What About When the Hurt Comes from Your Church?

What About When the Hurt Comes from Your Church?

This is a plea to parents of children with disabilities — if you are in a faithful, Bible-saturated church, hang in there with them while they figure things out. Even when they don’t “get it.” Even when they hurt you. Joy will come.

Weariness and Wariness

There is a peculiar intensity to experiencing disability in this culture. My wife remarked just last week, “you would think I would be used to all the stares by now. I’m not.” The weariness and wariness that accompanies this kind of attention can be debilitating on its own.

And I believe that Satan takes perverse delight when this wearying attention shows up in the church. Maybe you have been wounded by your faith family through remarks people have made or even how people looked at your disabled child.

The deadly trifecta of Satan, sin and the world conspire together. The enemy loves to feed our bitterness. Our own sinful hearts prefer to stew in self-righteousness rather than extend grace.

Called to Something Greater

But we are called to something much greater: we have been loved much when we deserved wrath (Romans 5:8). Our Jesus, who took our wrath and who reigns as King over everything, commands us to love like he loves (John 13:34)! We are warned specifically to lay aside bitterness and forgive (Ephesians 4:31-32).

I know it can seem easier to complain or even leave a church where everything seems so hard. I once ran away from an imperfect church full of people who made all kinds of mistakes. But God wanted to demonstrate his extraordinary love to me and to my family through that same church — and convict me of my own pride and self-righteousness that could destroy me. God has been kind to me. 

He Belonged

At a recent church gathering, we encountered looks from imperfect people — but not like when we go to the grocery store. These looks were full of affection. Paul was kindly regarded in their midst, even as he flicked his fingers and rocked in the unusual manner of some kids with autism. He belonged.

That night I wept again at the goodness of God for my church. 

May such tears of joy find you in your church as well. And may God grant you the persevering grace until the joy comes.

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John Knight is Director of Donor Partnerships at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.