The journey into the world of impaired and disabled persons has only just begun. Some basic definitions, as well as some basic dos and don'ts, were introduced. Now let's move forward into the question of why? I am not the first to use a desert to establish a mental image. However, unlike many others, I will describe the desert as I understand it to be, and as I see it in my mind while reading, writing, and during reflection.
A desert is a place of great danger, with unsafe, uncomfortable, and sometimes life-threatening encounters present in many ways. It is also a place of peace, and peace can be found by those with eyes to see and ears to hear. The desert can appear as a dry, barren, menacing place. The desert also displays unique beauty, and beauty is found everywhere for those willing to look for it. In a desert, we can discover and experience the meaning of a mixed blessing from God. In the desert, we find that just enough is all we need. The difference between need and want is a lesson most easily learned in a desert.
The desert is and has been for thousands of years, a place of testing. Whether we pass or fail a test — we grow. An important lesson learned there is that of obedience. Human beings, for whatever reason, defy obedience. With that being the rule and not the exception, most people in our society avoid the desert, and sometimes at a high cost. Avoidance might be possible for a season, but God, Creator of all that was, is and will be, created the desert for a reason known only to Him. You and I will find ourselves in the desert many times during our life. A desert is a place we are all destined to wander in. It can be for a season but will most likely be for many seasons during our life. You might be wondering what the desert has to do with an impairment and disability study? Truthfully each of us can answer the question by making time to reflect on our own experiences in the desert. Let me provide a few examples from my season(s) in the desert and see if you can relate to my wanderings.
Several times, in the Bible, we read that we will suffer and must go through many hardships before entering the kingdom of God. We all experience physical pain and mental anguish on a personal level. When I visit with my pain management doctor, he asks what my pain level is from 0 to 10. I answer knowing full well he can only compare my answer to his interpretation of the level based on some experience he has gone through. My idea of a level 8 pain might be his level 2 or possibly his level 10. I am somewhat comforted knowing that even though he cannot truly understand my pain level, I know he has been in the desert and experienced pain firsthand. When I visit my mental health doctor or my therapist, I can safely assume the same. There are no quick short answers, so like most people, I elaborate to paint a better picture of what I am trying to get across to them. But this begs the question, what if I was physically or mentally unable to respond with an answer? Well, I have been in that much pain, and I have been in that much mental anguish. I failed to respond, for reasons I don't fully understand. Chances are we have all been at that point. Welcome to the desert! Besides trying to avoid the next episode of pain and anxiety, did you take advantage of the opportunity to grow in your understanding? Or, as I did for many decades, did you seek out ways to make it seemingly go away until next time? Our methods are not God's way.
Without a strong relationship with God, we wander in the desert, asking why? Without a strong relationship with God, we will miss what He has provided for us in the desert. He provides food, water, shade, protection, answers, insights, and healing — if we choose to focus on Him and not ourselves. When we seek and trust God and quit thinking we know a better way to fix things, we find that just enough is all we need. The only way to survive and move forward is to accept our predicament, trust in God, and accept the fact that, again, just enough is all we need. Once the test of obedience is given, and we have passed, we come to realize it never was about us. It is about everyone else in our lives! Friends, family, and strangers are what is of the most significant importance — not us.
Every moment of our lives will have eternal consequences. I am borrowing from John Piper, where he wrote something to the effect of - Love means doing all we can, at whatever cost to ourselves, to help people be captivated with the glory of God. When they are, they are satisfied, and God is glorified. Therefore loving people and glorifying God are one. From the Book of Galatians, we are instructed to carry each other's burdens, and in this way, we will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). From the Book of Matthew, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor (Matt… 22:37-40). Until we commit ourselves fully to God, we offer little to nothing to our neighbor, certainly nothing of lasting value to them. Unless we commit ourselves fully to God, we will not know how the pain and anguish we live with is a blessing from God. We are unable to love our neighbors if our focus remains misdirected. Using the word misdirected, I mean the focus on ourselves and not others. The longer we refuse to walk in Jesus' footprints, the more distance we put between ourselves and God's law.
Please understand and accept the pain, anguish, and suffering we go through is not a punishment from God. It must be likened to a way of disciplining us. From the Book of Hebrews, the writer says we should see and endure hardship as discipline; God is treating us as sons, and what son is not disciplined by his father (Heb. 12:7-9)? And now, hopefully, some answers and suggestions to help you on this journey. Only by your understanding and wisdom is it possible to help others.
Trust God, praise God, and do everything possible to increase your faith. Humble yourself before the Lord, and remain humble until it becomes your nature. Thank God for what you have in your life right now. Be genuinely grateful for what God does provide for you in your life. Never grieve for the things you don't have, but rejoice over the things you do have. Never lose heart and give in to thinking you are cursed or being punished by God. Never assume that He doesn't "get you." Never make light of your condition or decide to become a martyr. Remember always that God loves us beyond anything we can imagine and only wants what is best for us. He didn't create you to make you live a life of misery. He loves you so much He made His Son a sacrifice for you. We must pray and ask Him to show us how we can work together with Him to fulfill His purpose for our lives. Pray that we can overcome any unhealthy thoughts and feelings we may have toward Him concerning His discipline. Ask yourself if what you are going through can compare to the pain and suffering Jesus went through. Jesus knows first hand about pain and suffering. As long as we are still alive, it means God has a purpose for us in our life. Now — serve the Lord, your God, with gladness! Regardless of our circumstances, we must serve Him joyfully and gladly.
Continually working on our relationship with God enables us to empower others to help themselves. Even if we don't feel we have much to offer others, God knows we have just enough to help them. Also, if God chooses not to change our or someone else's circumstances, He will often modify one's perspective. The changing of view can be the result of your ministering to them. Romans 12:4 says each member of the body of Christ belongs to the other. We have real brothers and sisters in Christ with hopes, dreams, needs, and sorrows who walk with the same Jesus we walk with (1 Peter 5:9). Before we can provide comfort and assurance to our neighbor, we must make sure they have enough faith to receive it. Medical experts, medicine, and different therapies are all good and a blessing from God. He created them all, but the root of all healing and wisdom lies in our relationship with God. I thank God in my prayers that even though I might be in pain — I can at least be at peace because of my relationship with God. Disability makes us better missionaries if we walk in Jesus' footprints.
In conclusion, in my mountains of notes, I saved something written by Pastor Lon Solomon. Unfortunately, I didn't write where I read it from, but it says — God crushes all our self-dependence and, in its place, substitutes an utter dependence on God and God alone. We are indeed our brother's keeper. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him. Anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen! Believe in God, and believe in yourself. Trust God, trust yourself because God is in you.