Different Dream concludes the three-part series from guest blogger, Diane Dokko Kim. Today, Diane shares about why she wrote Unbroken Faith: Spiritual Recovery for the Special Needs Parent, and whom it was written for. (Heads up: It’s not just for parents of children with special needs.)
Why did you write Unbroken Faith?
When our son was diagnosed in 2004, my husband and I were fresh off the mission field and had committed ourselves to full-time ministry. Then, we got hit with this. Feeling trapped and chagrined, I felt as if I had nowhere to go with my shock, grief –and quite honestly—my outrage. So I poured out my anguish into a password-protected journal. For years, I wrestled privately with God: How could He do this to us? How can I trust Him after this? After about five years, rather than healing our child of his developmental disability, God healed me of my spiritual disability. The very thing I thought would destroy my relationship with God was the very thing that drew me closer to Him, and to understanding His heart, anew.
Why is Unbroken Faith needed?
Unbroken Faith is the book I wish had existed for that crucial time, immediately post-diagnosis. Like most special-needs parents, I Googled everything I could get my hands on. I found many resources that targeted my son’s disability, but few that addressed my own spiritual needs. Nothing scratched where I itched – or, more accurately, where my soul ached.
After God healed my heart through His Word, I was asked to lead a special needs parent support group. As I got to know other families with a wide range of diagnoses, I marveled that regardless how rare a diagnosis, no matter how different our cultures or socio-economic backgrounds, we all shared the same core struggles: How could God let this happen? Why us? Is He going to fix this? If not, how will I get through this? How can I trust Him again?
We all felt spiritually disillusioned, our faith “broken.” Especially when 90% of our families are unable to attend church, who else hungers more for hope and encouragement that God has a plan for our children and our families? In a world that devalues those who are different, who else needs to hear the Good News that our children are wonderfully and fearfully made?
God was calling me to comfort others with the comfort I had received from Christ. The pain that once wrecked us, God had redeemed and repurposed into a calling to minister to others.
What’s different about Unbroken Faith?
I intentionally wrote Unbroken Faith to not be about my family’s story, but about the collective, universal experience of ALL families affected by disability. The illustrations in the book speak to the most common denominators that all special-needs families face: feeling devastated by unexpected news, having to recalibrate our expectations, feeling overwhelmed, unqualified, fearful, and isolated. No matter what the diagnosis, we all feel this way. But no matter what the disability or special need, Jesus is an equal opportunity healer and Redeemer.
Unbroken Faith spends a significant amount of time giving parents “permission” to grieve the loss of expectations. When God devotes half the book of Psalms to validate and honor human grief and doubts, then we can know that our grief matters to God. If we cannot grieve, we cannot heal. And if we cannot heal, we’re unable to open our hearts or hands to receive the new, unique blessings God wants to reveal in and through our children.
It’s also unique in that it’s written in a hybrid devotional-Bible study format. Each chapter is short (because special needs parents are busy!) and includes cross-referenced Scriptures, a prayer and application questions. It can be used for personal reflection as well as group study and discussion.
Who (else) might be interested and why?
Unbroken Faith: Spiritual Recovery for the Special-Needs Parent is for parents, of course. But it’s also for the extended family, friends, neighbors and church community who love them. I consider the closest concentric circles to a family affected by disability as “first responders.” These also include the wonderful circles of therapists, clinicians, educators who work directly with special needs families, as well as church staff and ministry team volunteers (e.g. pastors, children and student ministry leaders) and counselors and therapists who can wrap around to provide needed emotional and spiritual supports.
In particular, I wrote chapter 18, Compassion: Suffering With (available in the free extended preview) to help others understand and know how to support a family affected by disability: What to say or do, what not to say or do. Because our closest friends and family want to help, but they often don’t know how, and may fear getting it wrong.
I hope and pray that Unbroken Faith can serve as a translator or tour guide to the complex and delicate world of special needs, to equip “non-native” speakers with understanding, empathy and compassion.
Lastly, Unbroken Faith is for anyone who’s been crippled by anything. We all live as residents of a broken planet. None of us are exempt from getting pierced by its jagged edges. At some point, all believers must contend with “How could God let this happen? Is He going to fix this? If not, how will I get through it? How will I trust God again?” Whether it’s a diagnosis, disorder, divorce, death –or the death of a dream– everyone has to reconcile our faith with disappointment. But no matter what our spiritual condition, we can all have the same solution. His name is Jesus.
Diane is the mother of a child with multiple disabilities including autism and ADHD. Since 2008, she has served as a special needs ministry consultant, partnering with Joni and Friends as a national speaker, trainer and ministry ambassador. Author of Unbroken Faith: Spiritual Recovery for the Special Needs Parent(Worthy, April 2018), her work has been featured in Orange’s Parent Cue, Parenting Magazine, Dandelion Magazine, and Not Alone. Diane’s passion is to encourage weary parents and empower them to experience the timeless relevance of God’s Word applied to the gritty realities of special needs family life. She and her husband, Eddie, live in the heart of Silicon Valley with their two sons. Connect with her on Facebook or www.dianedokkokim.com where she blogs on being wrecked, redeemed and repurposed.
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