When I prayed for God to display his works in my son’s life, God made it clear that He already had. Our special kids are changing the world!
My son has a list of diagnoses: intellectual disability, developmental delay, speech disorder, language disorder, hearing loss, and more. He does all the therapies and all the treatments, and he makes some gains, then he regresses, and then he gains some more. He has the best giggle and the tightest hugs and brings me so much joy. At the same time, I worry daily about his future, about what will happen to him when I am gone, how much progress he will make, and what he will be able to do. I get frustrated and angry and scared, and I cry, and I eat a lot of ice cream.
Raising a child with special needs can be the biggest challenge and the biggest reward of our lives. If you have a special one in your life, you may need to ask for help, and you probably need to find a way to take a nap, and you definitely need to hear some encouragement. I have been in some low emotional places on this journey with my son. I know what it is like to grieve and wonder if there is hope, and I know what it is like to come out of the dark places and see the good again. For those times when you may be looking into the darkness, I hope these ideas can nudge you to turn around and face the light. We can trust in our Lord to care for us and our children.
“God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” (Psalm 9:18, NIV)
1. Your Child is Created in the Image of God
I won't try to over-explain special needs or medical conditions in terms of Christianity and why a good God would let difficult things happen. I believe that we live in a fallen world and things aren’t as they should be, but I also believe that my son is created just as God wanted him to be. What I know for certain is that the Bible tells us that humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). My son, with all of his delays, is created in the image of God. God knit him together (Psalm 139:13-16) and knows every hair on his head (Luke 12:7) and loves him more than I do. If our Lord was that invested in the beginning, He is just as invested today because He does not change (Hebrews 13:8).
Cory Asbury’s song “Reckless Love'' begins with the lyrics, “Before I spoke a word, you were singing over me.” Perhaps your child has not yet spoken a word, but God is singing over her. Your child is a child of God. She is fully known and fully loved. You can trust that her Creator has a plan for her life.
2. This is a Season
We know this to be true in other aspects of our lives but can easily forget it when it comes to our child with more needs. We can get very doomsday, thinking he will never be well. It will be like this forever. We will never be able to do that. In reality, everything is a season. It may be a long season, but it is still a season. Celebrate every success, every milestone, and every new skill. I am guilty of spending too much time thinking about how far we have to go rather than looking at how far we have come. Progress is slow and sometimes maybe even nonexistent, but there is still always something to be thankful for–the life of my child, his smile, her giggle, a week of health, modern medicine, learning to tie a shoe. When we take time to reflect, we can see the different seasons that we have already been through, and then we can be encouraged in the season that we are in.
Being reminded that we came through other challenging times can give us the relief we need in this one. Journaling is a great way to track how things have changed over time. It is so easy to forget how long something lasted or how we actually felt when we just try to recall it. The written word gives us a real-time account, and we can refer to it well into the future. However you choose to honor your seasons in the midst of all of it, we must remind ourselves that God is working all things together for good (Romans 8:38).
“... so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV).
3. It Matters Deeply
Raising these children matters. It matters to that child, to the community surrounding you, and to the future. A Bible story that I clung to in the early days of life with my child was John 9:1-3. These verses tell the story of Jesus and his disciples encountering a man who was blind from birth. Verses 2-3 say, “His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus said, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” When I prayed for God to display his works in my son’s life, God made it clear that He already had. Our special kids are changing the world! Their light displays the gospel, instills love, and exposes people to differences. This is vitally important.
In elementary school, I had the opportunity to work with some students in self-contained classrooms. That experience led me to become a speech therapist specializing in autism. Years later, I adopted my son with special needs. Those kids, way back in the 90s, absolutely changed my life. We have no idea the ripple effect that our choices, our attitudes, or our words will have. You do not hear this nearly enough as the parent of a child with special needs, but what you are doing matters! Your child matters! You will likely never know the impact that you and your child truly have on the world. God’s works are on display!
4. You Can’t Do It All
This may not seem like encouragement at the surface level, but it is. You can release yourself from the pressure of being everything for everyone. You literally cannot do it all. It is impossible. You are going to fail, yell, mess up, forget something. It’s all too much for you. Give yourself permission to ask for help, watch a movie on a school night, have a lazy dinner, or skip the speech therapy homework. There will be non-negotiables that you will always follow through on–medication, safety, and allergy protection. But there are so many other things we expect of ourselves, and we just can’t do it all.
Find some things you can put on the back burner or completely remove this week. Give yourself space to breathe and enjoy life with your child. In Matthew 11:28 (NIV), Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” His promises are true, and He is faithful. Let Jesus carry your burdens and give you rest.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/olesiabilkei
Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.