What I Learned From Some Disabled Christians

Amid a fun week at a Joni & Friends Family Retreat, I had a shocking revelation come to me. The whole week carried the feel of God’s work in unspoiled splendor, both in dedicated servants and blessed families who deal with the multifaceted issues that is life with a disability. My wife, Alicia, even got to be her beautiful, passionate self as Retreat speaker. Still, in the midst of all that, I was jolted with a thought that still resonates through my heart.

It was the night of the camp talent show. You probably have never seen anything like it, which is your sad loss. Among many moving moments I saw a blind, angel-voiced, young lady sing “Jesus Understands” like she really believed it. A blind young man composed poetry on the spot that went straight to Christ in a way only one who walked with Him could understand. I saw another who quoted long portions of Scripture whose disability affected his sight, hearing, mobility, and voice as one who believed it with all his heart. Others with various disabilities sang with obvious sincerity. Choked-up moments came from every direction.

Then there was a moment when a young man with Downs Syndrome sang with his loving father. As you might imagine, he was off key. Musically, probably every rule was broken. Yet there was the look on his face. There was the passion in his voice that little knew where to land on the scale. I went from thinking how it sounded to me to how it sounded to God. Then the thought hit me–Jimmy, have you ever worshipped God on the same level he was as he sang? Sadly, the answer was no.

His worship was simple and that is a complement. It is actually like God Who is also simple. It is you and I who are complex. It is we who have competing motivations–good and bad, God’s glory and my glory. Duplicity is the ugly fact of our lives. The Lord is not that way, nor was that young man. May God help me, as I realized as I listened to that disabled young man sing, who really had the spiritual disability. Lord, help me be like him!

NOTE: There were too many awesome things done by those with a disability to mention them all! One young man ran a rickety sound system for the talent show. Besides that I even saw several with some level of physical limitation who served as an STM (Short Term Missionary). One young lady in a chair sang “Blessings” in a way that every line pulled on your heart. There were so many families whose love for their child or spouse shone through. It was a little beyond my ability to describe!

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My wife has written a passionate piece inspired by the same camp on the risk of practical love here.

For more information about these wonderful Joni & Friends Family Retreat please click here.

Another Kind Of Courage– A Book Every Father Needs In A Family With A Disability!

When disability hits the home, men often swirl out of control. More used to doing things where problems get solved and success is measurable, a disability’s sudden arrival in either wife or children means he doesn’t know the way forward. Some men run like the worst sort of coward, but others stay enough though they nearly fall apart. Is there help, guidance, encouragement to make that way forward? I suggest you grab Another Kind Of Courage by Doug Mazza and Steve Bundy.

These two authors are executives with the Joni & Friends organization. More importantly, they were waylaid in life by a child’s disability. They are amazingly transparent, and in admitting their struggles, they lay bare the ones we may face.

In the first several chapters they share how the Lord helped each of them to come to terms with the major change and to step up as the men intended them to be in the unsolvable crisis.

They give helpful thoughts on the inevitable marriage issues that will arise as well as how to handle balance in work and home.

I have never seen a better book to address these issues head on. As a man with a paraplegic wife, I personally recommend this fine book. Every family with a disability needs the father of the crew to read this book. To all my fellow pastors, please put this book in the hands your families that find themselves in the unexpected world of disability. It will counsel where you simply will not know how.

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Dear Inaccessible Church…..

An issue that every church should think through carefully is whether their facilities, as well as ministry opportunities, are accessible. Do we reach out to the same people Jesus did, or do we require a greater level of wholeness before we want to help them? My wife, Alicia, a paraplegic, writes with passion here asking all pastors and churches to stop ignoring this vital problem.

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Dear Inaccessible Church,

I believe in separation of church and state. I assume most of my readers believe in separation of church and state. As conservatives, we are big promotors against big government and how we do not want them to infringe on our individual rights as citizens.

The ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) was established by the government to provide equal opportunities for those with disabilities. I, for one, am SO thankful!! I am thankful when a door is wide enough that I can get into a building with my family. I am thankful that parking spaces are designated for me so that I can drive myself to a store, get in and out with enough space to get my chair in and out, and not have to have help! I am thankful that I can get in a restroom stall so I won’t have an accident…

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Together Is A Beautiful Word by Guest Blogger Jennie Bender


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Here is a story that will reach your heart. Jennie Bender and her family walked through the fires of trial. She is wife to Shane and mother of Sabrina, Elaine, Darcy, and Davison. They are a wonderful Christian family living now in Fairborn, Ohio. The other day when I wrote a blog post called “What If Your Healing Doesn’t Come”, Jennie privately wrote my wife and I on her experiences with praying for a healing that didn’t come. In her case, it wasn’t for herself, but for her child. That is just as appropriate to the subject as any parent would realize. What she wrote was so touching, powerful, and real, I asked if I could share it as a guest blog post. Be sure to read the extra information she gave at the end. It is an honor to give her piece here. It is little edited so nothing of her heart is lost. Here it is in her words…

I just read your piece on healing. It was a blessing. I believe He can, but I have peace that He didn’t. God gives grace, mercy, and peace to go through trials. I could not do without any of those three at any given time. I have learned more, gained more, so much more. If I could go back– I’d probably selfishly choose to take away trisomy 18 (explained below) and have my daughter alive– without sleepless nights and burning tears, without knowledge of impending death, without… But I’d not know this great grace, I’d not have a strong realization of Heaven, I’d not have a measure of faith, I’d not have the blessings of brokenhearted strangers who reached out and gave me friendship through our mutual suffering, and I’d not have lifelong friendships given to me on her behalf by God’s hand…

I had so many say that God would take away this problem and it’d just go away– because He is God. Death was surely not coming to my house– according to them. They meant well; it was what we all wanted.

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The Lord showed me that wasn’t the way I was going– though I wanted it badly, more than anyone passing by could fathom. I remember my own prayer– “Lord, I know you are praying for me because I don’t know what to pray.” I even went so far as to pray for her death so she could be truly safe– and hastily recanted it as soon as I spoke it– because I couldn’t believe I spoke it aloud. Only a mother dealing with a fatal disorder could understand that prayer and its depth. I wanted her more than I could bear, but my love for her wanted the fullest, happiest life for her– and with her diagnosis the best place was not with me but with God.. There was a guilt after I prayed that prayer because of my absolute humanity, but my heart later knew that prayer was because of my love for her — her grave struggles and future caused me to desire to give her to God– though it broke my heart in pieces. And I am sure someone will say that’s wrong, but the Lord knows how desperately we wanted her– with or without her so-called deformities. She was perfect to us and still is, no one dare question our love for her. Even if they did, there is no point to prove to them. We stand before God Almighty; He knew and knows our hearts. We only wanted her best– and that is love– and the greatest love is someone else’s best over your own selfish desires.

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This is a real issue, as you say. There are so many remarks you receive… some are not helpful. I am so thankful for the people who came into my life– people who were broken hearted, mended, and ministering because they had seen God. They all spoke the same words, just like a painter’s hand is recognized in every painting, you could see His hand and hear His voice through their unique stories. Others did not have that, only the broken ones. They had seen God work –they were compelled to comfort as He had personally comforted them and as they had been blessed by His people through their own sorrow.

I am changed because of those days. They are painful at times to recall, but the changes God made have only made our lives better. Every move He makes is for our good, and I trust the loving kindness of the Lord.

And as for your family and mine, our situations are not the same and not to be compared, but the Lord has made us better friends because of our trials.

(Editor’s Note: There is a hard-to-explain camaraderie in suffering.)

Trisomy 18 is a generation of an extra chromosome. It can be shattered, misplaced, or a duplicate chromosome. The simplest explanation is– it is like an extra puzzle piece. It fits, it is perfect, it is useful, fully functioning, alive. The only problem is–it is extra, therefore it destroys the whole. It can be genetic, it can be due to the age of a mother, but most of the time, as in our case, it is simply an accident at the onset of the division and multiplication of cells. Every time the bundle of life multiplies and divides it creates more problems. Since it is in the actual cells, there is nothing to do but wait. We were told she would die before her due date, she would have great struggles and die eleven days after her birth on average, and if she survived beyond those early days–she would surely be dead within a year.

