I can’t think of a sadder, more heart-rending thing than for a parent to watch your child suffer some physical, mental or emotional disability. It does tear your heart out. Our daughter was walking down the street in Philadelphia several years ago and a drunken, unlicensed driver careened onto the sidewalk and crushed her against the wall. She had massive injuries. If it happened in the suburb, she wouldn’t have made it to the hospital. She was bleeding profusely and internally, had twelve breaks of her pelvis alone.
And when I went into her hospital room, the highest level in intensive care, she’s hanging between life and death at that moment, vital signs out of control. As a dad, I fell apart. And the only thing I could think of doing was to climb up into her bed, put my cheek next to her cheek -- I didn’t know if she was conscious enough -- and say, “Nicole, I’m here, your dad. I love you and I won’t leave until you’re okay.”
Now, by God’s grace, that was a temporary thing and Nicole has recovered quite well. But some of you may be facing things like autism or a physical handicap where it may go on for an extended period of time, may never change. What do you reach for, what do you grab for? I feel the weight of the holiness of this kind of question, and how easy it is to throw a piece of theology and walk away. And I don’t want to do that.
If you would ask me why God would do such a thing in your family, my best biblical answer is I don’t have a clue. But I know things about God and I know things about His plan. Here’s the first thing I would say is God, for our good and His glory, has chosen for us to live in a world this dramatically fallen, broken, not functioning the way that He had intended; and, somehow, some way, that brokenness will enter all of our doors. There’s no indication that the brokenness of the world and all of the harm and danger, disease, whatever, that exist, there’s no indication that as a child of God, I’m given a ticket out of that. I’m not.
In the mystery of God’s plan, He has chosen us to stay in this broken world for an extended period of time. And that brokenness will invade us -- sometimes in the birth of a child, sometimes in the death of a spouse, sometimes in a crippling accident. Suffering is a universal experience of everyone who lives. If you’re not suffering now, you’re near someone who is. And if you’re not suffering now, you will someday. It’s a universal experience. Don’t think that you have been singled out because suffering is a universal experience.
Second, God promises that the way He rules His world will make Him near. I love what it says in Acts 17 that He determines the exact place where we will live and the exact length of our days; and He does that, so that He’s not far from each one of us, so we can reach out and touch Him. It’s the theology of imminent sovereignty. God is close. He’s near. The God who you cry out to for help is near, so at any moment, you can reach Him.
There’s one third thing I would say. The scripture is very clear that God will not call us to a task without enabling us to do it. The grace of God is not just forgiving grace, but it’s right-here-right-now enabling grace. Now, in the huge burden of parenting an autistic child, you could say, “A good God wouldn’t do this,” and walk away. Or you can say, “I don’t understand why God would do this, but everything the Bible says about Him is He’s good and loving and merciful and near. And I can’t handle this by myself. I’m going to run to Him and say, ‘Won’t You meet us in this moment? Won’t You provide for us what we could never provide for ourselves?’”
I’ll encourage you. Don’t bring God into the court of your judgment. That would never go anywhere good. In the mystery of His sovereignty, run to Him and He will meet you and He will provide what you need.