The Hope in Disability

Can there be hope amidst a devastating diagnosis of disability? Although lives may be turned upside down, there is hope! Jesus cares about the weak and disabled and earnestly desires them to know Him. In God’s almighty wisdom, He provides divine grace and aid to those who are disabled through himself, His word, the church, and fellow believers.

God provides divine grace and aid to those who are disabled through Himself by salvation in Christ alone.

Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

In Mark 2:1-12 a couple of men bring a paralytic to Jesus for healing. Surprisingly, Jesus does not first heal the man’s body, but rather heals his soul. The greatest needs of our disabled friends and family members are not independence or receiving an education – although those things are very good! The most important thing is that they know salvation in Jesus. We know from Romans 10:13-15 that for people to be saved they need to hear the gospel; we need to actively and regularly teach everyone that Jesus was crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins and hope of eternal life.

How will we preach to people who lack cognitive ability? We preach, speak, and live the gospel in ways that we think they can understand as well as in ways greater then they may comprehend, not fearing the impossibility of communication. God created the mind and superintends above disability and cognitive functioning; He is fully capable of awakening a dead heart with faith in Christ, abled or disabled (Ephesians 2:1-6). God cares for the weak and promises that his Word will not return void of its purposes (Isaiah 55:10-11, Leviticus 19:9-10, 14, Matthew 10:8). This does not mean that every disabled person we share the gospel with will be saved, but it does mean that we have reason for hope – hope that the Lord is fully able to save and sanctify those who are disabled.

God provides divine grace and aid to those who are disabled in His transformational Word.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” 2 Timothy 3:16

We need the Bible, God’s inspired Word, to tell us how to live. By it, we are instructed how to conduct ourselves in all aspects of life. When the world or our feelings tell us to trust our heart or intellect, the Lord tells us to trust in and follow Him (Proverbs 3:5-8).

As churches and parents, we need to be teaching our children with disabilities the Word of God and how they ought to conduct their lives. If we are neglecting this task, we are sinning against the Lord by not instructing them (Ephesians 6:1-4, Proverbs 22:6). Although good things such as independence, education, and recreation are good joys in life, they will not satisfy the soul or provide salvation. Let us not be people who suppress the truth!

God provides divine grace and aid to those who are disabled through the church.

“…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25

God works through the church. The church is so important that we are commanded by God to regularly be in fellowship with the other members of the body. It is here where all believers are trained in faith, have a place to serve, are called to interact with all people, build up one another, and learn how to live in Christ’s likeness (1 Corinthians 12:14-31, Romans 12:15-16).

Families affected by disability need the church. The church is a place where a family, having been entrusted with a disabled child, can be encouraged to trust in Jesus in all things. Even though it may be a lot of extra effort- for both the family to attend church and for the church to serve the family- it is by all means worth the effort for it is a major means of grace which God designed for all believers!

God provides divine grace and aid to those who are disabled through the work of fellow believers.

“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2:45

Throughout Scripture we see God’s people taking care of each other; such as the church in Acts giving to those who had need and warmly contributing to the needs of believers (Acts 2:44-45, Romans 12:9-13).

Families affected by disability need other believers. They need saints to encourage them in the gospel and fill needs in practical ways. Serving each other doesn’t need to look extravagant; it can be as simple as an encouraging note, a small gift, or a night of free babysitting. Regardless of how it would look practically, Jesus calls us to find spiritual and practical help in the believers within the church. Even though it may be hard to know how to serve these unique members, the church as a body should always move toward them in service, not away in fear of challenge or the unknown.

Know our calling

With all that said, still one question remains. What if they can’t understand the gospel? Isn’t this all a waste of time, energy, and resources? Be encouraged, God’s call for us is not to judge how much a person can understand; our calling is to humbly give the gospel as best we can, while trusting the love of Christ to be mediated through the Holy Spirit’s power. Only in this way can an individual, disabled or not, be saved and sanctified. Our hope is God at work.

Holistic help to families and individuals affected by disability happens as we grow in relationship and obey God’s Word in the context of the church. All of these different means of grace and aid are closely knit together to create one body where we await the coming of Jesus who makes all things new. Let us press on knowing that there will be a day when the Lord turns faith into sight, trials into joy, and disability into ability.

For more information about ministering to people with disabilities, check out the Truth in Love podcast featuring Ethan Holsteen.

Ethan Holsteen
Ethan Holsteen has a Bachelor's degree in Biblical Counseling from Boyce College and currently works as a Direct Support Professional at the Down Syndrome of Louisville in Louisville, KY. Ethan has had opportunities to work with the disabled population in various contexts, including public school, an internship with Joni and Friends, summer camps, and residential respite care.
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  • Doug Lye
    November 2, 2016

    A hearty Amen! Thank you for the reminder that ‘God can awaken a dead heart with faith in Christ’. After all . . . if he did it with me . .
    We care for a young man with down syndrome. Although he has limited communication skills, he is unable to comprehend the basic concepts of conversation such as; yesterday, who, what where or why – let alone the fact that he is a sinner in need of God’s grace. His world is ‘right now’. It is near impossible to talk about past sin – even 5 minutes ago, because that’s NOT what he is doing ‘right now’. He is a 2-6 year old trapped in a 33 year old body. I continue to pray that the Holy Spirit would intervene in some way to allow him to see what Christ did for him and his need for God’s gift of salvation. His best friend – also down syndrom, is higher functioning and was able to articulate his faith to the point that he asked to be baptised. Both benefit greatly from watching the DVD ‘the story of Jesus for children’. At the very least I can say after the video ‘Jesus did that for you’ and they seem to get that.

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