Making Decisions About Disability and Suffering from a Biblical Worldview

Circumstances involving disability, mental health, aging and caregiving are complicated. Individuals and special needs families face dilemmas with ethical or moral implications and those situations extend far beyond whether or not to have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate order).

My daughter, Carly, is just weeks shy of 21 years old and she has Angelman Syndrome. Our family, and many others, face challenging decisions every single day. Many of our questions and decisions test our confidence, our faith and our sense of inner peace. For example, we have questions about whether we might be over-medicating Carly’s anxiety or her problems with sleep. There is pressure to enroll her in research studies and drug trials. We have interest in supporting medical research for her very rare disorder, but worry about whether that research will utilize embryonic stem cells or involve other factors that don’t fit with our values. We also spent years praying and pondering whether to see if medical cannabis could benefit Carly. 

Carly and her friends in medically or developmentally complex circumstances need reliable values along with extended families, churches and communities who will support and advocate for them in a world that is moving toward moral collapse.

Despite the world’s biased value system, God says we are incredible masterpieces of His own creative hand. We are made in His image, wonderfully complex. Regardless of anyone’s ability or condition, God’s sovereign mark rests on all of humanity as detailed in Psalm 139. Verses 13 and 14 celebrate, “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

But our culture is changing rapidly. The world shows partiality and our friends with disabilities are vulnerable. The world makes decisions based on values like happiness, ease, efficiency and economics. The world says God’s ways are impractical and outdated. We feel entitled to notsuffer. God’s word and methods show us another way.

Let’s have a conversation! 

Why do we need this conversation?

  • To develop richer awareness of the issues individuals and families face
  • To lay a foundation for parents and caregivers to apply life-honoring and biblical principles to their attitudes, decisions and strategies 
  • To elevate the role of Christian community in the defense of life and dignity
  • To resist cultural collapse when navigating life, disability, injury, chronic illness and aging (Romans 12:2)

Let’s spur each other on to consider God’s value of each and every person — their inherent worth, their dignity and their purpose in His hand. Let’s learn together and help each other make life-lifting decisions throughout the seasons and circumstances of life.

I have already shared some of the challenging questions our family has faced. Here are more examples of issues that parents, caregivers and individuals with special needs wrestle with:

  • Newborn screenings
  • Gene therapies
  • Hysterectomy/hormones for behaviors, pain, sensory management
  • Vaccinations
  • Palliative care
  • Housing choices
  • Guardianship vs. conservatorship
  • Marriage between people with intellectual-developmental disabilities 
  • Crisis hospital situation — this includes trauma or brain injury but can even include seemingly low-risk surgeries where people with disabilities can be vulnerable to Futility-of-Care policies
  • Praying for healing

WE NEED A GOSPEL-CENTERED FRAMEWORK

During our youth, many of us were counseled to establish clear boundaries for purity in dating before marriage. Knowing our values and goals beforegoing on a date set us up for greater follow through toward godly and satisfying decisions than if we had waited until an emotional moment or were under pressure. The same approach has potential here.

Personal values are not enough because those tend to shift and change with time. Biblical principles are reliable because they are based on the unchanging truths of scripture, God’s character and His covenant promises. God’s principles remain the same yesterday, today and forever. We can go about enjoying our lives resting on the unchanging foundation of these principles and access them at any moment they may be needed. We can’t anticipate every situation ahead of time but a biblical plumb line is freeing and peace-giving.It is are not subject to the emotions, whims or pressures of a given moment. 

The bible doesn’t hand us a checklist of specifics though. It gives us anchoring standards to shape our thinking, choices and behaviors. It leaves just enough room to keep us reliant on prayer and discernment through the Holy Spirit. Without that, we’d be tempted to just follow God’s instructions like a “rule book” without any need for personal relationship with an intimate and dynamic experience of God. And God is all about the personal relationship!

The world urges us to make decisions based on “pragmatic possibilities.” We need biblical wisdom and reasoning that trusts in God’s sound principles.

What would some of these biblical principles be?

The fingerprints of God are on every person and circumstance.

Suffering and weakness don’t negate the value of life. 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. 


Genesis 1:26 (ESV) Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” 

John 9:3 (ESV) Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

God is not limited by anything.

All of the issues that are so complicated for us are really very simple to God. If we really believe this, it changes everything about how we live!God made each of us for a purpose and is going to help us in that purpose.