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Elaine had an extra finger, water on the brain, strawberry shaped skull, a twisted foot, and three holes in her heart– nearly every marker of T18. Our marriage was given a 1% survival rate because of the stress before and after her delivery. God has been good, we’ve not been prefect, but He has led us gently all the way. We have an unexplainable daily joy and gratitude that was given to us because we put our child and our broken hearts in God’s hands. “We are better for knowing her–even if it was just for a moment.”

She is the reason we say and know, “Together” is a beautiful word.

Thanks Jennie

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

If you know anyone going through such times, please let us know –jennie@benderparty.com.

Also, Now I lay Me Down to Sleep is a non-profit organization consisting of professional photographers who photograph families whose children have been given a fatal diagnosis. They were a great blessing to us. Lori Anderson of Simply Southern Photography took pictures of Elaine through NILMDTS.org.

RELATED POSTS:

What If My Healing Doesn’t Come? The original post Jennie responded to.

Confessions of a Disability Marriage Jennie mentioned God’s grace in her marriage getting through what wrecks many marriages. It is tough and I have written on my own case.

The Woman I Love

woman i love AliciaHere it is a year and a half later since I wrote this about my dear Alicia as a guest on her blog. I feel I was in many ways still having difficulty with our new life of disability. I was the most difficult then for a few months that I ever was to her. Still, I loved her and thank God for His grace in getting us over the difficult places of life. Every word was true and I am reflecting how I only feel more strongly about her now. I thank God for her and for the Lord’s work in both our lives. Alicia, you are still the woman I love, now more than ever.

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The task of writing before me is challenging, almost intimidating. It’s not that I lack inspiration. Alicia means more than life to me. It’s just that I know that most of you who read this already love and appreciate her yourself. Much that I could say would be no revelation to you. As much as anyone I’ve ever known, she embodies what is called “friend”. She collects friends like some of us collect junk. Her friendship is sincere, pleasant, can take perhaps more than most, and will last as long as you want it. But hey, you knew that. See what I mean.

As she stated in her last blog, we were friends from the beginning. That we could be more occurred to her before it did to me only because I never thought that such an incredible young lady would actually like me. Before you start thinking this false…

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What If Your Healing Doesn’t Come?

We cringe every time. I imagine you have heard it too. For that matter, you might believe it. You know, if you believe enough or pray enough, your healing from God WILL come. My question to you: is it true? Even more to the point, what is this theological point doing to the lives of some already in the midst of suffering? My wife has just written a passionate piece (in case you didn’t know, she is over 4 years into paralysis), where she comes from the other side to share that perspective. (Link below)

I suggest to you that that is bad theology, really bad theology. Still, we hear in many circles some saying it all the time. Before you cast this off as harmless and perhaps irrelevant, what effect will it have on someone who desperately would like to have healing? I have no doubt that those who say it offer it as a help. Something along the lines of “keep your head up; God will heal you.” What is sincerely offered as hope is in fact hopelessness.

When I say hopelessness, I mean this: imagine praying and wanting healing and praying your heart out after being told God always heals His children, and then the years start adding up and no healing comes. If that theology be true, what are you left to think? There is nothing left to think except that you are an inferior Christian. You simply don’t have it. Others have faith and can reach the Lord, but you can’t. What will that do to your spiritual psyche? Then, when you most need Him you drift away. If you put your all in it, you can only assume the Lord doesn’t think much of you, and really must not love you. Let someone else get healing, and hear a chorus of “See, the Lord does heal all who pray in faith enough”, and at this point, it is hard to even enjoy someone else’s healing!

Well, let’s pick this apart. Will that theology hold up? If it were true, what would it tell us about God? To say that if we pray in faith enough the Lord will heal, does that mean it is a matter of talking God into it? Then, when was God mistaken? When He originally allowed it for you? Or after you talked Him into changing His mind? Did He change His mind because you proved Him wrong? Did He just want to see you grovel? I think you know the answers to these questions!

I do not deny that prayer is an essential part of God’s plan for us. But what is prayer? What is its purpose? Is it to talk a reluctant God into helping you? Of course there is an asking element to prayer, but what is its point from the Lord’s point of view? Many cite the Unjust Judge in Luke 18, but the point there is not that God is like the Unjust Judge and will respond when He gets tired of your griping. It is that if an Unjust Judge can respond from rotten motives, surely you realize that the Lord with His pure, loving motives will be concerned about your case.

