My daughter was grocery shopping when her cell phone rang. The voice at the other end kindly but firmly informed her that she needed to pick her son up from day camp. He had broken a no-tolerance rule and, while he could return the following day, he needed to go home now.
As I listened to the brokenness in my daughter’s voice and saw sadness mixed with confusion in my grandson’s face when I picked him up; I was reminded that those God entrusts with special need’s children need the courage, faith, and grace that He alone can give.
Years ago, when I was co-director of Children’s Ministry, I had the opportunity to meet many parents who had special need’s children. My respect and compassion grew for these quiet saints who suffered in ways few realized. Little did I know then that God would teach me through my own soon to be born grandson what it means to love a child whose brain doesn’t work like most others. And years later, when I became director of Women’s Ministry, I had no idea that the woman who would most need my encouragement, comfort, and care would be my own daughter.
No one plans to have a child who is identified by a disorder, syndrome, or disability. While most parents anticipate the normal challenges of parenting, I doubt anyone seriously considers what is true for many parents:
- That what began as a joyful pregnancy announcement would become a journey of lament.
- That get togethers with other families would become embarrassing reminders that their child was different.
- That going out on a date would require finding someone who could handle the challenges or needs of their child (And for some, that they couldn’t leave their child at all).
- That no one would ever invite their child over to play.
- That they would have ongoing financial struggles and stress from doctors, tests, therapies, or medications.
- That their other children’s lives would be impacted emotionally, socially, and sometimes spiritually.
- That their marriage would be tested as the demands of their child left little to give to each other.
- That thinking about the future would raise insecurity, fear, and searching questions about God and the suffering He allows.
Thankfully, Scripture makes it clear that God is sovereign, good, and makes no mistakes. “I know that You can do all things. No plan of Yours can be thwarted,” Job 42:2. John Piper says, “Scripture ascribes to God the final control over all calamities and disasters wrought by both nature and man.”
“Then the LORD said to him, (Moses), ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’” (Exodus 4:11).
“See now that I, even I, am He and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand,” Deuteronomy 32:39.
Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made one as well as the other,” Ecclesiastes 7:13-14.
Other Scriptures such as Isaiah 45:5-7, Lamentations 3:37-38, Amos 3:6, Psalm 135:6-7, and Job 1:19:21, remind us that God’s ways are not our ways because He is not like us.
God’s Word teaches us that when sin came into the world it brought suffering and death. But God, in His mercy, had a plan for our salvation; to send His own Son,Jesus Christ, to defeat the power of sin and redeem the suffering of all who put their hope in Him.
We find great peace and security when we rest in God’s sovereign control over things that disappoint, devastate, or change our lives forever. One look at the Cross reminds us that, while we can’t understand a God who would take the punishment we deserve for our sins, neither can we question the love that held Him there. The gospel assures us that even things that seem or feel unloving are ultimately designed to bless us and glorify Christ.
I am convinced that people with disorders and severe limitations, (as well as those who love them) have a special place in God’s heart. His Word is filled with demonstrations of compassion toward the weak and marginalized. He drew near to those the world sought to avoid. And He calls us to demonstrate Christ’s love and compassion to those who could easily be viewed as a disruption to our lives.
While our grandson (with multiple diagnoses) requires extra grace many days, I know without a doubt that God has entrusted him to our family. That doesn’t mean we haven’t shed many tears, prayed fervent prayers, or sought medical help. God has heard me lament as I’ve watched my daughter and son-in-law suffer in ways that have affected their health, social life, marriage, and their other children. But in the midst of all this, God has worked miracles of grace as well. One of them has been to continually help us shift our focus from our pain to God’s glory, from self pity and fear to trusting that He has good plans for this child’s life and the rest of our family.
Here are a few ways I have learned that we can bring glory to God when a child we love turns our world upside down:
1. We glorify God by trusting that He not only foresaw, but sovereignly ordained, our child’s life to accomplish His good purposes for us and for His Kingdom.
It can be tempting to believe that God’s plan for us is always good health, financial security, and children that are healthy, happy, and successful. The Bible never promises that, of course, but we are still often surprised when our plans are interrupted by something unexpected and unwanted.
This is the moment God has given. This is our opportunity to re-orient our lives to His sovereign plan, and to trust that our disappointment is His appointment. To believe that He is giving us what we’d ask for if we knew what He knows . The world takes note of faith like that, giving us opportunities to share the object of our faith, Jesus Christ.
2. We glorify God by accepting our assignment with joy, trusting that this unique child has been entrusted to us and that, through His life we might have the opportunity to live out the gospel to him, our other children, and those around us .
The gospel shines most brightly in the darkest night. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. His glory is put on display when the world’s promises have failed. Our acceptance of what God has given restores the peace that evaded us when our only objective was to find a way out of our pain.
3. We glorify God by praying with faith while putting our hope in His promises no matter how hopeless things seem.
When we have gone to every doctor and turned over every stone in our search for answers, we will begin to lose heart if we have taken our eyes off our true hope in Jesus Christ. But when our prayers are aligned with God’s good purposes for us, we will never lose hope because we know that God is working all things out according to His perfect will in Jesus Christ (Romans 8).
4. We glorify God by submitting to His purposes for our lives when our expectations and plans are unfulfilled. Without realizing it, a spirit of resistance can be at work in our hearts that keeps us from yielding to God’s work in, around, and through us. When we refuse to submit our lives fully to God, to use as He desires, we may also miss the eternal glory that God has planned for us.
5. We glorify God by not giving way to fear when it creeps in to:
- steal our joy
- instill doubt in God’s goodness
- undermine our confidence in God’s redeeming power
- consume us with despair
- distract us from the gospel
If I let my mind dwell on all the what ifs, I could easily go down any one of these roads at any given moment. Instead, I return to the hope of the gospel which reminds me of who God is, what He has done, and His faithfulness to countless generations of believers who have put their hope in Him.
Psalm 5:3 says, In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Trusting, accepting, praying, submitting, fighting fear, and waiting to see God’s glory! This is how we must choose to direct our thoughts when our hearts begin to fear, grieve, or feel hopeless.
Our sovereign Lord, who delights to hear our prayers each morning, asks His broken children to wait patiently while He works all things together for the good of those who love Him.
Let us wait faithfully so that when Christ appears we will fall on our knees when we discover the eternal weight of glory that He has prepared for us, particularly through our suffering. The story is far from over, so take heart and rest in the God who gave His life that we might live.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,
Photo image by: Storkmagazine.com