Isaiah 45:7 (ESV) “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.” 

Jeremiah 32:27 (ESV) “I am the LORD…Is anything too hard for me?” 

Disability frees a person to multiply grace.

Suffering positions us to give and receive unique and good gifts of grace form our Heavenly Father. Our friends who are most dependent are most freely used by God as a means for grace. They are not inhibited by the things that constrain the rest of us (e.g., desire to make a good impression, worry about reputation).

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 

God is first and foremost concerned with our hearts.

“God is generally more interested in changing people than changing their circumstances.”  (Why the Church Needs Bioethics, John F. Kilner) A helpful guiding question: Does this decision we’re making drive us toward God or away from Him?

Matthew 9:2 (ESV) And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

God changes lives and churches when we engage with those who have an atypical life.

We — the church, the families and the friends — need to get engaged with people who have challenges, notbecause we are just really nice people. We need to get involved in messy lives because God tells us to and He uses life challenges to stretch us and increasingly form us into being like Christ. Jesus also showed us how to do this and the Word promises God will glorify Himself and give good gifts through those people and their circumstances. From a moral-ethical perspective, this principle reminds us that when we share the heavy lifting of the special needs community by engaging with their lives, they are freed to make spiritually healthy decisions rather than making decisions out of things like overwhelm, exhaustion, fear, desperation, bitterness, self-absorption and apathy.

1 Corinthians 12:22 (ESV) On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. 

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV) But God 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me…for when I am weak, then I am strong. 

The questions we face about life can be rather straightforward when we sift our decisions through the unchanging lens of God’s truth, character and promises. Our decision-making has eternal implications. Biblical principles help us narrow the options and align our lives more closely to God’s good design. It is not like weighing the pros and cons in an episode of Fixer Upper or Beach Front Bargain Hunt. We may not always like the options left for us but they will ultimately be the ones that are best for us and can guarantee us peace. 

THE DIVINE OPPORTUNITY

Our culture hates inconvenience. Jesus welcomed interruptions as Divine opportunities. The world tends to view the challenges of an adverse diagnosis as a problem to fix or something to dispose of as neatly as possible. 

Our circumstances can be extraordinary, complicated and often isolating. The benefits and opportunities of a Gospel-Centered framework supported in community are significant and many. 

What role can extended family, friends and churches play in the defense of life?

FRIENDSHIP— Friends fully engage in life with each other. No matter our vocation or the role we have in someone’s life —pastor, parent, sibling or friend — we must lovingly take every opportunity to preach, teach, pray, model, counsel, make referrals, show compassion, hold each other accountable and encourage one another toward Biblical Truth. Our word will have greatest credibility when we are willing to both model Jesus’ character and engage the lives of our loved ones. Each of us is called to engage in the way Jesus engaged others and encouraged us to serve. 

LEADERSHIP— As Kilner says in Why the Church Needs Bioethics, “in proactive pastoral ministry…more is needed than preaching and teaching. Pastors must seek to model healthy attitudes…encouraging an atmosphere of mutual care in which the people of God travel together in faith, along with all their doubts and fears and questions, through the valley of the shadow of death.”

CORPORATE WORSHIP—  The value of corporate worship and Christian community cannot be overstated. Our time in the presence of God allows us to absorb the greater mysteries of our faith. It shapes our perspectives about God and His ways. It renews our mind in truth. It increases our confidence in His power and presence among us. Ultimately, it overflows in our lifestyle.

CARING— A family is bolstered to make healthy decision when they know they will be supported by their community. We defend life when we come alongside caregivers. Every time we help create a supportive community around a caregiver, we extend length and quality of life to both the care-giver and the cared-for.  Our practical helps, our emotional encouragement, our spiritual direction and resources undergird them and spur them on in what is otherwise a grueling slog through life. There is a serious caregiver shortage in the US and the average salary falls under the living wage. This is a reflection of what we value in American culture and it is very different than most other countries. 

There is great power in presence. Sometimes, it’s not so much about what a caring friend or pastor says as it is powerful to just stand compassionately alongside some facing difficulty. For example, the presence and/or advocacy of a pastor or lay leader during a Care Coordination Meeting communicates that the individual and family are valued by their community and will be protected.

We want to be proactive about developing our relationships with God and others because it influences our growth in godly wisdom — the way we think and the way we live — while also equipping us with a support system, godly counsel and accountability when a crisis is faced.