If the prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:18), how do you define “avail”? If it means get the answer you want , then if your healing doesn’t come, you simply aren’t in the category of the righteous. If, however, it means it pays off, then your case, if healing doesn’t come, may simply be that of the Apostle Paul. That poor fellow begged God three times in some of the most intense prayer for his healing, but it did not come. For him, he got no less of his suffering or disability, but he got more of His Lord. His healing never came, and as the Lord designed his case, it meant his prayer availed in victory. The apparent failure of his prayer in disability was actually the success of a very able spiritual life and service.

That explodes the theory before us. Would you not agree that Paul is one of the greatest Christians ever? Take another Bible character, Hezekiah. He prayed and was delivered from death to 15 years of good life. I love that story. That is how able my God is! But does that mean Paul is inferior to Hezekiah? They both prayed passionately, yet one was healed and one was not. Could we be overlooking one key concept in all of this?

What about the plan and purpose of God? If He is all-knowing (and we are not!), and full of the truest love, could He see what we can’t? Could He know why it was best all around for Hezekiah to be healed and for Paul to not be? Can you not imagine both Hezekiah and Paul praising His name around His throne right now? Did He not work it too to where they both glorified His name and served Him better? And it was better for us all.

I believe this theory almost completely leaves the Lord out of it. It is up to us to get it done in prayer and faith? Is He that passive in our lives? Even worse, if healing comes, who will get the glory? Often we are more impressed with the great prayers than the Great God Who hears our prayers!

So Now I Give You 3 Recommendations:

1. To Christians

Pray! Pour out your heart to your listening and caring God if you find yourself in need of healing. Walk with Him till you can hear His voice whether He says He will heal you or that like Paul He has another plan. He wants you in “the fellowship of suffering” and He wants to show off His grace in you by proving in a cynical, dying world that His strength is made perfect in weakness and that it makes all the difference.

2. To Pastors and Influential Christians

Measure your words carefully. What you offer as help may be throwing the weight of the world on one already so heavily loaded down. Make sure your statements are truly theologically correct too. To say that God always heals those for pray in faith enough, though it may give some momentary cheer early on, is but an emotional and spiritual time bomb that will later blow up and wreak havoc all around.

3. To Those Whose Healing Has Not Come

Don’t judge yourself by the words of other’s questionable theology, but by the actual words of God. The Lord has a mighty plan for you. Stay close to The Lord. If you take hold of His grace in your suffering you may find that we able-bodied ones, including the ones who make you feel spiritually inferior, may have to tip our hats to you when the rewards in Heaven are passed out. You may be about to soar spiritually if you but respond in faith. Forgive the personal word, but my dear wife whose healing did not come is twice the woman of faith than she was before. Just remember, the Lord knows the rest of us so desperately need you. Hold your head up high!

Link to my wife’s post mentioned above:

We Didn’t Get Healed…Or Did We?

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He Said The Right Thing

I really was touched by my Sweetheart writing this blog. She has written much on disability, but this was just a snapshot of moments that happen. I never even knew she was having a difficult moment. That is just the kind of person she is. Still, these things are real.

You might enjoy other of her articles on the subject if you click the other links at the bottom of the article.

We have additional articles at enjoyingtherideministries.com as well.

I have even written a few here my blog.
Confessions From A Disability Marriage

My Visit To The Disabled World

I appreciate my Alicia’s work to reach out to others in the Disabilty world we live in and to help educate others.

alicia reagan

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The other night I was feeling sorry for Jimmy. In reality, I was feeling sorry for myself and my melancholy kind of morphed into also feeling sorry for him. I was laying on the bed, my spasms were pretty wild, and he was fighting hard to get my legs through their range of motion exercises. If you wonder what that is, click on this link for a video.

