Parenting When Your Heart Is Continually Crushed

The Works of God Conference

God's Good Design in Disability

If you have a Bible, I’m going to invite you to go ahead and turn to Mark 9. About a month ago as I began to first dig in deep to prepare for this conference, I began to get a little uncomfortable. This is a little bit out of my comfort zone here. I began to think about what it might be like to enter this environment and to put on these clothes and to sit down with these speakers at the speaker dinner and talk about theological things to carry out some sort of intelligent conversation with these other speakers. Then, I thought about how difficult it could be to sit on the same stage with Pastor John Piper and Mark and Nancy and to answer deep and weighty questions about God’s good design in disability from a moderator.

I called John and emailed John and said, “Can I get these questions ahead of time?” He said, “No, we don’t work that way. The Holy Spirit will just move in his own way.” I said, “That didn’t help my comfort level at all.” Then, to find out that I’m speaking last, that I’m following their expertise and I’m following their experience and I’m following Krista Horning and her powerful testimony, I mean, that just took me right up to the edge of my comfort zone.

An Uncomfortable and Needed Focus

Then, right before we came here, I had a thought that brought me back and gave me the courage to stand here before you tonight in the midst of all that discomfort. It was this thought: None of us are here this evening because we’re comfortable. This is not a comfortable conference, is it? This isn’t one of those comfortable conferences. If it were, we’d need a bigger place. We’d need a civic arena or something to put all the people in. This is not a comfortable conference. We are not comfortable people. There is nothing comfortable about disability. I’m in good company, right? There’s nothing comfortable about parenting a child with severe disabilities, which is what I get to talk to you about here this evening. From a father’s point of view, there’s nothing comfortable about dosing medications, fighting with doctors, arguing with school officials, and attending countless and endless IEP meetings. Amen?

There’s nothing comfortable about absorbing the stares of public confusion and criticism when your child makes a strange gesture or a strange noise, or even worse, a strange smell. There’s nothing comfortable about restraining a confused and combative child in the middle of a Walmart parking lot while people pass you by not knowing whether to call the police on you or to call the police to come and help you or to help you themselves. There’s nothing comfortable about changing the diaper of a teenager in a public restroom stall while people waiting outside are angry and impatient because you’re taking too long. There is nothing comfortable about disability and we are not here because we are comfortable people, but we are here to be comforted, at least that’s why I’m here. I hope that’s why you’re here too, to be comforted.

Comforted to Be a Comfort

When I use that word comfort, I want to use it in the biblical sense, not the worldly sense. I don’t want you to think of an easy chair recliner in front of a big screen TV, or a hammock swinging in the shade, or a beach chair on a white sandy beach with your feet dipped in the cool blue ocean waters. However enticing those things might sound to you, that is not the biblical description of comfort and that is not what we are here to comfort you with. The biblical description of comfort, the image that the Bible paints of that word, is a fortress and the door opens up and the Savior beckons us to come in and we come in and we stand in his shadow while the storms assail the side and the waves beat up on the door and it stands strong because that comfort is the word of God.

That’s what we have here today. It’s also very important that you understand that you are not here to be comforted in order to become comfortable. That’s not our goal at all. We have too many comfortable Christians already in this world. We have too many comfortable parents. We have too many comfortable pastors. You are not here to be comforted in order to be comfortable, instead you’re here to be comforted in order to become and to be equipped to be comforters.

That’s why you’re here, and I’m speaking specifically to parents here tonight, parents who’ve been at this for a while. No one else on this planet can go like you into a hospital room or a counseling room or an emergency room or a waiting room or a living room and you can share the comfort of God with that young parent who is just now getting their diagnosis. You can do that like no one else. That’s the ministry of 2 Corinthians 1:3–4:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction (why?) so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Many of you are here for that reason. What I get to do in order to equip you to be comforted is to tell you a story. That’s basically what I do. I’m more of a storyteller and less of a preacher. But the story that I want to tell you this evening is a story about a father and his disabled son coming face to face with the majesty of God in the valley of disability. Actually, the title or subject that was assigned to me for this conference was Parenting When Your Heart is Continually Crushed, to which I would respond, the only way that you can parent when your heart is continually crushed is to come face to face with the majesty of God in the disability of your child, or your own disability, or the disability of your family.

