“There is a plan and a purpose, a value to every life, no matter what its location, age, gender or disability” – Sharron Angle
Every event in our lives leaves its imprint on our souls forever and the birth of a child is one such situation that forces the parents to adapt their whole life cycle to meet the demands of the new responsibility. Some births however not only affect the schedules but also raise various questions about life itself and the birth of a child with some disability- physical, psychological or any other. The birth of a differently able child leaves one searching for answers both in the physical/ medical and spiritual realms and everyone tries to sympathize with the affected couple. The ill-effects of the resultant physical, financial and spiritual trauma leave their footprint on our lives causing breakdown of relations with each other as well as with God. Why does God allow such situations to come about in our lives?
When we hear the word disabled the immediate thought is of someone physically or mentally challenged not meeting the normal man established standards of life. An individual born with such condition brings in to mind the basic question- why does God allow such situations in a person’s life- both the parents and the child? In actual fact many people born with a certain lack are highly gifted in some other sphere of life and there are innumerable examples of such talented persons all over the world.
Bible is the story of man from creation to fall to restoration and final judgement and no issue concerning this journey of man is brushed aside but brought out in the open. Our Redeemer who came into this world as man tackled every such situation to teach us about “God’s ways”. The Lord God has declared, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). We are unable to understand much of what has been happening all around us and most of the mishaps are our own doing. It is well established that the DNA changes causing various ailments are due to cigarette smoke, chemicals, viruses and UV radiation and other life style changes in man.
God is Almighty but not the cause of many such activities in nature. Turning of Lucifer into the devil was neither God’s desire nor the fall of man due to sin and expulsion from the garden. He has given free will to each person to make choices and God must be feeling the pain when we falter and deviate from the path of blessings to the way of destruction and calamities. God desires fellowship with man but does not force it on us- it must be of our own choice.
Why disabilities are caused? – Lord Jesus was asked this question by the disciples on seeing a man born blind “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?” The Savior himself saw the man and engaged with him to provide answers to questions for the issue was twofold – of physical and spiritual blindness. He tackled both through healing the blind man and opening his as well others spiritual eyes- “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1-3). It is generally the view that all our sufferings are the result of our sins and that heaven and hell are here on earth only.
The warning to Adam was clear “you shall surely die” when you eat the fruit of the forbidden tree and this death was the separation from God which is hell. But there was also an immediate result of the sin which was due to the effect of their act on the nature and the earth which also was adversely affected. Moving to hell on the day of judgement for everlasting torture is a reality but the results of our actions causing immediate changes in nature have also to be borne by man. An example of this change is the damage to the environment due to the pollution caused by man. But the Lord referred to displaying of God’s works in the blind man.
How are God’s works displayed in sickness? – Lord Jesus summed up the commandments of God into basic two- love God and love your neighbor and obeying these would be actual worship of God. Just before this incidence He had been in the Temple in Jerusalem and had revealed His true identity as God incarnate and the Jews picked up stones to cast at Him (John 8:58-59). Spiritual blindness could not be healed in them and even today many refuse to accept Him as their Savior. God’s works were revealed in all of Jesus’ actions on the earth and also in us now.
God’s works displayed through man – Lord Jesus did not look at the blind beggar and pass him by but He brought notice of everyone to him and then healed him of his blindness. The parable of the “Good Samaritan” is one such example of God’s works revealed in man’s actions. The Jewish man was robbed, stripped of his clothes and left as half dead on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. First a Priest passed him by even after seeing his ‘brother’ in trouble- probably for fear of getting late for the prayer meeting and getting his clothes dirty or becoming ceremonially unclean by touching him. Next a Levite- also one of the chosen ones- came and in a similar way passed him by for the same reasons. Then came a Samaritan, one who was hated by the Jews, he cleansed his wounds, put him on his own donkey, cared for him in the inn at night and left money and instruction with the inn-keeper to look after the injured man with the promise to pay any extra expenditure incurred in his care (Luke 10:25-37). Such actions of caring for someone unknown are termed as “help from God” for the suffering.
Disabilities/ sickness establishes our dependence on God – God comes looking for man always and He “knocks at the door” to bless us and establish a close relationship with us (Revelation 3:20). On the other hand we turn to God only when we are faced with insurmountable odds of sickness, tragedy of disability or the like. God is always willing to answer our call and His promise is “I revealed Myself to those who did not seek Me” (Isaiah 85:1). Our turning to God, answered prayers and our testimony before others reveals God’s works in the world.
God’s works in healing the blind man – Lord Jesus healed the blind man and also opened his and others spiritual eyes. The healing act was performed by the Lord Jesus on the day of Sabbath and the ire of the Jewish leaders was kindled because of this. God’s work was evident in the physical healing of the blind man in more than one ways. First was the physical healing and second was his testimony before others in the Temple and afterward. The Pharisees and Jewish elders preached that no work should be done on the day of Sabbath whereas Lord Jesus preached that doing God’s work on any day is good. The blind man’s answers to his interrogators reveal his spiritual growth by the moment. His first response was “The man they call Jesus” while referring to the Lord (verse 11) and his reply after that was “He is a Prophet” (verse 17) and the Pharisees were not ready to accept the fact of healing of a man born blind. They then questioned his parents about his state, who out of fear refused to say anything except confirming his blindness since birth.