THERE IS FREEDOM & GRACE IN GOD’S GOOD DESIGN

We only experience true freedom by living in alignment with God’s good design. Personal values evolve but God and His word are consistently reliable. As my friend, John Knight, taught me many years ago, “all scripture is equally true but it is not all equally clear.” 

As we sift dilemmas through biblical principles with each other, we must boldly assert the indisputable truths and graciously discuss  what is not clear.

Friends, God is forus!  

Romans 8:34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.


Please join this conversation. We would love to hear from you!

What kinds of dilemmas have you wrestled with in your family?

What standards or scriptures influence your decision-making?

How can we pray for you?

Walk Right In Ministries offers free consultations and caregiver coaching services (with sliding scale fees). Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to explore life, hope and practical resources associated with disabilities or caregiving. 


Lisa Jamieson is the author of books and Bible studies including the Finding Glory series of resources and the new children’s book Jesus, Let’s Talk. She is co-founder of Walk Right In Ministries and leads the Minnesota Disability Ministry Connection. Lisa and her husband, Larry, have been married 30 years and have three grown daughters. Their daughter, Carly, has Angelman Syndrome and lives at home with them in Maple Grove, Minnesota. You can learn more and follow her at lisamjamieson.org.

JESUS: The Essential Foundation

Even when facing the most overwhelming obstacles, it is possible to discover a beautiful and powerful adventure. When a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the central focus of your journey, you are freed from the grip of circumstances and empowered to see God’s purposes at work. Without Christ, progress is limited, slow and superficial. Only with Christ, can you begin to see your circumstances as bigger than yourself with eternal implications and a Kingdom perspective.

When you experience life consumed by God’s view of your circumstances instead of relying primarily on relationships, jobs, possessions, health, hobbies, ideas, philosophies or “expertise,” God gives deeper meaning to life and brings joy to you — even if your circumstances don’t change.

Please be encouraged to learn more about what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Consider pondering the book of John in the Bible. This is a great place to start understanding who Jesus is and how He wants to be involved with your life. A relationships with Jesus makes all the difference!

Enjoy a Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ

From the beginning of time, one of God’s greatest desires has been to enjoy relationship with us even to the point of spending intimate time in our presence. In Genesis 3:8 we see that God was right there with Adam and Eve. Tragically, after they sinned, Genesis 3:23 tells us that intimacy was broken. Sin separated them from God and we share that legacy because if we had been there, we would have done the same thing. God loved us enough to give us the free will to choose trusting Him or going our own way. He desperately hoped we would choose nearness to Him over being trapped in our sin which includes self-reliance, pride, covetousness, and other forms of disobedience.

God gave mankind chance after chance to remain faithfully with Him but we have repeatedly turned away. Because of God’s holiness, a price has to be paid for that rebellion. Jesus, by dying on the cross, paid that price on our behalf. Because Jesus lived a sinless life, He was the only atoning sacrifice that could pay the price — thoroughly and eternally — once and for all. In order for us to return to a state of intimacy with God, we must acknowledge our sinfulness, repent (grieve what our sin has caused), and receive the gift of Jesus’ salvation from the penalty of sin (eternal death). This is a very personal decision and a life-changing opportunity as well.

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
JOHN 1:12

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.
1 JOHN 5:11-12

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
ROMANS 1:20

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
ROMANS 10:9-11

Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
JAMES 5:16

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord.
ACTS 3:19-20

It would be our privilege to explore this relationship with you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us at info@walkrightin.org or reach out to your pastor if you have questions or would like to pray with someone about this.

FRIENDSHIP: The Foundation for Discipleship

Friendship is one of life’s greatest gifts. Having a trusted and encouraging friend to confide in during a time of crisis is particularly valuable. Yet for some people in the midst of challenges, the sense of loneliness and isolation can feel more overwhelming than the crisis itself. Sometimes we just need to talk with someone who “gets it.”

Walk Right In Ministries wants to support you in getting connected with someone who has “been in your shoes” but will do more than just empathize. Our prayer is that you are connected with someone who will pray with you and encourage you in your walk with God — the essential foundation for a life that truly thrives. We call friends like that “Walking Partners.”

A Walking Partner is someone who will cheer you on while helping you maintain a clear and biblical plum line against which to measure your relationships, choices, goals and dreams. You can get “social networking” and good mentoring in lots of places but Jesus-focused, disciple-growing kind of friendship like this is soul-reaching and can change lives for eternity. Walking Partners celebrate the Living God and will respectfully and lovingly share Him.