I hope you get that this evening. I hope you get that because the story that God has written for you is not about disability. It includes disability, but it’s not about disability. The story that God has written for you is all about his glory. It’s all about his gospel. It’s all about his goodness and his mercy and his hope, and your co-starring role in that story is to come face to face with the majesty of God and just be astonished in a way that not only changes your view of disability and your life, but changes other people’s view of disability and their lives also. So I’m honored and privileged to walk with you through that valley this evening.

The Setting of Transfiguration

You’ve turned to Mark chapter 9. The story begins in verse 1, but I’m going to compile the first 8 verses and then pick up in Mark 9:9, which says:

As they were coming down from the mountain . . .

The pronoun “they” in Mark 9:9 refers of course to Peter, James, John, and Jesus, who were coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration, where the inner circle of disciples had just witnessed and experienced arguably the most dramatic view of Jesus, save the actual resurrection and the future Second Coming.

Imagine if you could just be chosen by Jesus as a disciple, but then be chosen as his inner circle of friends to accompany him on top of that mountain and maybe to walk with him up that mountain in such a way, in such close proximity, that you could see the beads of sweat on his forehead as he labored up the hill, to be in such close proximity to Jesus that you could almost feel his hand take yours and steady you across a difficult ledge to get to the top of that mountain, or to walk with Jesus in such close intimate proximity that you could almost smell his breath as he breathed in the oxygen and breathed out the carbon dioxide that he had created in Genesis 1.

Imagine obtaining a view into eternity as you receive just a glimpse of Jesus’s glorified brilliance and a shadow of the resurrected state of godly men like Moses and Elijah, and then have all of this verified by the crystal, clear, unmistakable, audible voice of God the Father saying, “This is my Son. Listen to him.” They’re coming down from that spiritual altitude, descending into a valley where the glory of God is going to look just as brilliant as that.

Applications for Parenting a Disabled Child

Now, it doesn’t appear glorious in the valley. It looks dark down there right now. There are people hurting at the base of this mountain. There is discomfort and there is confusion in the valley. There is severe disability in the valley, but God’s glory is about to shine just as bright in the darkness of that disability in the valley as it did in front of those awestruck disciples on top of that mountain. I believe that is the crux of God’s good design in disability. It looks dark, parents. It seems frightening, pastors. It often appears as if God is distant and even uncaring sometimes, those of you who struggle with constant disability, pain, and suffering.

But when the curtain of our circumstances is pulled back, what we see is Jesus strategically and sovereignly molding and shaping and using even these dark times, I would say especially these dark times, to draw us closer and closer and closer to him, almost close enough to where you can see the beads of sweat on his forehead as he labors over your life, almost so close that you can feel his hand take yours and steady you across the difficult ledges in life, and almost so close on a clear day when the wind is not blowing, I’ve experienced it before, you can almost smell his breath as he breathes grace all over your family.

What we’re going to see in Mark 9 is that the glory of Christ is not diminished in suffering. It is not diminished in disability. It is magnified in a way very few people get to experience it. As Lecrae says, “We are the lucky ones.”

Run to Jesus

After they come down from the mountain, Mark 9:14–15 says:

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him.

And therein lies our first practical and theological point of application for parenting a disabled child when your heart is continually crushed, it’s really deep, it’s really theological. Are you ready for it? Run to Jesus. That’s it. You’re thinking, shouldn’t it be harder than that? Shouldn’t it be deeper than that? Should it be more theological than that? Run to Jesus with your most desperate scenario. Here’s the desperate scenario we come face-to-face in Mark 9:14–18. Some of the disciples get to go up on the mountaintop with Jesus to experience his glory and some of the disciples have to stay down in the valley. Apparently, the ones who were staying down in the valley were healing some people in Jesus’s name and everything was going fine until a certain father with a certain disabled son showed up and requested that his son be healed.

Going to the Source of Light

The disciples apparently lay their hands on the boy like they’ve done so many times before. It has worked so many times before but nothing happens. They said all the words that they said before that had worked so many times before, and nothing happened. They went through all the motions that they went through before that had worked so many times before and nothing happened. The religious leaders were there that day. They always show up at just the right time, putting the pressure on the disciples, watching, perhaps scoffing, maybe even heckling. Maybe they said, “We told you these guys were fakes. We told you Jesus was not really the Messiah. If Jesus was really the Messiah and these were followers of the Messiah, they could heal this boy. But now, you see that their words are powerless and your faith is hopeless.”

