear Abby included it in her column. Many parents raved about it, and it was forwarded and repackaged all over the place on disability web sites and discussion boards.
Dianne and I both thought it was dumb. Believe me when I say how happy I was that my wife and I agreed about that one!
So, we were left in an awkward place – what do you say when parents of other disabled kids are the ones forwarding it to you? And how do you respond to this ‘wonderful’ poem when people without disabled children also forwarded it to us?
Unlike what was happening to me at church with people persistently quoting John 9, this was merely irritating. I would smile and nod and change the subject. Or not reply to the email. It just didn’t do anything for me.
But even here, God was displaying his mercy. Our Paul was uniquely made, and so were we. Some people found that poem helpful, even life changing. We did not, but we could respect that others did. The people who knew us and loved us specifically usually did not send us things like this. The ones who did not know us sent it with the intention to be helpful.
Most of all, it pointed to how Jesus knows us absolutely. Pastor John helpfully explained that knowledge in his recent sermon, Healed for the Sake of Holiness from John 5:
When you know Jesus, this is the kind of person you know. A person who knows you perfectly—knows everything about you, inside and out, and all you have ever felt or thought or done. “You discern my thoughts from afar. . . . Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (Psalms 139:2-4). The more you know about Jesus, the more precious this truth becomes.
This same Jesus used a poem by Martha Snell Nicholson to bring great comfort to my wife. I found that poem beautiful as well, but not transforming like she did. Jesus used my anger at people quoting John 9 to reveal much more about himself than I would have otherwise. He really does know what’s going to work and what isn’t, and when, and under what circumstances – because he is sovereign over all things.
Still, if you come across a ‘great’ poem or story or situation, pause just for a moment before sending it on. Will this story help them treasure Jesus more? Will this poem reveal the goodness of God in all circumstances? Will it help put into real perspective what they are dealing with?
If you’re not sure, I would err on the side of action and send it – the Holy Spirit has used all kinds of things to reveal who God is to us! But if your second thought is, “this really isn’t all that useful,” you’ll know what not to do in this case. Or maybe God will reveal something even more helpful and useful for you to share, honoring your desire to help a family in need even before you ask for it.