This is the first of two-part guest post by Bryan Stoudt. Visit Bryan’s website at the link found in his bio at the end of this post. You can find the first part here.
Last time, we saw how hard it can be to stay engaged with our special needs child. But we also began to see how vitally important it is. In this article, we’ll look at 6 practical ways we can do that.
6 Ways We Can Stay Engaged
1. Acknowledge that God is God, and we are not.
After losing everything and meeting God very personally, Job learns that he simply cannot understand God’s ways. That he is not in a position to question the suffering he brings into our lives (Job 40:3-5; 42:1-6). When we admit that we are not the sovereign authority of our lives, it frees us to trust God despite the hardships and losses we’ve experienced with our special needs child.
2. See God’s love for us in Jesus.
While we can’t begin to figure out why God would allow our child to be so broken, sending Jesus to die for us on the cross shows that he cares. ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…’ (John 3:16) Whatever we – or our child – are facing, it’s nothing like bearing the full wrath of God for our sin like Jesus did (1 John 2:2). God loves us, and our special needs kids, more than we can imagine, and he sent Jesus to prove it once and for all.
Honest prayer is one of the best ways to stay engaged with our kids, and Philippians 4:4-7 gives us a great model.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul tells us to ‘rejoice in the Lord’. We never, ever have to pretend that having a special needs child is easy. But we are ‘always’ called to find joy ‘in the Lord’ because he is with us, ‘at hand’. Being honest yet aware of God’s presence allows us to be present with our special needs children, too.
4. Reject anxiety.
It’s so easy to be anxious about all the ‘what ifs’. What will happen if my wife and I die, and no one loves our child like we would? What if we don’t leave our child with enough money to be well-provided for? What if…? Worry and anxiety pull us away from the present by placing our focus on our limited resources. But when we are ‘not… anxious about anything’, we shift our attention to a God who can do ‘more than all we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20). That creates a rest that allows us stay present with our special needs child.
Give thanks and ask.
Instead of sour anxiety, God invites us to ask for what we want (‘supplication’) ‘with thanksgiving’. He loves to hear our requests, both for us and our special needs children. It’s critical, though, that we also offer thanks wherever we can. For example, I’m asking God to provide a great job and living situation for Matthew. But I’m trying to be thankful that he wants to work and live independently, even though I’m not really sure it’s possible yet.
What can you specifically be thankful for?
Expect to experience God’s supernatural peace.
When we find our joy in God, reject anxiety, and ask him for what we want with thanksgiving, ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Maybe not right away, or all the time. But this is a promise: no matter how hard things are, all of who we are can be at complete rest in Christ. And that allows us to stay present and engaged with our special needs child, where we can serve and enjoy them.
- Which of the six suggestions above would most help you stay engaged with your special needs child?
- How (and when) will you put that into practice?
Bryan Stoudt is a pastor and blogger who helps Christians connect their faith to their messy, everyday lives. He has an incredible wife, Sharon, and four beautiful children including Matthew, who has moderate to severe autism. He writes at bryanstoudt.com.