Have you ever felt like that after a doctor’s visit or an IEP meeting? The disciples are sweating, the religious leaders are mocking, and the father is doubting that any of this is real. Everything is going south. Then, just then, just as if on cue — and if you believe in the sovereignty of God like I believe in the sovereignty of God, you know it was exactly on cue — Jesus shows up. And what happens? Everyone runs to Jesus. The disciples need healing power, so they run to the source of all healing power. They run to Jesus. The religious leaders want healing proof, so they run to the source of all proof. They run to Jesus. And the father needs a healing promise so he runs to the source of all our promises. He runs to Jesus. They all run to Jesus. There is a sense of desperate urgency in their action, and it mirrors our own desperate urgency as we are confronted with the light of this world in the darkness of disability. We run to the source of the light. Jesus asks them:

What are you arguing about with them? (Mark 9:16).

You have to love it when Jesus asks questions in the Bible. It might have been Nancy that said something about it. Those are rhetorical questions. I went over all the questions that Jesus asked in the New Testament and not any single place can I find where Jesus actually asked a question to get an answer. God asks so many questions in the Old Testament. They’re all rhetorical questions, aren’t they? When Adam sins in the garden, what does he do? He tries to hide from God. He hides. He and Eve hide in the trees and God is walking through the garden in the cool of the day and what does he do? He asked a question. He says, “Adam, where are you?” I mean, do we really think that God of the universe did not know where Adam was? No. Adam probably did for a minute, thinking, “Yeah, I’ve got this one. All right.” No.

Listen to me. God never asks questions to get answers. He always asks questions to get us to the heart of the answer so that we will understand that he is the answer. That’s what Jesus is doing here with the disciples, with the religious leaders, and with the father. He’s drawing them into himself so that they will see that he is the answer they’re looking for.

Bring Your Child

In Mark 9:17 someone from the crowd answered him and said:

Teacher, I brought my son to you . . .

I love those words. Fathers, that’s where you start right there. That’s your prayer. If you don’t know how to pray anything else, that’s where you start. You say, “Jesus, I bring my son to you. I bring my daughter to you. I bring my wife to you, my family to you.” From the entire crowd, one voice stands out, and it was not the voice of theological education, it was the voice of total desperation. It was not the voice of a disciple, but the voice of a dad. He was not even a follower yet, just a faithful father.

He says, “Jesus, I brought my son to you.” That one statement, that one plea or prayer, I believe glorified Jesus more that day than all the good intentions of the inner circle on top of the mountain, all the healing powers of the disciples of the base of the mountain, and all the propagated intelligence of the religious leaders surrounding the mountain. Why? Because that one statement revealed an absolute desperate dependence on the grace and mercy of God in the power of Jesus. Everyone ran to Jesus with a need. The father ran to Jesus with his son. The birth of great faith often begins in the delivery room of total desperation.

Mark 9:17–18 and Mark 9:22 tell us a little bit about this son. Mark and Luke (in his Gospel) inform us that the son is mute. He has a severe grand mal seizure type disorder complete with the foaming at the mouth, the grinding of the teeth, and the rigidness of the body. It is so bad that his disability makes him slam himself to the ground. It makes him roll into the fire. It makes him fall into the water. He is an utter detriment to himself. As I read through this, as a father, I could think of no more desperate scenario than the one that plays out with your child suffering immensely and you as the parent being helpless to come to their rescue.

I’m speaking especially to fathers here, fathers who fix things. Are you one of those? You can’t fix this. Fathers who defend their children, are you one of those? You can’t defend this. Fathers who stand strong against the danger for your family. You can’t fight this. It’s like punching the wind. All you can do is the greatest thing you can do, and all you can do is run to the source of healing, hope, and help. Run to Jesus.

Our Most Desperate Scenario

I ask you, what is your most desperate scenario? I use that word scenario intentionally. I could say, what is your most desperate situation? But I know your situation. Your situation is you’re parenting a disabled child. I’ve talked to many of you in the hallway and it’s the same thing over and over and over again. We’re struggling with this. We’re struggling with raising this child. That’s your situation. Don’t just come to Jesus with the situation. Come to Jesus with the whole scenario.

