During her pregnancy, his mother had taken Thalidomide. His deformities were severe, though he married young and fathered two or three children. His church sometimes had joint functions with mine, so occasionally our paths crossed and we’d exchange pleasantries.
One evening he propelled his power wheelchair over to me, and opened his mouth to speak. At that moment, some children interrupted and asked him, “Why are you like that?”
He smiled and explained, “That’s how God made me!”
Thankfully, I said nothing aloud, but in my heart I screamed, “No!” He could have phrased it that God allowed his birth defects, even explaining that creation fell with Adam’s sin. He could have told them about Thalidomide, even! But saying that God actually made Him that way? I felt angry that he would suggest such a thing. Especially to children!
Yet I knew the verses about God’s sovereignty. I even quoted them in some of the magazine articles I wrote about disability (one article even got published, if memory serves me correctly). One Scripture particularly dominated my writing, while it simultaneously went against my carefully constructed theology.
10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” ~~Exodus 4:11 (ESV)
Verse 11 outright declares that God ordains disabilities, doesn’t it? And back then, that declaration just didn’t mesh with my theology.
I worried that my acquaintance was portraying God as an evil Being Who capriciously zaps people with suffering. It disturbed me that he said such things to innocent children. Probably to his own children!
The memory bothered me for years.
As the Lord worked with me, He graciously brought me into a better understanding of His Sovereignty. I now agree with my acquaintance; God gave us our disabilities so that He might be glorified. I think of Christ’s words about the man who was born blind.
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. ~~John 9:1-3 (ESV)
Obviously in that particular instance, the disability served to demonstrate the Lord’s healing power, and thus His deity. My disability and that of my acquaintance don’t enjoy the same clear explanation, but I can trust His wisdom in giving us these defects.
Sometimes we lose sight of the truth that He is active in the details of our lives, and we need to realign our thinking about His great love for us. We forget how tenderly and intimately He arranges our lives as He cares for us and showers blessings on us. Interestingly, He does all these wonderful things as an expression of His sovereignty.