By: Cynthia Butler
I know a man named Joe with a personality like no one else. He has friends wherever he goes (some real, some stuffed). He wears an inquisitive grin while delivering his signature greeting, “Are you happy?”. Joe likes to entertain his friends with feigned werewolf sightings and other comedic concoctions of his imagination. One time when we were driving Him home he had us laughing with some such stream of Joe jokes. As he waved good-bye and walked into his apartment, I exclaimed in between giggles, “Good job, God!” Joe is a work of art.
Joe has what would be considered a disability. Some tasks that are easy for many prove to be a mental challenge for Joe. (Incidentally, he could probably out-bench-press a lot of people with higher IQ scores, but that’s a different story). Was it God’s plan that Joe should be born with limitations? He is what he is. I find it hard to dissect in my mind what is Joe’s identity and what is his disability. Are conditions like Joe’s a product of a broken world or are they just a part of God’s creation? Compared to God, we are all disabled. I don’t know any person, for example, who is omniscient. We are each individually responsible for the gifts we are given without regard to what we may lack. And God reassures us that His “power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) A person who is less equipped physically or mentally who relies on God fully is stronger than a highly gifted person who relies on his or her own power.
When God selected Moses to lead the nation of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt, Moses protested, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent. . . I am slow of speech”. But Moses’ impediment was no surprise to God. “Who gave man his mouth?” the Lord replied. “Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
Even after Moses spoke to the Creator himself (the one who had made him the way he was), his lack of confidence caused him to doubt God’s calling on his life. If only he had been able to see in the beginning all that the Lord would one day accomplish through him, perhaps he would not have seen himself as disabled but as perfectly able to do what God had intended him to do.
It may seem unfair that God would purposefully create some people with less ability than others. Naturally, we question what we don’t understand. But, as the writer of Romans asks, “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:20-21). And indeed, we do all come from the same lump of clay, regardless of how we are crafted. We find our true value not by comparing ourselves to others but by fulfilling the purpose for which we were made.
If God includes disabilities in His perfect design, is it wrong to pray for “healing”? On the contrary; a prayer offered in faith and thankfulness is pleasing to God. Centuries ago, a little boy was born blind. Did he pray for God to grant him what he lacked? Finally, when he was a man, he encountered Jesus who did just that. Seeing the blind man, the Lord’s disciples asked why God had denied him sight. They thought it was punishment for sin, but Jesus told them instead, “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” (John 9:3) Then Jesus spit in the dirt making mud and put it in the man’s eyes. He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. The blind man made his way to the water’s edge. As the mud washed away from his eyes, for the first time in his life he saw the light of the sun, the ripples in the pool, the leaves dangling on the tree limbs. From that point on he became a walking testimony of God’s power.
Some people, like the man in this Bible story, display the “work of God” by receiving a miracle; others display the “work of God” by enduring challenges with patience. Paul, the great evangelist, knew what it was like to live with a disability. He called it “a thorn in my flesh”. Although he never revealed what limitation he was given, Paul recounted in one of his letters how he came to have peace in the midst of this struggle. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me,” he recalled. But the Lord said to Him instead, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8-9). With God’s help, Paul learned how to be content in all circumstances.
Joe says that some people are poor sports; they cheat to win and grumble when they lose. But Jesus is not like that. Joe figures if Jesus was jousting with someone for hours on end He could take His opponent out in a second, but He wouldn’t do that. Jesus makes himself like us. That’s the kind of God we have, someone who identifies with our weakness; a God who elevates the humble, small, and weak; so that no one can boast in their own ability. A God who values us for who we are . . . inside.