The father is like, “Jesus, what if he falls into the fire and he gets third degree burns and those burns get infected and from that infection he gets a fever and the fever increases the seizure disorder and he dies, or what if he falls in the water one time and the water’s too deep and I can’t get to him in time and he drowns and the CPR doesn’t bring him back this time? Or what if I lose my job because of the continual care of my child? Who’s going to pay these bills? What if I lose my insurance benefits? What if my spouse walks out on me? Who’s going to help me with this?”

Bring the whole ugly, crazy, dark scenario to Jesus. He wants you to come. He invites you to come. We’ve heard the verse that says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Do you need some of that tonight? He loves when you run to him. He’s glorified in your desperation. He is magnified in your dependence. I think it’s beautifully poetic that Luke in his account of this same story adds the phrase from the father, “He is my only son.” Mark says, “Teacher, I bring my son to you. I brought my son to you.” Luke adds, “He is my only son.”

It adds a little bit more to the desperate scenario of the father, and I think it’s beautifully poetic, because in essence, it could be said that this father is taking his only son to the only Son. He’s pleading before the God of the universe who will give his only Son so that this man and his only son might be saved, not just temporarily from a seizure disorder, not just temporarily from a disability, but eternally from sin. That’s where this is leading as we see the story progress. Run to Jesus with your most desperate scenario and watch as he turns it into your greatest testimony of grace.

Focus on God’s Sovereignty

Second, practically speaking and theologically speaking, recognize spiritual warfare but focus on the sovereignty of God. Recognize parents’ spiritual warfare, but focus on the sovereignty of God. When we focus on Mark 9:18–18, we discover that this father’s scenario is a little darker than just a seizure disorder, isn’t it? Mark 9:17–18 says:

For he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.

It “shatters him,” Luke adds. So there’s a very significant spiritual battle going on here in Mark 9, and it forces us to contend with or to deal with a very significant issue. The issue is this: Is there a demonic entity or activity that is responsible for my deepest, darkest scenario? Or more to the point, is there a demonic entity or activity that is responsible for my child’s disability? That’s what I’m reading here. Where does Satan come into play in my scenario? That’s a legitimate question, right? I have seen my son go from a cordial, very inviting, fun to be around person to the point where I don’t recognize his face because it’s so contorted with anger and violence as he picks up a 60-pound television and throws it across the room at me.

The Bible is clear when it says in Ephesians 6:12, that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, and the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. And so, the reality of books like Mark chapter 9 and Matthew 9 and Ephesians 6 and Job 1–2 is that we are in a very real battle in a very invisible realm.

Now, just with that in mind, before you run home and start trying to cast out the demon of autism, or the demon of Down syndrome, or the demon of disability, let me clarify some thoughts on that and bring to light a practical and theological response to this very passage. If you read the New Testament, specifically the Gospels, it seems as if a great portion of people that Jesus and the disciples deal with are demonically possessed, or at least demonically oppressed. Why is that? You read through your Bibles once a year and you go through the Gospels, and in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it’s like everybody has a demon. Why is that? Why such a heavy presence in the Gospels, in the Book of Acts, and the early epistles?

Well, when the disciples were sent out by Jesus, they spent a great amount of time and effort casting out demons. Even Jesus says as they return, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from the sky” (Luke 10:18). It’s like a satanic storm that Jesus is talking about. The disciples are just so excited about what’s going on, they don’t talk much about the healing. They don’t talk much about preaching the gospel. All they have to say is, “Jesus, even the demons are subject to us.” I’ve never heard a preacher say that in his right mind. But they come back with all this spiritual darkness emphasis. Why such visible, tangible, demonic activity in the New Testament?

Well, I believe one reason is because the Son of God, Jesus, had come to this earth in human flesh to pay the price for sin and to pound the nail in the coffin of the enemy. And so, in a certain sense, the demonic activity of the New Testament was specifically and strategically concentrated on the coming Messiah and is therefore incomparable to this day and age. I say that loosely. I do not mean to say there is no demonic activity today. I’m a police officer. I work on the front lines of the kingdom of darkness. I could take you out in my cruiser on any given Saturday night, even in a small town, and show you things that would probably change your mind on the demonic.

I’m simply making the point that we need not read the demonic accounts of the Gospels and of the early church, or the story in Mark 9, and use that as a guide to fight the evil one. The focus on Mark 9 and all of Scripture is not on the demonic, it’s on the deliverer. The emphasis is not on the evil spirit, it is always on the Spirit of God at work and the Son of God. The spotlight is never on Satan; it is always on the Savior. So don’t go to the word of God with an emphasis on defeating Satan. Go to the word of God with the excitement of finding the Savior, and you will have already defeated the enemy.

Demonic Oppression and Disability

That’s not just a New Testament thing, it’s also very prominent in the Old Testament, even in the Book of Job where one of the most horrendous, specific encounters ever recorded with spiritual warfare is taking place. In one awful day, Job’s crops were destroyed, his livestock were stolen, his servants were killed, and all of his children died. Let’s not pour over that too lightly. All of his children died in one awful gust of the wind. He got that phone call. And how does Job respond? Does he rebuke the spiritual forces of wickedness? Does he bind Satan? Does he cast out the demon of the wind? No. He responds in Job 1:20–21:

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

The writer of the Book of Job adds in all of this, that Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong (Job 1:22), and I would add, neither did he charge the enemy with credit.

The Bible describes Satan in 1 Peter 5:8 as like a “roaring lion.” He is not to be taken lightly, parents. But did you know that the Bible describes Jesus in Revelation 5:5 as the”lion of Judah”? Did you get that? Satan is like a lion. He’s a counterfeit lion. Jesus is the lion. In Mark 9:25, the lion of Judah roars:

And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out . . .

You better believe it did. When the fake lion roars, people tremble. But when the real lion roars, the fake lion faints. Listen to me, parents. Satan is not responsible for your child’s disability. Let’s go to Exodus 4:11.

Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

There is a disability that Satan is responsible for, though, and it’s found in 2 Corinthians 4:4–6. The god of this world blinds us to keep us from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. He is only responsible for blinding us to God’s goodness in disability. So how do we see God’s good design and disability when the enemy clouds our eyes? How do we parent a child with severe disabilities when our heart is continually crushed by the spiritual forces of wickedness? We run to Jesus. We bring to Jesus our most desperate scenario. We realize there are spiritual forces involved, but we focus on the sovereignty of God in all things and include our child’s disability, and we keep the spotlight on the Savior. We watch and wait in eager expectation as his plan unfolds for his glory and our good.

Surrender Your Doubt to God

Third, how do you parent your child when your heart is continually crushed? You surrender your doubt to God and you ask for greater faith. The disciples are doubting that their faith is strong enough. The religious leaders are doubting that any of this is real. And the father, as much as he wants to believe that Jesus can heal his son, is doubting that anything can be done.

And so, in Mark 9:19, Jesus rebukes them all very gently by saying, “Oh faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” He is saying, “You’ve tried everything else, you’ve taken him to every doctor, every specialist, every therapy. You’ve tried every medication. You’ve read every book. Now bring him to me, and run while you’re at it.” The passage continues:

And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth (Mark 9:20).

Then Jesus goes into the great physician mode. Have you ever taken your child to the doctor? Maybe he’s having a seizure, maybe he has a really high fever or something drastic in your mind is going on, and you take him to the doctor’s office and you’re crying and you’re weeping and you’re all excited about what’s going on. Does the doctor ever get upset with you or excited or not? What’s the one thing the doctor says every single time when you come in there and you’re an emotional wreck? He looks over his glasses and he says, “How long has this been going on?” They all say it. I think that’s a medical question: “How long has this been happening?”

That’s the question that Jesus asks here. The boy is rolling around on the ground. He’s foaming at the mouth. His eyes are rolling around in his head. He’s all stiffed out from the seizure. The demons are screaming by now and Jesus just stands back and he is like, “I’m not impressed. Is that it? How long has this been happening?” Again, Jesus never asks questions to get answers. He asks questions to get us to the heart of the answer so that we will understand that he is the answer. He’s drawing this father in with this question. The father answered, “From childhood” (Mark 9:21).

A Desperate Cry

There’s a lot of hurt packed in those two words, isn’t there, parents? Those of you who’ve been at this for a while know what I’m talking about. Twenty or thirty years “from childhood” is a very long time, and it has often cast him into the fire and into the water to destroy him. He says, “But if you can do anything, Jesus . . .” Do you hear the desperation there? He is saying, “If you can do anything, I’ll take anything. I mean, you don’t have to heal everything. If you can just give him a voice back so he can tell us when he’s sick or when he is about to have a seizure. If you could just keep him out of the fire or the water, I mean that would be helpful. If you could just calm him down long enough so I could get some rest. Jesus, I’m so tired. I’m so weary, I’m so worn out. That would be something.” He says, “Have compassion on us and help us.”

There’s something else to consider here. This is the 1st century, not the 21st century. There are no emergency rooms to run to when your child has a seizure. There are no hospitals. There are no seizure medications. There are no specialists, no special education, no parent advocate groups, no respite groups, no church disability ministries, no therapy, no seizure medication, and there is no compassion from outsiders. Do you think retarded is a bad word? If your child had a disability in the first century people would say, “Your child has a demon! Keep him away from my kids.”

His father could be a single dad for all we know. There’s no mention of a mother or a wife here. He probably had trouble keeping a job due to the continual care of his son in the first century. He’s beyond weary, folks. He’s worn out. He’s ready to check out. Ever been there? Some of you are there right now. Don’t give up. Rescue is coming and it’s coming in a form that is so much more glorious than just physical healing.

In Mark 9:23, Jesus said to him, “If you can?” In other words, “Did you not see what happened up on the mountain? You didn’t see that, did you? If you can? All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe, but could you help me with something? I’ve got this little unbelief thing going on. Could you help me with that?” I thought about this. Jesus could have simply touched the boy, or not touched the boy, and healed the son and gone on his way, but instead he is soliciting the real need of the father and the real need of the father is not physical healing for his son. The real need of the father is faith in Christ.

All things are possible for one who believes. Jesus is not preaching name it and claim it theology here, he is bringing this desperate father to a crisis of faith. In essence, Jesus is asking this dad, and he is certainly asking some of you here tonight, “Do you trust me with your son? Do you trust me with your daughter? Do you trust me with your child? Do you trust me with the most valuable possession in your life? Do You trust me with their life? Do you trust me with your life? Do you, parents?”

Help My Unbelief

The father is very honest in replying. He says, “I do, sort of. I trust you with most of it. I want to trust you. Does that count for anything?” I thought about this as his father battling this unbelief. It is one thing to affirm the truths of the gospel, that God entered our world of sin and human flesh through his Son, that he lived a perfect life we could never live, that he died a sacrificial death that we could never die, that he took on all our sin on himself on that cross and absorbed all of the righteous indignation and wrath of God on himself for that sin, and in turn he gave us his righteousness. He was dead on that cross. He said “it is finished” and it was finished. He was buried in a grave and three days later, he rose from that grave to defeat Satan, to defeat sin, to defeat hell, to defeat death. He ascended into heaven where he now sits at the right hand of the Father to forever make intercession for us. That’s the gospel.

It’s one thing to affirm that with your mind, to make mental ascension to that, maybe to even verbally affirm that. Yet, it is quite another thing to bank your hope in these things and to trust them with all your heart, to invest in him with all your treasure to the point that he becomes your greatest treasure, to the point you can hand your child over to him and say, “I cannot fix this. He is yours.” That’s the hardest day of my life and the greatest day of my life.

There is a healing taking place here and it is more glorious than the father could ever have imagined. The greatest miracle for the father and for his son and for you is not going to be a physical healing, instead, it will be the granting of a growing, saving faith in the midst of doubt, hopelessness, and suffering. So run to Jesus with your most desperate scenario. Be aware of the spiritual forces of wickedness, but focus on the sovereignty of God and surrender your doubt to God. He can handle it. He can take it. Bring him your unbelief. Bring him your hesitation. Bring him your reluctance. Bring him your uncertainty and watch as he grants you supernatural faith for supernatural life.

Meditate on the Resurrection

Here’s the last one, number four. This is the one that I hold closest to my heart. How do you parent a child with severe disabilities when your heart is continually crushed? Fourth, you meditate often on the resurrection. You meditate often on the resurrection. Mark 9:26 says:

And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.”

