28 April 2020

What Special Needs Families Can Teach Others in this Pandemic

The bewildering and unexpected times we find ourselves in today with the COVID-19 pandemic remind me so well of the trying times I found myself in when our special needs journey began. I can't help but draw so many parallels. 
Finances decimated.
Worry about the future.
Everything familiar became unfamiliar. 
Expectations dashed. 
Plans destroyed. 
It's an emotional roller coaster of confusion and chaos. All of it out of control. Sound similar to the times the world finds itself in right now? 

The primary shock of the pandemic has likely worn off as we find ourselves weeks down the line from initial diagnosis, yet we are still reeling from the fallout. No one can predict the future. Doctors try when they have to deliver the bad news but it's just a guideline. There are so many variables at play that even the exact same brain injury in two different children can produce astonishingly different outcomes. This pandemic is rife with a virus that causes no symptoms to severe into death.  The future is uncertain and we can plan to the best of our abilities but must yield to the truth that we have never had control to begin with. This virus, just as the special needs journey, will morph and change us.

What are some truths we can hold onto that will help us focus in the midst of this global crisis.

  1. God isn't punishing you. John said Jesus didn't come to judge the world but to save it. John 3:17. And Jesus said himself, "If anyone hears my sayings and doesn't keep them, I do not judge him; for I do not come to judge the world, but to save the world." John 12:47 God brought Jesus to save us, not to condemn us. God didn't bring Jesus to earth to inflict harm. In fact, Jesus did the exact opposite. Which brings us to point two.
  2. Not one time while Jesus was here on Earth is it reported that he inflicted harm. Not as a punishment, not to bring trouble, not even as a teaching tool. We witness people, already suffering from the effects of living in a fallen world, coming to Jesus for healing. He healed everyone who asked. Jesus brought with him peace. Trouble comes from the world and Jesus says, "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
  3. Trouble will come! Accidents will happen. Does God teach, and rebuke, and correct His own? Yes. Does God hurl viruses at His people, causing untold amounts of death and suffering for us to come running to Him to receive comfort? What does Jesus say about that? Jesus mentions a well known tragedy when speaking with his disciples In Luke 13:4-5, "Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Jesus is warning them to not think that those people deserved a punishment from God because they were evil. He says they are mistaken in believing that God sends an accident or tragedy to someone because they are a worse person than someone else. He is telling us not to be lulled into the misconception that tragedies only befall wicked or sinful people. He says tragedies can happen to anyone at any time! No one is immune. We will all face trouble. But take heart! Have peace! Think of the man born blind. Jesus said neither him nor his parents sins caused it. Jesus states the tragedy at Siloam just happened. It was not designed by God; not the so called "Christian karma" at work. God does not cause all things to happen but he does cause all things to work for his good. Romans 8:28
  4. Our sweet pastor used to say, "Control is an illusion." It's true. The special needs journey will always be unpredictable. Such is life! Even though we think we've got everything under control, we never really do. Disease, job loss, financial loss, social distancing, are all similar to what special needs families encounter daily, not just during a global pandemic.We should be used to this. Enduring extraordinary circumstances while life goes on around you is the norm for many. But perspective changes everything. What are we doing with what we've been given? How do we respond to a world in fear? Where do we seek refuge in times of trouble?
  5. God is still sovereign. Just because the world is facing an unprecedented virus, just because your child has a devastating diagnosis, God is still on the throne. His sovereignty is not diminished because a virus ravishes the population. Was God not sovereign when the angels fell? When the Israelites were in bondage? When people sin? When the disciples died for their faith? God does not need to control every movement of the fallen world in order to be sovereign over it. Just because he doesn't stop disease and illness before it starts doesn't make him any less of the great I AM.

If COVID-19 teaches us anything about God and his love, it should be this: Jesus is who we must look to. Illnesses, suffering, trials, troubles, are exactly what Jesus warned of. And the wages of sin, of our fallen world, is death. None of us get out alive. Jesus gives us focus for the future:

"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." Hebrews 9:27-28

Judgment comes after death. Not with a virus, not with a disabling condition. When we are in Christ, God remembers our sin no more. (Hebrews 10:17) What can special needs families teach the world during this pandemic? First and foremost, we really can relate to your feelings.  We also have to live in the here and now while facing our troubles. But we can face them easier when we trust that God is for us, he loves us, and he is still sovereign.