Who among us has not been sympathetically given the old addages of – “God works all things for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose”, and “God knew you were the right parent for your child”, and “God is sovereign”, and “Don’t be anxious for anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication make your requests known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus” and a thousand other Bible verses and cool quotes from famous people no one cares about, except for their cool quotes – when they saw us suffering from any variety of trial? This is not simply for special needs parents out there. This is just written by one. We all struggle. We all have trials. We have all faced crisis and tragedy and some of us have even experienced terrible evil in this world that not even special needs parents hold a candle to (as if we’re the only ones who struggle with difficult trials – which of course, we’re definitely not.) There’s no contest for “who’s had it the worst”. We all have it bad in varying degrees at different times in our lives and we simply cannot compare to the suffering of others. If we do, we either suffer from pride (I have it way better than they do) or from self-pity (no one has it worse than me). Both are sinful attitudes.
People have told me, I think in an effort to help, that they can’t imagine parenting a child with autism, and they feel they have no place to encourage me because they have no clue what I’m going through. I understand they’re trying to minimize themselves to boost me, but that’s not what I want. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else because I have a son with autism and therefore have harder trials than people with neurotypical kids. I’m not better because I have more reason to be sad, or depressed or bitter and resentful. I’m different. I’m not worse-off than you because my family gets to claim “special needs”. I’m different. I’m also not the same as you. I’m unique in my personality, my background, my family life, my hopes and dreams, my desires, what makes me tick and what ticks me off. We’re different in all these respects, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
But we do share something in common. We’re all sinners, living in a fallen world because of sin, in need of hope for redemption and the ultimate rescuing from this world of darkness and decay and disease and danger and disaster. And because we all share in this world as human beings, we also share in the hope of the next world and the joy it will bring – if we share Christ as Lord as believers.
We Christians have some whacked-out, backwards, upside-down beliefs. We echo the words of Paul, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) We claim the words of Jesus as our own, “you must lose your life to find it”. (Matthew 16:23) There’s more. Die to sin and live in the Spirit. (Romans 6:11) The first shall be last and the last shall be first. (Matthew 20:16) The humble are exalted and the exalted are humbled (Matt 23:12). When we are weak, then we are strong. (II Corinthians 12:10) The poor are rich (Matt 5). The rich are made poor. (II Corinthians 8:9) The wise of the world are made foolish; the foolish things of God are shown to be wise. (I Corinthians 1:25) If you love something, set it free. Okay, I’m kidding on that last one (that’s NOT in the Bible!). Just keeping you on your toes.
But we have excellent reason – the most excellent reason – to believe all these crazy ideas. Because it’s actually all true. We believe the Bible is the holy, inerrant (no mistakes or contradictions against itself), written Word of God, and because He is truth, His Word is truth. He sent His Son, Jesus, who is “the Way, the TRUTH and the Life” (John 14:6) to become a flesh-dwelling man so he could sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15)… so He could be our perfect intercessor in the throne-room of God. He is able to be our perfect intercessor because He is the perfect, sinless Son of God who died on the cross (killing OUR sin then and there), and was raised to life three days later (by the power of the Holy Spirit who now indwells those who believe). He was the firstborn of Creation, (Colossians 1:15) yet He became the last – the last prophet, the last High Priest, the last King, the only Savior of the world. And because He humbled Himself, God exalted Him (last shall be first) and gave Him the name above all names (Phil. 2:9).
“So what?” you may ask yourself. “Big deal.” It IS a big deal. A VERY BIG DEAL. Because this means good news for us. This is the Gospel. That Jesus is King and He reigns over all. The sub-story of His Kingship and Lordship is the benefit we derive in salvation because of the work that the King has completed in our stead. It is through that work that we have joy in this life because of the ultimate joy that is coming in the next. It is through the suffering of Jesus on the cross, an instrument of torture and death, and the pouring out of His perfect blood that we no longer live in grief over the consequences of our sin (not completely – we still suffer consequences of sin, but not the full consequence of sin and eternal separation from God) because we have forgiveness. We can live in freedom from a guilty conscience because the penalty of sin has been paid, and we are the beneficiaries. We live in the glorious hope of the return of our King to fully reconcile His people and restore His whole creation back to its full rights and proper order. (II Peter 3:10 – 13)
It is for these reasons we have hope today – because of the hope we have of the future that is not yet come. I can have hope today – in the midst of my autistic son’s crying and screaming and scripting and stimming that he will one day be fully restored as a son of God. He will not have autism forever. I will not cry in the night forever because one day all tears will be wiped away by my King. We will not suffer the dirty, ignorant looks from people in public, or the drudgery of IEP meetings, or the guilt that I’m not doing everything I possibly can for my child, or the on-going grief we experience every time another milestone expectation is not reached, or is reached in a different way than “normal”. We will not live here forever. For now, the enemy wars against us (Ephesians 6:12), but in the end, he will be destroyed. But since he is not yet destroyed, this is still where we physically live: in this world of darkness and decay and disease and danger and disaster. Yet, we live spiritually in the shadow of a glorious hope of the Light that IS COMING.
This knowledge makes my life a bed of roses – complete with thorns. Knowing this doesn’t fix it all, or redeem these trials. But it is growing me – sanctifying me, making me mature in Christ; and even though it sounds trite, it is being worked out for my good – and most importantly, for the glory of God. Because honestly, it’s not about me or my husband and our feelings about autism, and the incredible disruptions it causes in the life of our family. It’s not about Samuel and coping with or curing autism. It’s not about suffering well to teach others in our community or our church, or being an encouragement to our pastor because we actually listened to the sermon and are trying to live it out. It’s not about you and your sympathy for us and others, or your own sorrow and grief over your own trials – hard and tragic though they may be. It’s about God. It’s about His story. It’s about how He is using us to play important parts in His story of redemption. It’s about His Son Jesus who is King and will visibly reign over all – utterly and completely reigning alone in His own right.
If you really want to encourage a weary, struggling sojourner, encourage them with these short, simply sweet words from Revelation 22:20 from the very mouth of Jesus, “‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”