Joy in Surprising Places: Learning from Children with Disabilities

Sarah Bowler's picture


Sometimes as Christians we act like we have all the answers. But when it really comes down to it, we merely act that way because we are afraid to voice our doubts and frustrations.

Many of my most perplexing questions center around children and the hardships they face. Aids. Orphans.  Starvation. Disabilities.

I cry out to God:  Why do babies die and why is Scripture silent about what happens to them? Why was my niece born with Down Syndrome? Why are some couples who desparately want children infertile, while others have kids they don’t want?

I take my questions to God and wrestle with him. He doesn’t have to answer any of them, but sometimes he does anyway.

One such answer came through the lives of two beautiful girls. They are sisters to each other and nieces of mine from my dear brother.

I’ve always admired my brother, particularly for remaining content in his singleness and staying pure though he didn’t get married till he was 35. When his first daughter was born with Cerebal palsy I was deeply saddened. Later when his next daughter was born with a severe case of Down Syndrome I was crushed. Heartbroken. Neither case was caused by genetics, and the odds of both occurring in the same family was beyond improbable.

God, how could you do this to one of your most godly servants, I prayed.He’s waited so long for a family, and now this heartache? These children are so precious, how could you allow them to face these disabilities?

I prayed for God’s mercy, and I prayed for them to become his children though I didn’t know how much their minds would be able to comprehend of his love for them. Then I begin to observe what God begin to do over the next several years.

First, the patience and love shown by both parents is amazing. As they live day by day, trusting in God’s sovereignty, the family is a testimony to all who know them. Make no mistake about it their lives have touched and encouraged everyone who knows them.

Second, I am encouraged and delighted by the joy and perseverance demonstrated by my two nieces. Always full of smiles, giggles, and sweet affection. Always trying and gaining joy through the experience.

One day when my husband Ben and I were visiting, the younger sister was struggling to climb up a staircase. Walking was a challenge for her even on a flat surface, but she was determined to master it. Ben took her hands in his and helped her up the stairs. No sooner was she up the stairs and she wanted to try it again. And over and over again. Each time she laughed the whole way up! I wonder how my life would look if I laughed every time I faced a challenge instead of frowned. This simple joy transcends human understanding.

Recently, I talked with my brother on the phone as he shared how much his youngest has enjoyed the AWANA program in their church. Her leaders devised a creative way to help her learn her verses: picture cards.

Though she typically is only able to speak one word sentences, she understands much of what goes on around her. So, her leaders read her a verse, associating a picture card with each word or phrase. After they mix up the cards, she arranges them in the correct order.

How beautiful! I thought.When we worship God, it is not always by words or eloquent speech. Our actions, our attitudes, and our very demeanor speaks a louder volume than words could ever do. All of us our wonderfully and fearfully made in God’s image, and all of us have the potential to worship our Creator in magnificent ways.

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