Sometimes a Walking Partner is like a “crisis coach.” You may simply need a note of encouragement from someone who has had an experience that resonates with yours. Perhaps an email or two may be enough to spur you on. On the other hand, you may appreciate meeting for coffee or going for a walk once in a while.

We believe that professional counselors would be needed in far fewer circumstances if more Christians lived out their calling to be disciples — in a lifestyle of walking shoulder-to-shoulder with one another listening, encouraging, exhorting and empowering in relationships where Christ is central to the conversation.

Walk Right In Ministries is privileged to collaborate with other like-minded individuals and organizations to help equip disciples and connect hurting people with Christ-centered support. If you have interest in connecting with a Walking Partner or want to know more about partnership with Walk Right In Ministries, contact us at info@walkrightin.org .

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
2 CORINTHIANS 1:3-4

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
ECCLESIASTES 4:9-12

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
PROVERBS 27:17

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
COLOSSIANS 3:16-17

Read more about the Walking Partner model.

How Walk Right In Ministries Got Its Name

The inspiration for the name Walk Right In Ministries comes from the Bible and the experience of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River to the Promised Land.

Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away…all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
JOSHUA 3:15-17

In the Bible, as remains true today, God always reveals His power or presence when people responded in faith toward Him. 

We are, perhaps, most familiar with Jesus’ miracles. Sometimes Jesus simply spoke a word of blessing and multiplied fish and bread. Other times his miracles came after someone expressed their faith such as reaching out to touch his garment or crashing through a roof to be near him. 

God moved miraculously in Old Testament times as well. One of the Israelites’ many remarkable experiences of God’s powerful work on their behalf occurred at the shores of the Jordan River. Forty years of wandering in the desert were about to end. The Promised Land was in sight but the harvest-season waters of the Jordan were at flood stage and as many as three million people needed to cross. 

God spoke to their leader, Joshua, and commanded that he have the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant and step into river. God’s promise was “since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you.
JOSHUA 3:4

Forty years prior to the Jordan River crossing, God had parted the Red Sea for them. Did they question whether God would do it again? Might the priests carrying that heavy ark have had any concern about their safety as they stepped into the unstable, murky water? We can’t know for certain what the Israelites were thinking that day on the brink of reacing their Promised Land once and for all. But we can be inspired by their obedience and trust.

The founders of Walk Right In Ministries— Larry & Lisa Jamieson — have learned time and again that when God says, “Go!” He is always faithful to their going. The first time they heard about this experience of the Israelites, it prompted them to take steps toward asking for help with their disabled daughter, Carly. They hoped that special therapies and support from their community would unlock unexpected developmental progress for her. It did so much more.

God used that step of faith to do immeasurably more than anyone asked or imagined and now countless lives are being changed for eternity.

Yes, Carly made unexpected progress but it turned out to be about much more than one child’s development. God knows our steps of faith are about so much more than what we think they are about!

God is often mysterious in His ways. He doesn’t often reveal what is coming next or tell us the end of the story. He just shows us single steps to take along the road of life. He prompts us to begin moving in a certain direction and then waits for us to respond in faith. When we do, He reveals something about Himself to us and often that involves showing us the next step to take…and then the next.

We walk through this winding, bumpy life one step at a time. And sometimes those faith-steps require walking right into a raging river of circumstances. No matter how extraordinary our circumstances are, God wants us to embrace the adventure right from this middle of His promises!

What step of faith is God asking you to take today?

Won’t you come walk right into life with us? After all, an entire nation crossed over to the Promised Land on dry ground!

What is the “Right” Way to Pray?

“You’re my place of quiet retreat;  I wait for your Word to renew me.” Psalm 119:14

Here’s a good question: What IS the right or best way to pray anyway?

Most of us struggle in the area of prayer. Depending on the day or moment, we desperately hope for a tangible sense of connection with our Creator. We long for guidance and wisdom that is clearly from God and we wrestle with desires for personal intimate connection with that same Jesus the disciples knew.

Obstacles seem endless. We’re busy, intimidated, impatient, confused, tired and curious but frustrated that time in prayer seems like such hard work sometimes.  Perhaps you’re tired of feeling guilty or inadequate about prayer.  It’s been recommended that you do it “this way” and “that way.” Some have even insisted that there is a perfect time of day to do it. And now, here I am suggesting that you should journal more?!?

