Disability: a Triumph over Weakness

 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Uprooting the Rotten Tree

Having become a Christian at the age of 19, I brought into my faith a selection of attitudes and beliefs that were grounded in secular ‘wisdom’. My heart was rooted in the common self-obsession and self-betterment that our world so boldly proclaims as ‘our greatest good’. Upon having my eyes opened to the gospel and the truths of God, I was made all too aware of these rotting trees in my life, and so began a journey of grace and repentance to conform to the image and mind of Christ.

One of the hardest of these issues for me to deal with was the argument made for abortion of babies with very severe disabilities. The idea to me was not only logical, but very merciful – to prevent suffering seemed admirable; to allow it, selfish. I am not ignorant to the struggles of disability – having been born with birth defects that took the first two painful decades of my life to correct. It was this very suffering that, as a non-Christian, convinced me of the need to doubt the merits and morals of bringing a disabled, suffering person into the world. And, as ashamed as I am to confess, even upon becoming a Christian I doubted God’s ability to a) save those who were not mentally capable of believing, and b) glorify Himself through them.

The First Step

If this year has a theme, it is humility. I’ve been humbled more times than I can count – by the wisdom and grace of God, by the generosity and love of others, and by the overwhelming physicality of pregnancy. But this one tops them all – and it all began by some very powerful words of a close friend. My desire to actively pursue a biblical attitude of disability came about when my friend (who works with disabled people) said, “they are beautiful. I can’t help but see the beauty and glory of God in them. If I end up having a disabled child, I’d actually be very okay with that”. At that, I realised my own need for this kind of revelation of truth – since God glorifies Himself in all things, that must include disability, because He allows it to exist. But how is God glorified through disability? was the question I wanted answered, and so began my pursuit of the truth.

Over the course of this year, I have read countless articles, blog posts, and other sources of information on the reconciliation of God’s goodness and disability. I have read stories of great pain leading to great joy. Never anywhere did I read, “I didn’t abort my baby – and I regret it”. But still, as one author had put it, my heart was still in a place of “I don’t want God’s grace to sustain me through the pain. I just don’t want the pain”. The pain of a disability in your life is at times unbearable. It is intense, constant, real, pervasive of everything and very much an inescapable prison. I don’t want that kind of pain for any of my children’s lives, but I do want the mind of Christ. I became frustrated with myself, and begged God to prune me until I saw the world the way He did, as laid out in Scripture:

“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.” Genesis 9:6

“Do this so that innocent blood will not be shed in your land, which the LORD your God is giving you as your inheritance, and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed.” Deuteronomy 19:10

To My Knees

Yesterday, God brought about a great triumph in my heart! It was a long, intense time of truth searching. But God used this Bible Q&A and personal testimony from John MacArthur to move drastically in my heart. You can read the full transcript here, but these are what He used specifically to really cut out the rotting roots:

  • John MacArthur, a pastor of over 40 years and a pillar of the faith in today’s church, shared a personal testimony about a young disabled man whom he had had a great friendship with. This young man went on to believe the gospel and be baptised, even though his parents, the church and John (despite his great theology and knowledge of God) underestimated both him and God’s power to do so.
  • He quoted the passage in Mark 10, where Jesus calls the little children to Him and blesses them. The blessing of unbelievers, or those who are not His own, happens nowhere else in the Gospels, which MacArthur believes indicates that “there is a very special care for those who are not yet able to know, as it were, their right hand from their left, to believe or not believe”.
  • In the Old Testament, it is recorded that the worship of the pagan god Molech required sacrificing babies by fire on an altar. God called this the “slaughter of the innocence” and, as John said, “If God designated them as innocent even though they were children of pagans who couldn’t believe or not believe, that’s pretty significant.

I was overwhelmed by the humility and fierceness with which this well-lived, knowledgeable pastor lifted up those that others might consider ‘weaker’ as a beacon of God’s amazing glory and hope. But that was not all God had in store for me:

Looking at my Facebook page, there was a photo of a friend of ours who is a missionary at a university campus, hanging out with some more friends he had made. This particular guy was born with a mental disability that impairs him intellectually and socially. But despite this, the only posts I see from him on Facebook are either exalting and praising Christ, or photos of him with new friends he made while evangelising. And I’ve seen him in evangelistic action on campus before – never hesitating to approach people to introduce himself, and ask them if they know Jesus. Never hesitating to encourage and pray for other Christians. His positivity, friendliness and love of God are infectious. The only thing people know him most for, rather than his disability, is Christ – he is absolutely crazy about Jesus and his salvation! Then it hit me:

This man of God, though mentally impaired and socially awkward, is a greater vision of Christ than me, or anyone I have ever met. This brought me to tears. And not only this, but it is because of his disability that he is able to not be bound by social boundaries, and to love others with an intense, godly love that’s only desire is that they come to know the love of Christ. There I sat, with all my biblical knowledge and gifts and whatever, and I realised how it was all rubbish – because God is exalted through weaknesses, not our strengths!

God uses those who are humble, obedient, and devoted to seeing His glory rather than their own, to do His greatest work. The times when God makes Himself known to us and does great things is most often through times of trials, suffering and pain – just read the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, John, Paul, and Jesus (just to name a few) to see! How amazing is our God? That even in the face of the fall of the world because of our sin, and the Enemy’s schemes to make us uncomfortable, prideful and doubtful when it comes to disability, God works amazing strength and joy in the lives that are affected by the very thing the Devil intends to weaken us with.

And for the first time in my life, I saw hope in disability. I saw not only God’s power, but His preference, to bring about glory and joy through disability and earthly weaknesses. I felt myself genuinely believe and say, through tears of joy:

If I have a son or daughter who is disabled, I will have hope. If I have a son or daughter who is disabled, I will praise God all the more, for I know His greatest glory and our greatest strength comes through weakness.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s