“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Deconstructing disability: the tragedy of disability (continued)

If you have been reading this blog, you might think that I live in some kind of a dream world in relation to understanding many of the hardships involved in having a family member, particularly a child with disability. I have spoken of the societal construction of disability and have tried to break that down. It is true that many of the problems which people face relative to disability are related to the perceptions of those individuals and their families by the community. The community has a misinformed notion of what disability is, what it means, etc. However, many of the difficulties which accompany disability are hard reality, they are not constructions of society.

The research literature indicates that a child with a disability is a significant stressor on a marriage. Siblings are changed as a result of growing up with a disabled brother or sister. Some forms of disability are accompanied with severe, bizarre behavior problems difficult to understand let alone manage. The difficulty of finding and managing psychotropic drug regimens, which can create another whole range of behavioral and other issues, is a significant problem. So there are many realities associated with being a person with a disability or parenting a person with a disability which can be quite difficult.

What does the Bible say about these difficulties?

Paul describes how a "thorn in the flesh was given to me" (2 Corinthians12:7-9). Some speculate that he might have had epilepsy. So, Paul himself actually had the thorn, not a son or daughter. Paul says, "I entreated the Lord three times that it depart from me." This would be the typical reaction of anyone with a "thorn in the flesh" but God didn't remove the thorn/provide healing. Rather, he says that "He said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness." He goes on to say, "Because of this, I am pleased in weaknesses, in insults, in dire needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful."

The research literature describes one of the most common questions of parents at the birth of a disabled child is "Why God?" But verses like Proverbs 3:5 remind us to "trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding." This was further illustrated in the book of Job. Job is beset with terrible catastrophies which have taken his family from him, taken his livelihood from him, and left him covered with boils and a nagging wife. After much questioning and accusations on Job's part, he finally meets the Lord. After some tough questions from God, Job responds (Job 42: 1 and following) "I know that you can do all and no purpose is withheld from you. Who is hiding counsel without knowledge? So I declared, but did not understand things too wonderful for me; yea I did not know. . .I have heard of You by hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen You; Therefore I despise myself, and I have repented in dust and ashes." It is interesting that although the story relates the difficult questions Job asks of God, he doesn't ultimately condemn him for asking questions. In fact, he condemns his friends for condemning him. But the point here is that the Bible speaks of how God is in control. Our key response might be to repent as described in yesterday's blog, but the take home lesson is that God is in control.

Paul also says in Romans 8:18, "For I calculate that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to compare to the coming glory to be revealed in us." That is hopeful, but it doesn't help a lot when I wake up to my son having smeared his feces on the wall. It excites me to think the future will be better beyond my comprehension, but the present may still suck. I need God's presence to get me through the present as I in faith look toward the future.

The fact that God's grace is sufficient and that He is in control are a great comfort to Christians with disabilities or Christian families with a disabled family member.


1 comment:

Kathi said...

I can totally relate to the whole issue of "relating" to those with disabilities. In most of my interactions with adults with developmental disabilities they really don't discuss their disability or identify it (unless there is a physical disability along with it) because it is something that just makes them "them." The disability then becomes apparent when someone (usually without one!) points it out to them, treats them in a non age-appropriate way or harrasses them. Treating anyone with respect is something we can do and should be doing on a 24/7 basis - especially if call ourselves Christ followers :)