I mean, all of the disciples failed attempts at healing this boy, all of the arguments from the scribes and the Pharisees, the desperation of the dad, the disability of the son, and the hope of a savior come to a glorious climax as Jesus commands the spirit to come out of the boy and he falls down to the ground dead. The religious leaders probably said, “Well, that didn’t turn out how you expected it, did it now?” All the good intentioned Christ followers said, “Well, at least he’s not suffering anymore. Praise the Lord.” I mean, it’s not how we expected it. We expected the boy to leap up with his brand new legs and to praise God with his brand new voice. We expected a glorious gratitude from the dad and a celebration from the disciples, maybe even a finger in the face of the religious leaders saying, “Yeah, we told you he was the real deal.”

But there’s none of that. He’s dead. Perhaps it’s just the cynical cop in me, but I believe they would’ve boxed the boy up and dug a hole and had his funeral that day had it not been for the next two words, which just so happen to be the most powerful words in all of Scripture. Mark 9:27 says “but Jesus.” Hold on to those words, parents. They will get you through many, many difficult times. Those words change everything.

Raised with Him

Ephesians 2:1–3 says:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

That’s your story. Aren’t you so glad it didn’t end there? I mean, you were dead, you were disobedient, and you were doomed. Talk about being profoundly disabled. It doesn’t get any worse than dead. I’m so glad there’s a verse 4 to Ephesians 2. It says:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him . . . (Ephesians 2:4–6).

The boy was on the ground. His body was limp, his eyes were fixed, and his teeth were clenched. He was dead to the disciples, he was dead to his father, he was dead to the religious people, and he was dead to the world. Mark 9:27 says:

But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

My son, the experts informed me, will never progress beyond the cognitive ability of a three-year-old. He turns 20 in April. He will never speak without the aid of sign language and computers. The strabismus in his eyes will gradually go worse and worse as his eyeglass prescription gets stronger and stronger and his eyesight gets weaker and weaker. His crooked feet turn in and have to be straightened by hard plastic leg braces, and eventually what the doctors are saying is that he will need a surgery that breaks his legs and reforms them. But they will not get better. It will only get worse as he gets older and his legs and bones get weaker. The falls that have plagued his body and left him with a dozen or so concussions and staples and stitches will not decrease as he gets older and his legs get weaker, they will increase.

Some days I lose all hope that he will ever be healed. But God says there is coming a day when my son will fall for the last time and Jesus will reach down and take him by the hand and raise him up because his citizenship is in heaven, and his mother and I eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform his lowly body to be like Jesus’s body, by the power that enables Jesus to bring every single one of his disabilities under his control. I meditate often on that day.

Astonished at the Majesty of God

Luke concludes his version of the story with these words in Luke 9:42:

But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father.

Isn’t that the most beautiful, happy ending to a story you could hope for? Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his dad. That is a beautiful, happy ending, but that is not the glorious happy ending. Do you know what the glorious, happy ending to this story is? It’s found in the very next verse of Luke 9:43. Mark this: “And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”

Listen to me, parents and pastors and elders and teachers and caregivers, and those of you broken and disabled who suffer with chronic disability, that’s what this passage is about. That’s what disability is really about. That’s what God’s good design in disability is really about. It’s about being neck deep in your season of suffering and feeling God’s hand reach down and take yours and pull you out of that pit, out of that muck and that mire, and sit your feet on a rock and put a new song in your mouth. It’s about losing all your hope, coming to the end of your rope, and finding at the end of your rope there is hope in Christ. It’s about coming to the end of your faith and then stumbling upon the fountain of faith, and hearing Jesus say, “Come, buy without money. Drink without cost. I paid for it all. Come, see, savor, and be satisfied in me.”

So, as a weary parent struggling to raise a disabled child when your heart is continually crushed, how do you do it? You start by running to Jesus. Bring to Jesus your most desperate scenario. You realize that there is spiritual warfare involved, but you focus on the sovereignty of God in all things. You come to God honestly with your doubt, with your hesitation, with your unbelief, and you present it to him and you ask him for greater faith. Then, you focus on the resurrection. You focus on that day when he will reach down, take you by the hand, and make you forever safe, healed, whole, and satisfied in him.