This article is part of the 10 Things You Should Know series.
1. All human beings are made in God’s image, deserving life and dignity.
At creation, Scripture says, God made man and woman in his image (imago Dei) and this was very good. All human beings, no matter how broken or disabled by the fall, are genetically unique human beings deserving life and dignity.
2. The fall affects every part of creation.
Mankind’s fall into sin affected everything! Sometimes disabilities and disabling conditions can be traced from fallen sinful acts; but more often disabilities are simply a result of the residual effects of the fall itself, evidence of the brokenness of creation.
3. All people are “disabled” by the fall, some more visibly than others.
We err when we speak about people with disabilities as “those kind of people.” The difference is not a difference of kind, merely a difference of degree in brokenness, whether visible or invisible. Every human being bears affects from the fall. The most easily visible are physical disabilities. But all people bear marks of the fall whether physical, psychological, mental, or certainly spiritual.
4. God, in his sovereignty, does not make mistakes.
We read in Exodus 4, “Then the LORD said to him [Moses], ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’” God does not make excuses for conditions we call disabilities; in fact, he takes credit for them! Further, through the prophet Isaiah, God says, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isa. 45:7).
5. Sometimes God intends disabilities as a means to display his glory.
John 9 reminds us that the young man born blind was not born that way due to his sin nor due to any sin of his parents. Rather he was born blind that the works of God might be displayed in and through his life. Sometimes God has displayed his works through healing; other times, more often in fact, he allows his power and glory to reside in and be displayed through the weakness of people (2 Cor. 12).
6. People with disabilities remind us that suffering teaches us more than comfort or pleasure ever can.
Especially in the West, we can be led to believe that all of life turns on avoiding pain and suffering. But Scripture and experience show us that profound growth and maturity in faith come most often through the fires of suffering. In this manner, people who live with disabilities are often our most powerful teachers.
Weakness and brokenness can serve as a whisper reminding us that while life is good, the promise of heaven is unimaginably better.
7. God often moves through weakness and suffering, not in spite of it.
Dr. J. I. Packer has said that “weakness is the way.” When we live and move in our strength, wealth, or wisdom, we quickly begin to trust ourselves and not God. But when we find ourselves weak, broken, disabled, we find that God shows up in unexpected ways. God used Paul with the thorn in his flesh. Many times, “the thorn” becomes the instrument God uses. Weakness is God’s way of moving in this world.
8. God’s desire is that his banquet table be filled with “the poor and crippled and blind and lame” (Luke 24).
Our culture magnifies the beautiful and the powerful. God shows affection for the lost, the lame, the widow, and the orphan. We choose those who will help our mission move forward, people who bring gifts, capabilities, connections, and influence. But God uses illiterate fishermen, cultural rejects like tax collectors, marginalized people like lepers and blind people as his messengers and ambassadors. God surprises us with his mission.
9. People with disabilities need the gospel.
Too often our cultural response to people with disabilities is to patronize them or to pity them. Some have even said that people with disabilities are “holy innocents” or “angels unaware.” But all human being need the good news of salvation in Christ. People with disabilities don’t need pity, they need community. They don’t need people to simply be nice to them; they need people who will tell them the truth about a hope for eternal life found in Christ alone.
10. Disabilities make us long more deeply for redemption, body and soul, in heaven.
One gift that people who live with disabilities bring the church is a reminder that this world is not our home. All of creation longs for redemption, for things to be made right. Weakness and brokenness can serve as a whisper reminding us that while life is good, the promise of heaven is unimaginably better.
Michael S. Beates is the author of Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace.