Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
What do you think of disability?
Some reactions are sorrow, disappointment and anger. The onset of disability may stop us being able to do something we enjoy, and may make us feel our quality of life is diminished. A chronic illness may be very painful. Needing medical treatment can be time consuming and expensive. Disability can shorten a person’s life, and for some people is justification for aborting a baby. We can find ourselves asking “is this all really part of God’s plans?”
This short passage in Proverbs is a challenge and an encouragement to rethink our perspective on disability. Trying to trust God’s plans when you are in pain is hard, but nonetheless this is what the Bible calls us to do. How can we do this?
Firstly, we need to recognise that we don’t have the full picture -our understanding is limited and clouded. God does though. We can’t have all the answers to the problems and hardships we face in this life. A major part of trust is to keep on following and listening to God even when we don’t see the full picture. Christians are people who trust in God, even when it's difficult.
Secondly, we should be careful of the value judgments we make. We saw in our last devotional that each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). This is as true of an Olympic athlete as of a person born with a disability. Often it seems that our value judgments of a person’s worth are too influenced by what they are able to do in one field or another, or how similar they are to the bulk of the population. However, this is the wrong perspective. The Bible teaches that each person is beautiful in God’s sight, and precious to him. Each person has a place in God’s plans, and is valuable.
Thirdly, we should acknowledge that there is a plan in all this. For example our weaknesses, disabilities and pain are an opportunity for us to show love and grace to each other and to use our ingenuity to the glory of God. There have been so many inventions which have opened up opportunities for people despite our disabilities -from glasses to prosthetic limbs and specially adapted cars- and we can praise God for these advances. Sometimes, however, what is needed is just understanding, patience and respect. The process of caring for each other, and bearing with each other’s disabilities, enriches our experience of life. It is one of the things that makes us people made in the image of God. This is one of the things that MMN tries to do for many people around the world who are suffering in one way or another.
However, maybe we really need to redefine “disability.” Most of the time we use it to describe someone ‘having a physical or mental condition that limits their movements, senses, or activities.’ But seen from God’s perspective all of us are disabled. No matter how we try, we cannot move into his presence. However hard it is for us to accept, we each have a shortened life expectancy, because we do not qualify for eternal life. These are limitations that only trusting in Jesus can overcome. In Jesus we can have life to the full -not because he sorts out our need for glasses or cures our epilepsy, but because he enables us to enter God’s presence and have eternal life.
Sometimes people ask why God doesn’t end disability and pain. But the truth is he has dealt with the real problem each of us faces -however “able” we are- which is the problem of our sin. It was God’s plan to do this, and in Jesus he did so. This gives us a fresh perspective on “disability” as we conventionally see it. In this world we do still have trouble, but we should take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world.