I am bothered by cute little quips like “God never gives you more than you can handle.”
Not only is that sound bite found nowhere in the Bible, but it also portrays a weird image of God. That saying makes it sound like God is a sort of cupid, taking aim with his bow and pausing each time to consider, “Hmm, is she strong enough? No, not at all. I’ll let her continue to live a blissfully easy life… but, ooh, that one. He is strong enough. Let me grab the arrow labeled ‘have a disabled child’ and shoot it straight at him…”
The God of the Bible is sovereign – by which I mean in control of everything – and that also means that he isn’t bound by quaint clichés. It does mean, though, that life includes things we may not understand. If God is big enough to make this world, create each person, and intimately know the circumstances of not only his people but of the birds (see Matthew 6:26), then he is big enough to know or understand things that do not make sense to us.
As someone who has rheumatoid arthritis and is in pain each day (and is actually recovering right now from a related knee surgery), I find comfort in knowing that God has a bigger picture view than I do: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares 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)
However, God gives us more than just the assurance that he has it under control even when we don’t understand. In John 9:1-3, Jesus and the disciples come across a man who is blind. In looking at these verses, people often skip verse one, but it is precious to me that Christ saw the man who was blind before anyone else did.
Just as he sees and knows each of us.
The disciples ask him who sinned to cause the man’s blindness, the man or his parents. Jesus replied with these words: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Each of us is created by God (as we see in Genesis 1 &2 and Psalm 139) and has the opportunity to demonstrate God’s works in our lives, and our kids and adults with disabilities are no different.
When we look particularly at God’s role in disability, we learn in God’s response to Moses’ speech limitations in Exodus 4:11, ““Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” Based on this verse, we can’t deny God’s role in disability. It isn’t an accident that catches him off guard. He orchestrates disability, even when we can’t or don’t understand why.
Then we see in 1 Corinthians 12 that God’s design for the church turns the world’s design upside down. The world categorizes those who are judged to be weak or less or hindered. 1 Corinthians 12 shows us that we are all created differently according to God’s purpose and that the parts some might consider “weak” are actual indispensable (see 1 Corinthians 12:22 in particular). That’s why I do what I do in leading special needs ministry – as a volunteer, not a paid staff member – in my church.
Disability does not surprise God, even when it does surprise us. Disability does not cause God to turn his back on us, even when his people do that to you, as some churches have sinfully done so. On my blog www.TheWorksofGodDisplayed.com, I write about ministries that include people with disabilities in the Christian church, including in my own church, and I make myself available to talk to churches about this. Why?
Because the gospel doesn’t exclude people with disabilities.
When Jesus was promised in Old Testament, when he was immaculately conceived in Mary, when he was born in a stable, when he lived a sinless life, when he died on the cross for the penalty of all sin, and when he rose again to conquer death once and for all to make available the gift of God to have eternal life with him in heaven … when he did all those things, as laid out in the full narrative of the Bible, he did it all for people without disability and people with disability.
Everything God does is done intentionally, even if we don’t see the big picture. It’s not random, like the arrows of a cosmic cupid.
Shannon Dingle is the mom to two preschoolers, Robbie and Jocelyn, and the co-coordinator – with her husband – of Access Ministry, the special needs ministry of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. She writes TheWorksofGodDisplayed.com to equip churches to welcome all the people of God.
If you would like to contribute an essay on your faith (all faiths welcomed) perspective and special needs, we welcome it. Please contact Julia@supportforspecialneeds.com