Can a Child with Disabilities Have a Faith?
Can a child with disabilities have a faith? That’s the question guest blogger Mark Arnold addresses in today’s post. His thoughts offer an abundance of biblical assurance and common sense that breeds hope.
Many Christian parents of a child with additional needs or a disability ask this question: Can a child with disabilities have a faith? It can be hard to answer, especially when a child has limited communication. But perhaps there are clues to piece together–things that Jesus did, understanding how our child responds to God–that can stretch and grow our faith too.
In a previous guest series Different Dream, we examined how a boy described as having an unclean spirit was healed by Jesus and how he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. This same Jesus who healed and raise people from the dead, and who rose from the dead, can reach into the hearts and minds of anyone to bring them to faith.
To suggest that a child is unable to be reached by Jesus is to ignore scripture and to put limits on the power of the Holy Spirit. Everyone is able to be reached and to come to faith.
A little boy named Jack is a modern example of this truth. He was about eight when I met him at an Easter festival. While overseeing the inclusion provision, I learned he had autism. He doesn’t communicate verbally, but does in other ways. He prefers not to be in a large, noisy group and finds contact with someone he doesn’t know difficult. I watched him build a tower out of Jenga blocks and saw a lot of my own son James in him. I got on the floor and help him, as he’d been struggling to build alone.
We built the tower, watched if fall, and built it again many times; each time it fell Jack laughed–a wonderful joy filled belly laugh of pleasure–and glanced at me to start again. It was great fun. Eventually I had to leave Jack to carry on alone. He seemed weak and small again. He got the tower to six or seven blocks high, and it all fell down. No joy filled belly laugh anymore. He just started over again. My heart broke.
I wondered whether Jack had been impacted by any of the spiritual programs in his session at our Easter festival. Or had he just been child-minded, busying himself with Jenga blocks? A few weeks later, I got the answer. His family had got in touch with the festival organizers to say what had happened on their way home. Jack, who is almost entirely non-verbal, had been singing, yes singing, a line from the song Cornerstone which the worship band had played during in his sessions.
Weak made strong, weak made strong, weak made strong!
His eyes shone as he sang.
My heart broke for Jack again, but this time with joy that his heart had been touched by this song. That through it he had indeed encountered the Savior’s love. I can no longer sing that song without remembering Jack, without thinking of him, without crying tears of joy that he is loved by his Savior.
Can a child with disabilities have a faith? Jack taught me that there is hope for every child. He taught me that Jesus Christ can reach everyone, everyone, with his love through the power of the Holy Spirit. No matter how profoundly the impact of additional needs or disabilities, the love of Christ can and does reach our children. As Paul wrote, it’s all about grace:
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses,
so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses,
in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 New International Version (NIV)
Our children can indeed be reached by the love of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. They can respond in faith, and our own faith and understanding can grow and be strengthened too.
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By Mark Arnold
Mark Arnold is the Additional Needs Ministry Director at Urban Saints, a leading national Christian children’s and youth organization. He is co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance, a national and international advocate for children and young people with additional needs or disabilities. Mark is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner, a member of the Council for Disabled Children and the European Disability Network. He writes an additional needs column for Premier Youth and Children’s Work (YCW) magazine and blogs at The Additional Needs Blogfather. He is father to James, who has autism spectrum condition, associated learning disability, and epilepsy. To find out more about how Mark’s work can help you, contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @Mark_J_Arnold.
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