The blind man’s answer to their repeated doubting and questioning showed his sudden remarkable spiritual insight. “The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where He comes from, yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does His will. Nobody has heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:30-33). Lord Jesus’ act of healing his eyes enlightened the man to proclaim the healing to be by a Man of God, a fact which was evident to all but the Pharisees. In like manner testimonies of people touched by the ‘Hand of God’ through some miraculous deed in their lives in the Church are used to build up others’ faith.
God’s work in not healing the sick/disabled – There are innumerable instances when prayers for healing of a sick or disabled person go unanswered despite individual and collective prayers with fasting by elders of the Church. Apostle Paul provides an illustration of such an instance in his Epistle to the Church in Corinth wherein he states his experience, without directly identifying himself, of having been “caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell”. And then he mentions “the thorn in the flesh” that he is made to suffer “in order to keep me from being conceited” or becoming filled with pride for this rare experience of paradise. His repeated prayer goes unanswered three times with the Lord’s reply “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
God is All-Knowing and He desires the best for His children. He is already aware of our reactions for each and every blessing coming our way as an answer to our prayers. On most occasions we are likely to feel pride in the fact that God has considered us so important to answer our prayers. Also through not healing the affected person, both the sick and the caregivers are taught dependence on God and bring about humility and close relationships. God’s works are displayed through the Sisters of Charity of Mother Theresa who look after the lepers and extremely sick people and many souls come to know the Lord and escape eternal damnation.
Why does God allow mental disability at birth? – God revealed His name to Moses as “I AM” – the God of present time before whom any number of years of yesterday and tomorrow are also like present. Nothing of the past or future is hidden from God and this fact was revealed by God to Jeremiah. The declaration of God was “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). At the time of creation “God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). What was breathed into man is part of God for it came out of God. This part of God knows God and God also knows the same intimately.
God further declares “I have a plan for you, a plan with a future and hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). When does the individual for whom this plan is made by God get to know of this and thus live his life accordingly? There are probably two occasions when this plan or the effective part is revealed by God to the concerned individual. First, is before birth in the form of a preparatory briefing before birth in like manner as the troops in the army are briefed before moving out for any operation. Most of us forget the contents of this briefing while some retain some semblance of this in their lives by doing good and righteous deeds.
Moses was commanded by God to lead Israelites into the Promised Land but that He would Himself not go with them lest He destroy them for their sinful ways. Moses’ prayer to God in this situation is revealing “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). Moses was well aware of the dangers ahead and the result of being separated from God’s presence, for hell is where God is not and in His presence is heaven. One in a million stops to plead with God in a similar fashion before birth to be assured of God’s presence being with him/her after birth. Any assurance about immediate answer to call; presence of angels or various other blessings of life on the earth cut no ice and the child seeks assurance.
But as planned the birth has to take place but the child refuses to connect to this world but rather remains connected to God only. We term such a child as ‘Differently Able’ in today’s words or disabled earlier. The child is definitely able in a different way or disabled of personal choice to connect with his biological parents and the earthly environment. We are unable to fathom God’s thoughts and His ways for they are different from ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). We start exploring various ways- medical and spiritual through prayers to reverse this situation but with limited or no success.
What should one do in case of no healing? – The birth of a differently able child shatters the normal life pattern of a family putting severe strain on inter-personal relations and even our relationship with God. In some situations the parents are unable to cope with this and leave the child to the care of a ‘home’ for such children or separate from each other leaving the onus of caring for the child on one person. Anger at the perceived unfairness of God in dealing such a hand causes the affected parent to withdraw from the Church also.
But through this God teaches us perseverance with patience to wait for the fulfillment of His promises by God without complaining or giving up. Prophet Samuel as a child heard the Lord God call him three times but he could not understand and ran to Eli for child Samuel “did not yet know the Lord” (1 Samuel 3). We claim to know God but fail to realize His blessings and presence while these “Differently Able Children” are far better developed mentally to hear the “still small voice of God” and remain tuned to that always. Yes God, Your ways and thoughts are unfathomable for us but You bless Your chosen children to make them hear, know and love You.
The Word of God assures us that “No trial has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God increases His grace to compensate for the pressures of trials and testing and His strength gets manifested in our lives during our times of such weakness. Apostle Paul is the only one who was chosen by the Lord specifically to show him “how much he must suffer for My name” (Acts 9:15-16). His advice to all followers “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). It appears to be very difficult but who has ever said that following Jesus in our own strength is possible. The key is to surrender to Him who also surrendered saying “Father, not My will but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
In our sinful state we are all disabled in some way or the other and this hinders our move to seek God and be strengthened by His presence in our lives. When faced with our inability to understand the cause of physical or mental disability in our dear ones lives, the only way is to ask Him for the answers, strength and healing. And perseverance in prayer with patience and faith will bear fruit for the Lord Jesus has promised “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24).
We shall never find all the answers here but one day we shall be able to know while being in His presence!