Dealing With Disabilities In The Kingdom Of God
"As He (Jesus) passed along, He noticed a man blind from his birth. His disciples asked Him, Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind? Jesus answered, It was not that this man or his parents sinned, but he was born blind in order that the workings of God should be manifested (displayed and illustrated) in him." -- John 9:1-3
"And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn (a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted. Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; but He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! So
for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength)." -- II Corinthians 12:7-10
Have you ever had a cold? I'm sure that just about all of us have. Colds can be rather inconvenient and bothersome, but you know that in about ten days, whether you treat yourself or not, or whether you pray or not, you'll be feeling better again. After all, it's just a cold.
How would you feel if the next time you caught the sniffles people at your church started grilling you about your relationship with God? What if they said that you had the sniffles because you lack the faith needed to stay germ-free? What if they said that your sniffles were a sure sign that you had sin hidden in your life? At the very least you'd probably be annoyed. You'd also probably wonder about the mental stability of those who were doing the asking. After all, we're talking about a little case of the sniffles!
But what if we were talking about cerebral palsy, cancer, AIDS, or any of a growing number of chronic illnesses that are popping up all over this world -- and in the body of Christ? Certainly a cold is nothing compared to cancer, but should we not hold the same standard for all infirmities no matter the severity?
Chronic and terminal illnesses are scary to think about and can be very scary for people to deal with. When we see someone, a fellow brother or sister in Christ, who is suffering it reminds us that we are all vulnerable. Part of the natural response in dealing with these types of situations is to automatically assume that there must be some deeper problem with the individual, for certainly God would not allow an "innocent" to suffer unduly. Chapter and verse, please. Unfortunately, when we do jump to assumptions, though we might feel a little safer, we are doing tremendous damage to an already suffering soul. Not only does that person have to face the uncertainties and pain that the disability or illness might bring, but now they have to deal with accusations thrown at them by "well-meaning" Christians. This only serves to alienate the person from the body of Christ and leaves the door wide open for Satan to come in and start heaping guilt and condemnation on top of everything else! But don't feel bad, you're not the first to do it. Remember Job's "friends"?
Job knew that he was in right standing with God. But his friends could not believe that God would allow an innocent to be brought to such an abominable situation. Therefore, they assumed that Job was out of touch with God and reality and proceeded to point out the error of his ways. Take a look for yourselves! You'll find the Book of Job right before the Psalms. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Now, in chapter 42, verse 7, we read, "After the Lord had spoken the previous words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as My servant Job has." Ouch! They were speaking out of tradition rather than seeking God. It was impossible for them to think that God would allow such ruin to come upon one of His own. But God did allow it. Why? If for no other reason than to comfort me in my times of trouble -- although I'm sure I'm not the only one who has found great solace in Job.
By no means am I saying that we should automatically think that someone's suffering or trials are heaven sent. Daily we should go before God, asking Him to shine His light on the deepest places of our hearts that we may be certain of our standing with Him. We do need to confess our sins daily, forgive daily, and yield our lives to God daily. But what if we do all these things and we still don't have our healing or miracle? Praise God anyway!
"Through Him (Christ), therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name." -- Hebrews 13:15. We are admonished to constantly give praise to God no matter what it is that we may be facing. If we keep our eyes focused on the Lord, He will be faithful to see us through whatever situation we may find ourselves. And in verse 16 we are also admonished, "Do not forget or neglect to do kindness and good, to be generous and distribute and contribute to the needy [of the church as embodiment and proof of fellowship], for such sacrifices are pleasing to God." We must not let our brothers and sisters who are suffering suffer alone.
I honestly don't believe that it is God's perfect will for any of His children to suffer. Unfortunately we live in an imperfect world, riddled with sin and its hideous consequences. I do believe that nothing happens to us without God's permission. Take a peek at the Book of Job again. Every time Satan wanted to come against Job, he had to ask permission from God! But why would God give permission for an attack on one of His children?
I don't know. God has His reasons. And we may never know what those reasons are until we see Him face to face.
In June of 1996 I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. No one knows the cause of this disease. No one knows has a cure. It is not a fatal disease, but it does leave its victims in constant pain and fatigue. I was less than thrilled to be told that I had this condition. The first thing my husband and I did was pray for God to heal me, as He is the only One Who can. As my husband prayed for me, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God answered our prayers -- He would heal me. That just left us with one question -- WHEN?
God's timing is a little different than ours. He lives in a realm outside the confines of time. As mind boggling as that may be, it certainly answers a lot of questions. To me five minutes can be a long time, especially if I'm experiencing a great deal of pain. To God five minutes is, well, it's already gone! I've come to understand that His "soon" and my "soon" are not the same. And I've come to have a peace about it.
We may never know how God will use us, our disabilities, or our hardships to help someone else make it through. I know that I have been blessed by countless numbers who have gone through trials before I have and have helped me get through, too. And I've been told that I have helped others by my having gone through experiences that have enabled me to show them God's grace and mercy. Never underestimate the power of God. Praise Him in all things! Be a willing, open vessel ready to be used by Christ -- regardless of your circumstances. Know that His grace is sufficient for you in all things. You just might be surprised at what God can do!