by Mona Fuerstenau
As a passionate advocate for those with disabilities, one who daily parents a young adult with a disability and works with individuals and families living with disabilities, I often hear emotional comments from the heartbroken to the callous. Parents just receiving a diagnosis of their child’s disability are filled with emotions from fear to confusion to anger. Spouses just receiving the diagnosis of degenerative or terminal illness, or guarded prognosis of recovery from catastrophic events such as stroke or accident, experience similar emotions.
Fear of what disability will look like and be like, confusion about mixed feelings and messages from family and health professionals, and anger at having dreams so drastically challenged and decisions that need to be made are some of what people struggle with.
The truth is we all have dreams of what our lives will look like. Those dreams begin when we are young and include future careers, places to live, perhaps a spouse and a family. Dreams are important. They guide and encourage us. And as people of God we rest in His words in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV):
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Our dreams evolve over time. We grow, we learn, we change, we adapt, we reset. But dreams don’t typically include the above scenarios. And when those events occur, a dream dies. And the death of a dream is very real and very painful. Just like a physical death, there is a time of grief and mourning—and that time is very much needed.
But the death of a dream does not mean physical death is the answer. God’s Word is the answer.
Our throw-away culture values ability and perfection. Those values increasingly and unfairly characterize the preborn diagnosed with disability as not even worthy to be born. But God’s Word is clear in King David’s Psalm 139:13-13 (NIV):
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
When people ask why this has happened, I read them God’s Word in the story of the man born blind in John 9:3 (NIV):
“‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”
When people question the value of a life lived with disability, I share God’s Word concerning the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:22 (NIV):
“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.”
Note it does not say those that are weaker, but those that seem to be weaker are indispensable! And 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV):
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
It says each one, not just those without disability. When people consider euthanasia for those experiencing illness or decline with aging, God’s Word is clear again through King David in Psalm 139:16b (NIV):
“[A]ll the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
People may say all kinds of things like, “God won’t give you more than you can handle” or “God helps those who help themselves” or “God gives us intellect to make hard decisions.” But those are not God’s words. What is needed is to hear the truths in God’s Word—to hear that God’s got this! God’s got you all! Rest in Him, and He will walk with you through the tears, the fears, the confusion, and the anger to bring peace and joy in the journey!
My hope and prayer and encouragement to each of you is to see people of all abilities as God sees them. Each of His children is beloved and valued. Each is uniquely gifted so that the work of God may be displayed—through every season of life.