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Faith and Special Needs

Written by community member Katie Wetherbee

When the editors at Support for Special Needs asked me to guest blog, I was thrilled! I suspected they might be interested in an article about modifying curriculum or working collaboratively with teachers. So, I sent a note to Dawn, telling her I’d be happy to guest blog.

I received a lovely reply, along with my assignment… “Answer this question: Do you have a spiritual perspective on why children have disabilities? Does God choose particular children/parents?”

That’s when I got nervous.

I replied to Dawn, telling her I would love to write on that topic. (That was sort of a lie…) I WANTED to want to write on that topic. However, it would have been so much easier had she wanted something from my head…strategies or methodologies.

However, she wanted something from my soul.

I wish I could tell you that it was easy for me to put together the words to express my answer to this topic. Unfortunately, I’ve put off this assignment in the same way a ninth grader might delay writing an essay on The Grapes of Wrath. Tackling this has been a process of fits and starts, with worry whispering a nagging refrain, “What if I can’t convey God’s goodness? What if my weak words don’t encourage hurting parents?”

It occurred to me today, as I sat at church, that God has a long history of using the timid and unsure for His purposes. Our family’s story is His story…His fingerprints are all over it!

When our daughter, Annie, was about four years old, she became very intense about the issue of “going to heaven.” My husband and I tried toexplain this to her, but we always had the sense that we weren’t quite hitting the mark. I finally realized that she really wasn’t interested in the theology, but rather the actual method of transport. “How are we going to get there?” was her constant question.

She eventually used her preschool-wisdom, coupled with a child’s uncanny knack of being so profoundly in-tune with God, and she explained it to us. One afternoon in the car, she simply said, “Mom, I know how it happens. I know how we get there.”

“How?” I replied, my mind on thawing chicken for dinner. She broke my reverie with this most astonishing theory:

“Oh, Mommy. Jesus comes and He puts us on His shoulders and carries us.”

I didn’t know it that afternoon, but those words would provide immense comfort to me in the coming days. Just two weeks after this conversation, Annie had a stroke.

We were told Annie might not survive, and if she did, she would need an extensive brain surgery. In the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, she was dwarfed by the machines that breathed life into her, the whirring and beeping a constant reminder of her tenuous state. Despite these ugly, necessary tubes, I sensed I was on Holy Ground. God Himself knew my pain and anxiety…He knew what it was like to have His child suffer.

I shared these thoughts with my friend, Julie. “God didn’t make this happen to Annie,” I said. We live in an imperfect world. I know God’s heart is broken, too.”

In her direct, loving way, Julie pushed me further. “You can’t stop there,” she said. “Your logic is incomplete. Think about what happens in John 9. When the disciples ask Jesus why the man was born blind, He said, ‘this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

Did God choose our family for this? I believe He did. He tells us in Isaiah that He is the Potter, and we are the clay. And although I wish He’d have made me a little leggier, I know He molded me to be the mother of my children…He knit them together and counted the hairs on their heads…and He allowed Annie’s illness so that He could be glorified. It hasn’t been easy…many days, I’ve said, “God, help. This is hard. It hurts!” Despite the pain and through the tears, we have experienced joy and peace that could only come from Him.

I know that some of you who are reading this are struggling with the grief, loneliness and pain that accompany raising a child with special needs. It’s my prayer that as you continue your journey, you’ll experience God’s” Intensive Care,”with the assurance, as Annie predicted, that you’ll ride on His shoulders when He takes you home.


Katie Wetherbee Director of Education

Key Ministry | “Key Ministry builds bridges to help connect churches with families of kids with “issues.”

blog | Diving for Pearls – Helping children with special needs thrive at home, school and church


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