As I went through this book, I was impressed with the idea of the sovereignty of God. That is something that is very difficult to accept in my life, particularly when I don't understand what is happening to me. In a Proverbs 3:5 way, I lean on my understanding. So much about disability and the acceptance of disability in oneself or one's family is about accepting the sovereignty of God. As someone who does not face a significant disability myself, or in my children, accepting God's sovereignty is probably easier for me. I do not wake up many evenings with my child with autism. I don't sit at the beside of my daughter with cancer and wonder about our future together. I don't face alzheimers disease in myself or my spouse and worry at the changes life has in store for us. I don't have these experiences at the moment in my life, but it is my prayer for myself as it is for those facing those life experiences now, that they will lean on God and trust him when the reasons cannot be understood because he is indeed sovereign.
In the book, Keller talks about why sheep would be walking through dangerous valleys. Sure, one might get lost and wander into dangerous places, but the point here is that the shepherd is taking the sheep to greener pastures, to a better place for them. So in reality, the shepherd is leading the sheep through the valley of the shadow of death. The shepherd took them there. And death is not imagined, it is there casting a shadow. However, the shadow is cast on the sheep and the shepherd. The shepherd is there with the sheep as he takes them through the valley to the greener pasture. This is an easy principle to describe, but it is perhaps the most difficult of all principles to live, to accept. Paul promises that in all things God works for the good of those who love him(Romans 8:28). That is encouraging, but that doesn't make life any less difficult. It will hopefully strengthen my faith such that I will trust in the Lord with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. But having faith in difficult situations of life, like the facing of disability is hard.
Like a shepherd taking the sheep to a better place, a greener pasture, I trust God's sovereignty in the most difficult of sitiuations that life throws at me. Joni Eareckson-Tada is the greatest example of this to me, in terms of a real flesh and blood person. After 40+ years of living with quadriplegia, she is diagnosed with cancer. What is her response?
"For years I have hoped that my quadriplegia might encourage people struggling with cancer...now I have a chance to truly empathize and journey alongside, affirming that God's grace is always sufficient for whatever the disease or disability."
On some level, that is what the green pasture looks like when we get to the other side of the valley of the shadow. Through faith in God and her trust in God's sovereignty, Joni is fearless. Of course she fears, she is a human being. However, her response is to trust God because she understands that He is leading her!
The experience of disability is dead in the center of God's sovereignty and the need for faith. I pray for those whose experience with disability challenges your faith. I also pray that each of us will come alongside of those facing the difficult aspects of the experience of disability to reduce the social consequences, to reduce the discrimination, and to become a part of the process of the church (meaning Christians) becoming the green pasture that people desperately need.