One of the biggest frustrations about living in this fallen world is the fact that there is disability. To be sure, all humans are disabled to some extent because we’re sinful creatures and neither our minds nor our hearts nor our bodies are free from the effects of sin. But it often brings tears to our eyes to think of (or face) worse forms of disability; this is why the stories of Jesus healing disabled people (lame, blind, deaf, blood disordered, crippled, etc.) are such a big part of the Good News. There is hope in Jesus for sure, and his people can thankfully look forward to a Day where they will be fully and finally healed.
But what about disability and God’s sovereignty here and now? How do these two relate? I like how Michael Beates (who has a family member with a severe disability) answered this question in an appendix of his book, Disability and the Gospel. Here are his summarized points (from pages 161-166):
1) First, as previously noted, God creates some people with genetic anomalies simply for the sake of his glory. Scripture teaches that all things are made by him (John 1:13) and for his glory (Is. 48:10-11; Rom. 11:33). [This is] a hard teaching, but in it there is great comfort, and by our very affirmation of it, we further glorify our awesome sovereign God. The comfort is that when we embrace the truth that God will glorify himself through everything that happens, we know that in the providence of God nothing is lost or in vain. Nothing we experience is meaningless; everything is significant, the bitter and the sweet. We may not see the sweet side of it in this life…. However, we can rest absolutely certain that such things are not mistakes nor do they happen by chance. We can also be certain that even such awful things [as death] will glorify God because he has said so, and he keeps his promise.
2) Second, God creates some people with genetic anomalies not only for the sake of his own glory but also to show us our own brokenness and our need of his grace. The disabled among us, whether genetically disabled or otherwise, remind us of our own inherent disabilities. When we see them with their limitations, we can begin to see ourselves in a new, more honest manner as broken men and women before God in need of redemption – body and soul.
3) Third, God creates some people with genetic anomalies not only for his own glory and to show us our own brokenness, but also because such disabled people present the church with the gift of allowing followers of Christ to serve them unconditionally – with no expectation of receiving back. In this way they help us to mirror God and to experience giving grace to another as God does to us.
4) Fourth, God creates some people with genetic anomalies to increase our desire for heaven. Revelation 21:3-4 says, ‘And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying… He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore….’ In that final state God promises to redeem all things, making all things new and perfect. Things like genetic anomalies serve as signposts, reminding us that we are on a journey and that this world is not our home.”
As I mentioned in an earlier review (HERE), Disability and the Gospel is a helpful book – I recommend it, and I recommend reading the entire section I edited above. If you are disabled to any extent, or if it affects you in some way, please press on in the faith, try to set a good Christian example for others, and be greatly encouraged that since Jesus died on the cross, rose from the grave, and promised to come back and make all things new, you will one day receive a glorious body like his (Phil. 3:21). It won’t be long now!