Disability Is Not a Death Sentence

It was recently reported that Iceland has come close to completely “eradicating” Down syndrome births. This wasn’t accomplished through some newly developed treatment or cure. The reason for the decline in babies born with Down syndrome is abortion.

According to CBS News, close to 100% of women in Iceland who received a positive prenatal screening for Down syndrome chose to abort their child (along with extremely high abortion rates in other European countries).

The reality devastates me. In places in our world it is not only legal, but socially acceptable and even encouraged to end a life based on the possibility of that boy or girl having a particular health condition. Disability should not be a death sentence. No matter how many legalize or condone these murders, we stand against the laws, against the trends, and against the prevailing culture. We tell a different story and stand for every human life, especially the vulnerable and defenseless.

A Gift, Not a Burden

I was fairly young when I first heard someone speak negatively about raising a child with a disability. After absorbing their words, I realized I must be among those who are considered particularly difficult to love and accept, because I also had a disability. My existence was the worst case scenario most parents hoped they’d never have to face. Over and over again, my limitations made a situation uncomfortable or complicated, convincing me I was the problem.

Many in the world think (and even say) that those of us with a chronic illness or disability are less valuable. With selective abortion becoming increasingly acceptable and the legalization of assisted suicide in some areas, the messages are louder and clearer.

Our world has moved across a very thick, dark line between working to eliminate diseases in an effort to preserve lives, to eliminating lives in an effort to create a disease-free society. The familiar and haunting chorus says that pursuing a pain-free life through a disease-free world is what will ultimately buy happiness. Death is considered better than disability.

But the gospel scrapes the paint off of that lie. James tells us that the suffering we experience in this life should be considered pure joy (James 1:2–4), not avoided at all cost. Our trials are not filled with joy because we’re asked to take delight in experiencing pain, but because God often uses pain to deepen our joy and make us more like him, growing our faith in and dependence on him through hardship and suffering.

Whether we suffer our own debilitating condition or care for children who have an illness or disability, we are promised that he has a greater purpose in mind than we can see today that will ultimately bring us stronger, fuller joy forever (2 Corinthians 4:17).

A Call to Protect

Followers of Christ cherish and protect children like Christ cherishes and protects children. When people brought children to Jesus, the disciples wrongly rebuked them and tried to turn the children away, but Jesus rebuked his disciples (Matthew 19:13–15). He defended and welcomed the children.

When we condone ending the life of a child, like those disciples confronting the Christ, we rebuke God. He chose to bring this child into the world. When Jesus interacted with those in society whom no one would touch, he demonstrated over and over again that every human being is valuable. Every child has immeasurable worth, whether or not they have a health condition. Every person deserves for their life to be protected, especially if they are not able to protect it themselves.

Their lives are as valuable as any, and we have a responsibility not only to fight for them, but to celebrate them. We emphatically stand against any effort to end the lives of those wrongly considered less valuable. We follow Jesus to the most vulnerable, and orient our lives and churches in a way that welcomes, loves, cares for, protects, and rejoices in all children and any individual who may be viewed as “less than” by society.

We Know the End of the Story

God promises us that he does have a plan to eradicate every disability, disease, and painful thing we experience on this earth (Revelation 21:4). But the pathway to this perfect, eternal healing is through life — through Christ — not death. We are not responsible for our own healing. We refuse to end the lives of precious human beings in an effort to escape the weight of our temporary afflictions.

Nothing we experience on this earth is ever wasted  — not one ounce of our sickness or suffering. God is working all things together to accomplish good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). What we experience now will not always feel good to us, but we know that it will accomplish the greatest good of drawing us to him until he brings us home, where we will experience complete healing.

Therefore, there is no need to fear disability or disease — in us, or in our precious children. The Lord will provide everything we need to care for those he has entrusted to our care (Matthew 6:25–26). He will use the lives of all his children to leave a profound impact on the world and shine a light on his love and care for each of us. We can trust that he will carry out his purpose. And when our task is complete, he will welcome us home in the same way Jesus loved and welcomed the little children.