Jimmy had worked really hard all day and was exhausted. It was late and he was tired. He was not used to a nail gun at work and had run a nail into his wrist so his arm was hurting. I asked him to please skip the exercises to help his arm. Like always, he wouldn’t hear of it. He is so loyal and dedicated to me. I both adore that and get frustrated at him as I don’t think I could…

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Confessions From A Disability Marriage

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We really needed the help. When I first read the statistic that disability marriages fail at a rate of 80%, I assumed that was just because one ran away from responsibility. Turns out, it was much more than that. When a major disability enters a marriage, it is like beginning again. You truly become two new people. There isn’t the dating time to work through adjustments, nor is there a honeymoon period, just an instant new way of life.

Two things have given me the opportunity to deeply think about this subject. One is a new book by Ken and Joni Eareckson Tada entitled Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story ( reviewed below), and the other is my wife so carefully keeping me informed about a tragedy that has struck the lives of Mendy and Jason Brockman. Mendy is in the first weeks of adjusting to paralysis resulting from an auto accident. Since Alicia and I now have 4 years under our belts in disability marriage, we almost relive in horror what these days are like for a couple. Not that I personally knew that couple, I didn’t (Alicia went to college with Mendy); but I know something of the physical, emotional, and even spiritual, roller coaster that they travel at high rates of speed. Every word you hear about them is that they are wonderful Christian people with a beautiful family and an effective ministry. Still, when you have spent your life riding little carousels, roller coasters take your breath away.

Alicia got burdened the other day and began a blog series on her blog (here) I am so glad that Alicia could help in that way! Naturally, I have thought a lot about Jason too. Alicia plans to write a blog post on the caregiver in a disability relationship. I will be interested to hear her perspective on the able-bodied one from the view of the one in the chair. (She plans to consult me and I have given it much thought).

So as I write today I have Ken and Joni with 30 years of marriage with disability on the one hand, and Jason and Mendy Brockman with only days of a disability marriage on the other, to interpret my own with Alicia of 4 years. One couple gives great insight, the other needs it, and Alicia and I stand in the middle both giving and needing. We are progressing, but we have not arrived.

For me to write about disability marriage from my side is awkward on two counts. First, to share my issues may sound like a plea for pity. Though I may be pitiful, I think we are far enough through the crisis that I feel somewhat normal again this year (2013), which I have not since 2009, and really don’t need the pity now. I both got some pity, and needed it, in those earlier days. Second, I am basically a private person, unlike my gregarious wife, and I find discussing failure unpleasant. I am comforted in some measure to learn that the great Ken and Joni, despite a real love, had real rough spots. At the same time I can imagine in some measure what is going on in Jason’s mind right now. Our stories aren’t the same. Joni and Mendy suffered accidents while Alicia got sick over time with transverse myelitis and then woke up paralyzed. Joni and Mendy are both quadriplegics while Alicia is just a paraplegic. In any event, after reading Joni and Ken, I suspect the marriage issues are the same.

I think first how naïve we were not to expect difficulties in our marriage from this disability onslaught. Physical adjustments were apparent on the first day, as were changing roles for each of us individually, but what this would mean to the mysterious union of two people transforming into one never crossed our minds. Ken married Joni knowing of her disability, yet he relates how completely he underestimated all it would mean. Not that it would have mattered at all if I had known either, as Alicia is mine and the one I want then, now, and forever; but the point is there is no way to grasp all a disability will mean.

Complete confusion was part of my issues. Mental chaos led to just trying to survive the day with no thought of bigger things to consider. I had a struggle for a while the first year where Alicia really had a big spiritual breakthrough in dealing with this new life. That is ironic and embarrassing in that she carries by far the greater part of the load with this new life of disability. Then, for a part of last year I had another rough patch. I am glad you don’t know everything I said or did to Alicia then. On occasion Alicia said a few rough things to me too. We worked through and go forward today.

I learned more than ever that the Lord loves me, and I love Him. I learned I really loved my Alicia too. I can be the romantic guy pretty easily, but I had to learn more–I had to learn more how to love her. I had to learn all that was at stake. I suppose every marriage must learn this, but a disability brings on the crash course. A disability won’t let you learn this strolling through the years. It must be now, or fall apart.

I’m supposed to be talking about marriage, but let me digress for a moment. I learned of ugly things inside of me. Had you asked me if I loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him, I would have honestly said “yes.” It was true then, through the rough patches, and now. Still, there was that ugliness. Here I was the preacher, here I was the guy with somewhat a reputation of being a Bible student, here I was the guy who could show you the appropriate passage in Scripture on most subjects, here I was the guy who read all those books, and the entrance of a disability into my life and marriage exposed me. There was a real lack. I have some spiritual wounds to show for it, but it has been a good thing in my life. Christ, I have learned, still knows how to tend the wounds of the guy lying in the ditch on the side of the road. It is strange that he has to break us to put us together, yet that is the reality. A tear on the keyboard speaks to the raw emotion I still feel.

You surely realize that a disability in you or a loved one is not about the disability itself. It is about God molding your life. It is about love, not hate. It is about help, not hurt. It is the Lord confessing for you what you so calmly ignore–that eternity outweighs time like a mountain outweighs a pebble.

I don’t know why God designed marriage like He did. It baffles me really. There’s romantic flutters and domestic pain, there’s the deepest human love you will ever know and some of the worst frustration you will ever feel, all rolled up in that one person called your spouse. It is hard to make this perfect union of two when each one is so imperfect.

I feel like I’m rambling, but maybe this is more to the point than I first imagined. Marriage is not a bed of roses. The Bible would not have had so much to say on the subject were that so. But back to Ken and Joni, and Jason and Mendy, and even Jimmy and Alicia. Disability adds another difficult layer on an already difficult situation. It affects the marriage on every conceivable level. Whether it be defined roles, or priorities, or physical or sexual life, or even just knowing each other, it is different. Really different.

Still, it is worth it. Despite the whirlwind ride this disability brought in my life, I am blessed beyond measure to have Alicia. Her contributions to my life go far, far beyond the deductions. Ken, more or less, said the same thing. Jason will say the same thing too when his roller coaster finally slows down. When he finally can comprehend his losses, he will as both Ken and I have, also be able to tally his gains. And then we can all praise the name of Jesus Christ!

Here is that post by Alicia I mentioned. Hope you will read it. What About The Caregiver

Book Review
Every couple should read Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story. It takes us beyond the fairy tale to something tangible marriage can really be. Disability is not the only difficulty that can slap a marriage, so every marriage would be better off to learn from Ken and Joni’s journey. What finally comes is truly a greater love story than the fairy tale could ever be.

This book is not a list of self-help points. You must make your own list. It is just the real story, warts and all, that a real couple faced. That they are well-known adds to the drama, but it is real life you read of here. I simply love it. I applaud their honesty. It took courage, but because of it, it is of far greater value. Thanks Ken and Joni!

Book Review of Joni

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This is a guest blog by my sweetheart Alicia. We both so admire Joni, and this book has been a big help to her!

I first read the book, Joni, shortly after I became paralyzed. I enjoyed the book then and found Joni Eareckson to be extremely inspirational. She wrote the book several years after she had been paralyzed so the book has a very fresh approach to the feelings and emotions that follow this kind of life changing experience. When I read the book the first time, I very much related to her physical responses, her frustrations, and her insecurities. I read with hope that one day I could learn all the things that she had learned.

After being paralyzed now for over 4 years myself, I just re-read the same book. It was so interesting for me to read the book with a whole new set of emotions now. I am into this paralysis journey myself and am at peace with it. The questions and thought processes that she had with God, how her paralysis affected her relationships with people, and how she realized that if being in a wheelchair would bring someone to Christ then it was her gift were subject matters that completely eluded me in my first reading because I had not had the time to experience these things.

Reading the book this time was refreshing and encouraging once again and after working with the Joni and Friends Ministry, I find her more inspirational than ever. I, for one, am thankful that the ministry that the Lord gave her so many years ago in the accident that broke her neck, did not break her spirit. God has used her limitations to reach and give hope to those like me. Her heart to use what has been allowed in her life to reach out to others instead of wallowing in self-pity is an example that I pray I can follow. May God use my chair to reach others like Joni has.

I finished her follow-up book, A Step Further, yesterday. I had never read it before. It was a deeper approach to the many questions and comments that you get after becoming paralyzed. Joni tackled each questions with the Word of God and was open and transparent as she shared her journey of answering these questions in her heart.

