The Bible provides many anchoring truths to guide us and spur us on in life. Caregiving families see those truths tested with extraordinary perspective. We also get to see — up close — how a foundation in certain truths stirs our compassion for each other, bolsters our sense of purpose in suffering, and reassures us that each person in our family is celebrated by God.
Each and every one of us is one hundred percent unique,
purposed for God’s kingdom,
and made for belonging.
Consider how our lives would be transformed if we really believed this one thing about ourselves and each other!
Let’s take a closer look at this foundational belief through the lens of eight truths about disability and relationships. By transforming the way we think, God’s truth has power to shape the way we live. By shaping the way we live, God’s equips us to cope with challenge or crisis. As we learn to cope — by the power of the Holy Spirit — we thrive in relationships with God and others.
God’s good design is reflected in every person.
The fingerprints of God are on every person and circumstance. No matter how complex, senseless or hopeless a situation looks, every person has value and carries the image and power of Christ in them with the potential to contribute God-purposed things to this world.
Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Suffering and weakness do not negate the value of life.
Our culture hates inconvenience. Jesus welcomed interruptions and weaknesses as Divine opportunities. His value system is quite unlike the world’s. We worship knowledge and intelligence. God values wisdom over knowledge, and character over intelligence.
Our personal worth, our value to God, even the degree of our sin are not dependent on our abilities or anything we can earn. That means we are completely free of responsibility to earn God’s favor. All that God requires of us is faith. Even faith that is metaphorically as small as a mustard seed — one of the smallest seeds in the plant kingdom— is enough for Him.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
1 Corinthians 12:22
The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
God is not limited by anything.
Issues that are so complicated for us are really very simple to God.
We scratch our heads (or pull our hair) over suffering that seems senseless. We wrestle with dilemmas about everything from medical ethics to school services to whether to accept governmental disability benefits. We train ourselves in different ways to pray for healing that might be more effective. We wait, often for a very long time, for answers to our questions and God’s response in areas where we are powerless.
In his book, Why the Church Needs Bioethics, John F. Kilner offers relatable encouragement, “Godly waiting reorients human beings from demanding that God perform, to prayerfully declaring that God’s character is holy, good, just, full of mercy, abounding in grace, and the source of all comfort. God’s gifts are good, both to desire and receive. The human heart tends to strive stubbornly for its wishes rather than rest in the contentment that flows from acknowledging God’s faithful blessings.”
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
Disability frees a person to multiply grace.
The culture values self, comfort, happiness, ease and an entitlement mentality. We feel no one deserves to suffer. Yet suffering positions us to give and receive unique and good gifts from our Heavenly Father and each other.
Disabilities help us appreciate different values like slowing down and unconditional love. The world teaches self-reliance. The Bible teaches God-reliance. There are times when the hardships of disability stretch us to trust God more. Over time, we become increasingly reassured of His faithfulness. We learn how freeing it is to surrender our weaknesses to the God of the universe!
Those who are most dependent are most freely used by God as a means for grace. My daughter with Angelman Syndrome is not limited by the need to work eight hours and tend to a home. She is entirely available to bring joy and love to others in a way that is profound and unique to her. She teaches us humility in caregiving. She shows us how to persevere despite external obstacles and internal limitations — hers, and our own. She gives us a living picture of God’s unconditional love and challenges us to love one another well.
I must admit, my husband and I have often wished we could protect Carly’s siblings and others from the “burden” of her care. Yet we are reminded that the promise of God’s grace is just as much opportunity for them as it has been for us.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
God is first and foremost concerned with our hearts.
Disability, suffering, and weakness remind us of the severity — and very broad reach — of the impact of Adam’s sin. We see in Mark 2:5 that God is generally more interested in changing people than changing their circumstances.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Our relationship to God and others is what matters most to Him. And God will use whatever method he needs to in order to accomplish that intimacy. This means that God’s response to our requests for healing, to our weaknesses and sin, and to all of our concerns in life, always begins and ends with how our circumstances work to shift our focus and affections toward Him and then others.
Jesus said the two greatest commandments were to love God and love each other. We were told to carry our crosses instead of seeking our own comfort or happiness. Suffering makes us long more for heaven and less for the world. It encourages a Kingdom perspective. Others will see that God Himself is our treasure.
God desires to restore us to right relationship with Him and others.
God loves us even before we love Him. He created us and wants to be intimately near to us. Our lives will not be untroubled, but they will be deeply satisfying and life-giving when our choices, attitudes and beliefs drive us toward God rather than away from Him. Until we choose to receive the generous love Jesus offers, we will miss out on the richness of life and relationships.
In his book Disability and the Sovereign Goodness of God, John Piper offers this challenge: “The truth is that suffering can only have ultimate meaning in relation to God. Jesus says that the purpose of blindness is to put the work of God on display. This means that for our suffering to have ultimate meaning, God must be supremely valuable to us. More valuable than health and life. Many things in the Bible make no sense until God becomes your supreme value.”
We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
1 John 4:19
We love each other because he loved us first.
If you are ready for a reset in your relationship with Jesus, watch here.
God transforms people and churches when we engage with each other through the adverse circumstances of our lives.
Christ-following families living with disability know the transforming power of doing life together in diverse community. Our own families are a picture of this on the smallest scale. Imagine what the family of God would look like if we learned to live out that same kind of community on a large, Kingdom-minded scale!
It is really really important for leaders in the Church to recognize and embrace this truth too. Individuals and families impacted by disability need to know they belong. As the Church, we need to get engaged with each other amidst challenges. But we don’t do this just because we are really nice people. We need to get involved in messy lives because God tells us to, because Jesus showed us how to, and because the Word promises that God will glorify Himself and give good gifts through unique people and unusual circumstances.
Godly communities make the compassion and truth of Jesus easily accessible to all who seek it.
Making church and church programs accessible is a matter of eternal salvation for any person. This certainly includes people with disabilities and their families.
We have an opportunity to defend life. This opportunity has nothing to do with anyone’s ability. It has everything to do with making the Good News of Jesus known to all. Jesus is the Giver of life and the Way to life. He is the Giver of all good gifts. He witholds no good thing from those who walk in faith (Psalm 84:11). We are called to follow in that Way — to walk in that Light.
1 John 1:5-7
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Of this we can be sure: