The response from Tuesday’s post on teaching the Bible to our severely cognitively impaired family members has been encouraging.
And sobering. We really do live in a different reality than people who don’t know God through Jesus Christ. The idea that there is a supernatural joy given as a gift, among many gifts, from a super-capable God just doesn’t make any sense outside of actually knowing this God and experiencing his love.
We all know parents who do not embrace Jesus who are doing their best for their children with disabilities and who love them intensely. They stand as examples of the common grace God grants, both to the parents and to the children.
But we do something extra – we attach meaning to this life that is full of hard things:
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV)
We define our experiences in light of God’s word and his sure promises, even when we need to fight to do so. The delight we have in God is because of who God is and how purposeful he is in all things – and that magnifies the delight we have in our children even as we grieve the suffering. It is not mere parental sentiment at work, but God at work on our behalf to increase our joy. And it is worth fighting for.
And that’s the sobering part. People will see our delight and be genuinely happy for us. They will understand that delight in the midst of hard things is a precious thing.
But they won’t attach it to anything beyond our own sentimental attachment to our children, not seeing the divine handiwork behind it. Or worse, they attach it to some good in us! Who among us hasn’t heard, “God only gives you what you can handle,” as though we were somehow just waiting for all the mess associated with disability to be given to us. I know it is meant well, but how foolish! Even the parents I know who have adopted one or lots of children with disabilities (thus actually choose this life, in one sense), don’t believe themselves to be anything special – and desperately need God’s help every day.
Not attaching our joy in hard things to God’s work in our lives leads to our cultural schizophrenia about people with disabilities. I’m using the definition of schizophrenia that means “a state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements.”
On the one hand, as a culture we want to alleviate suffering and promote the development of the gifts of those with disabilities, thus the myriad of governmental, church and non-profit programs that exist to provide services for those living with disabilities of all kinds. This is what ‘good people’ do. On the other, the abortion rate of children with disabilities suggests we really don’t want them around.
Only God can win this day because only God can transform hearts. From the comments on Tuesday’s post, he has already done that miracle in a lot of people’s lives, including mine.
And I know God has used my son to pierce dark hearts, and sometimes it is a testimony of joy that God uses.
So let us not neglect to tell our stories when we can, but also not be too surprised when the real story – God’s magnificent, overwhelming love and power – isn’t understood or shared. God knows what he’s doing for his glory, and for our joy.