Does God still heal? Is Satan in charge of our health? If we don’t get healed, is it because our faith isn’t strong enough? Why would He heal some and not others? I have personally been asked many of these questions, I have been told where I was a spiritual failure because I am still paralyzed after 4 years, my friends and church have been accused of not having enough faith for me, and I have had people want to “heal” me several different times.

Reading this was refreshing to say the least. I loved her candid look at many Scriptures (not just a few plucked favorites) and how she compared Scripture to Scripture to give us God’s view of suffering and miracles.

I highly recommend reading her story in her first book, Joni. However, don’t stop there. Continue on in her sequel, A Step Forward. Together, you will get a clear understanding of the many emotions, thought processes, reasoning, and resolve that surrounds a devastating life change.

Related Post:
Confessions of a Disability Marriage

The Master’s Hand–Guest Blogger David Wagner

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What Happened to Me When I Yielded Myself to the Masters Hand

By David Wagner

[I am so glad to have David guest blog for Reagan Review. Here is a man who was a pastor and now lives a very challenging disability. His perspective is helpful as we think about disability and the church. Here is his moving story…]

I am a special person, and it is not because I am disabled. I am special because God chose me to be His son. In accepting His Sonship I also accepted His will for my life. To be honest I would not have chosen the life I now live if I had been given the opportunity. God in His amazing wisdom took a simple pastor of mountain people, and transformed him into a tool meet for the Masters use.

I began serving God in 9th grade working on the buses of Shawnee Baptist Church. For seven years I visited and picked up intercity kids for Church. In my final year of Bible College I was approached to take over New Hope Baptist Church in Kentucky. Over the next seven years God would build me to be a Pastor that He wanted me to be. There were many times when food and diapers were the earnest prayer request. God however was teaching me to be dependent on him.

At the end of those seven years I began to show signs of a disorder that my mom had called Dystonia. Preaching and teaching 4+ times a week and working a full time job began to take its toll. God was moving my heart back home to Beth Haven Baptist Church in Michigan. As long as I was able I wrote the S.S. material for the Elementary classes, and taught the College-age class. My form of Dystonia causes violent muscle movement for 45 minutes to 4 hours. The men of the church were gracious and helped me out of the service when that happened.

Soon the attacks became every service. I talked to my doctor, and found out that they would only get worse. I asked my Pastor to come over, and talk with me. I had to quit it all. I even had to quit going to church. I am blessed to have a Pastor with God’s heart. He understood and encouraged me to live my Christian life from home.

A life of disability is a life of losing things. I lost my job. I lost my ability to drive. I lost mobility. I became dependent on others for many things. For some people, watching me live in pain was too much, and I lost their company. Losing things for me is the hardest part of disability.

The one thing I had not lost was that fact that I was still His son. I also was still a pastor, and God had work for me to do. God had a gift for me. His gift was disability. I would live the life of someone with chronic illness, and He would give me an insight to be a blessing to others who had chronic illness. I have been blessed to publish a book, preach in several states, and talk to people that I would have never had opportunity without disability.

I am not saying you can not be a help to people with chronic illness unless you have it. What God did for me was give me the gift of disability, and the heart to help others. This is my ministry. One of the early lessons that God taught me comes from 2 Corinthians 12:9,10:  “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

It did not happen overnight, but I began to learn a valuable truth. The grace of God becomes more evident in our lives as we need it. The more we realize that we are weak and He is strong; the more His grace fills our lives. When we come to the place when we realize that the infirmities in our lives are truly His gifts His power can rest upon us. So we are strongest as a Christian when we realize that, (Philippians 4:13) “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” We can only accomplish His will with His strength.

God has firmly let me know that it is not in His will to heal me. My prayer is not for healing, but to be used for His glory. For only by Him using me will my life have value. You may not be experiencing chronic illness. My wife likes to tell people, “Our struggles are obvious, and yours may not be. However God uses different trials to make us who he wants us to be.”

So I close with this. Only by yielding to the Master’s hand will your life have eternal value. The trials of today are but for a moment. How we deal with our trials will have eternal significance.

Forever, In His Service.

David Wagner

(David is a regular contributor on Partners For Gospel. Look for his articles there).