I hope by sharing my own experience, this will be enlightening and encouraging to the parents of Special Needs children. One of the most difficult and confusing times in own my life happened a few years after my son Luke came into the world. He was born ten days after his due date, and after a very complicated delivery. Afterwards, his mother and I had become very concerned early on when he wasn’t hitting his development milestones in speech or fine motor skills. We had him evaluated locally by a pediatric neurologist as well as at the University of Michigan, but came away with no diagnosis, just that “he may be on the Autism Spectrum.” Finally, we were told that he would always struggle with these issues, when a Pediatric Clinical Psychologist and Neuro-psychologist told us that he would always need help and be speech, learning delayed, and mentally challenged.
I was a much different person back then, selfishly more concerned about career success than raising a family. So the pain of that experience really hurt. It left me bitter, angry and devastated. Many of my hopes and dreams for my son were gone. Why? Who was to blame? Was it us or was it God? Deep down I naively chose to believe that this was some sort punishment and burden for something we had done.
I was angry at God.
Several years ago, I finally realized just how wrong I was. It turns out that disability is not karma, as some Eastern religions would tell us, and some people naively or blindly think.
Like all things, change starts with awareness. In 2008, I read a passage in the Bible that really opened my eyes to this situation. Let’s consider John 9:1-3 (KJV) And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth, and his disciples asked him, saying, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. The word manifest means “easily understood or recognized by the mind.”
Notice carefully that Jesus doesn’t answer His disciples with the cause of disability, He answers with the purpose of disability. So it’s no one’s “fault”. His parents aren’t being punished and neither is he. I imagine many parents of special-needs children struggle with this. We have wondered if it is our fault. If we’re being punished by God for something we did or didn’t do. Jesus answered simply: You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. God wants to show us His glory and power, we just need to be willing to see it. I wonder sometimes if our view of God is so small that we fail to recognize how and where He is working. Perhaps we have forgotten that He can see the full picture of our lives, from beginning to end, and we struggle to accept that his greatest blessings and life lessons often come through our hardships and challenges. Complete healing is guaranteed one Day, but for now we must rest in His goodness and celebrate little victories along the way.
We look at limitations, but God sees our potential.
In today’s culture, we tend to value those people who are powerful, have money, strength, beauty, talents, and “obvious” gifts. But the Lord warns us in many places that we should esteem the poor, the disabled, and the suffering. Many who are last shall be first (Matt 19:30).
We are told in Scripture that our Heavenly Father is a God of mercy and of justice. We are told in Luke 12:48, “Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities.” We can restate this Scripture in reverse and it will still be true. The reverse would be “to whom less is given, less is required.” God recognizes the limitations that your child may have. He does not hold them responsible for something they cannot comprehend. That would hardly be the actions of a just God nor those of a good, loving and merciful God.
I used to think God had given me Luke because He knew Luke needed me. I now realize I had it backwards. God gave me Luke because he knew I needed him to teach me some very important lessons about life, patience and unconditional love, grace, and a beauty that I didn’t even know I needed to learn. So ask yourself, what if the challenges, struggles, and trials in your life turned out to be God’s stage for the biggest blessing? What if the circumstances that bewildered and frustrated you the most brought you the closest you had ever been to God?
Now that Luke is 15 years old, I realize now that he is many things that I am not, and that he is many things I want to be. I am humbled and blessed that God did not give me what I wanted, but rather chose to give me what I most needed. I wanted a comfortable life with a healthy and typical little boy. What I thought once thought was a huge burden was disguised as one of the greatest blessings I could ever ask or hope for. I once prayed and prayed for God to heal my son.
I realize that God has used Luke to help heal my heart. Children are the best teachers we could ever ask for, and I look forward to many more years of learning as I rely on God’s faithfulness and trust Him for their future.
I hope you know that we are all valuable in the Lord’s eyes — every single one of us. As I now enjoy watching Luke grow up into a young man, I get to witness and feel God’s love beaming right out through my son. His work — His victory — was right there in front of my eyes the whole time, and I now get to experience it in a way I could never really truly describe which only proves to me that it is His work.
As Luke’s dad, I’ve learned that he is not special because of the extra needs, attention or effort required to care for him, but because through him, so much kindness is found, faith and hope live, and unconditional love grows. A gift from God that keeps on giving.
Our life may be different, but it is still beautiful.
I hope that parents of children with special needs will come to understand and know what I mean. We were chosen to be the gift-keepers for some of God’s most amazing gifts. My son is special. Our lives are special. Not because of our “needs,” but because we are learning that the secret to this life is not about wanting something else or something more.
It’s realizing that what God has given you is more than enough — and then letting it shine for the whole world to see.