Well…yes, I am offering a workshop about journaling in April (two options, actually, so that you can schedule one that works best for you). But before you get carried away with assumptions that some book author who is already really comfortable with the writing process (maybe not like you) is going to teach you how to do something revolutionary yet something that will quickly fall by the wayside with so many other “should-haves” in your life—think again.

This is NOT your typical journaling or prayer workshop!

Think of it more like a 2-hour renewal event.  I’m going to get really personal with you.  More importantly, God Himself is going to get really personal with you.

What happens at this workshop is likely to surprise you. Between laughter, conversation, maybe a few tears, some quiet…and yes, just a little bit of writing…You’ll make some life and relationship-shifting discoveries.  Whether you’ve never journaled before (maybe even despise it) or have done it for a long time, this event promises to reveal new ideas and perspectives that you’ll wonder how you lived without.

You will learn the “right” way to journal—because, yes, there actually is a “right” way to pray.

I promise.  
And, if you’re not satisfied, you can have ALL of your money back. 

But, you ask, aren’t there as many methods, techniques and manners for praying as there are temperaments, passions and giftings?  Good question!  And here’s an even better one: What if God didn’t care so much how you come but that you come?

Have I whet your appetite yet?  I hope so because I know this really could be a moment in time that sets you on a whole new course in your conversations with God!

What better way to celebrate the Easter season than to discover afresh —or maybe for the very first time— your intimate connection with the resurrected Jesus!

It’s easy to register and you have two options in April:

Visit Eventbrite for information and tickets.

“Most of my life, I thought that you went to church to worship. But now I see that the better approach is to go worshipping to church. Trust me, church is better…filled with people who have been pursuing God for six days before they get there. Church as a “refill” or a “tank-up” is a disaster. Corporate worship works best when we arrive with something to offer God, as opposed to coming only to get something for us. Church is supposed to be a celebration of our personal journeys with God since we were last together.”  —from The Air I Breathe by Louie Giglio 

Help Grow a GIFT!

A friend of Walk Right In Ministries is giving an amazing gift and YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE IT BIGGER! 

Author Sandra Orchard has committed a significant portion of her royalties from the book “Critical Condition” to Walk Right In Ministries!
Sandra already has three Christian romance novels published by Harlequin’s “Love Inspired Suspense” and more books coming. “CRITICAL CONDITION” released in October and will only remain available at Walmart, Target and Kmart for a very short time . Please hurry and purchase this title for Christmas gifts and more so that many can also be blessed both in reading and through the education, advocacy and networking resources of www.walkrightin.com. 

Love Inspired Suspense stories feature strong heroes and heroines whose faith is central in solving mysteries and saving lives.  You enjoy a dash of danger and a strong dose of inspiration in a short novel package at a very affordable price.  Sandra Orchard’s titles include Shades of Truth, Deep Cover and Critical Condition.  To learn more about Sandra’s writing and what she has coming next, visit her website at http://www.sandraorchard.com
I have been personally enjoying Sandra’s books and am so proud to say that we wrote songs together as co-members of Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship Clubs during our high school years in southern Ontario.  I want to personally thank Sandra for her creative vision and generous support of Walk Right In Ministries.  What a beautiful picture of partnership in the Gospel! 
PS – You can help us show Sandra appreciation for her generous contribution of royalties by LIKE-ing her Facebook page and buying her books.  Due to the nature of the Harlequin sales concept, each title is only available in print for a limited time as they keep titles rotating very frequently. Let’s help Critical Condition SELL OUT at Target, Walmart, Kmart stores! Please LIKE Sandra’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SandraOrchard?fref=ts
Happy shopping, friends!

Lisa

BTW — During this Thanksgiving season and as the end of another year approaches, please prayerfully consider giving to Walk Right In Ministries.  Your financial contribution OF ANY SIZE helps shine the Good News of Jesus Christ into the lives of hurting people through advocacy, education, discipleship and networking.  Your tax-deductible donation equips people to connect and grow in Christ-centered communities while discovering adventure in life’s challenges.  

DONATE ONLINE or send a check to:
Walk Right In Ministries
PO Box 1932
Maple Grove, MN 55311

THANK YOU for sharing in this ministry in so many wonderful ways.  God is faithful to provide and encourage us.