Any follower of Jesus Christ who has studied God’s Word should have a basic understanding of the nature of spiritual warfare and the enemy of the Christian’s soul. Jesus told the truth about the nature of Satan in John 8:44, when He addressed the crowd that sought to kill Him. In this passage, Jesus said that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
I was born with cerebral palsy, and until I was mature enough to know the truth of John 8:44, I allowed Satan’s lies about my life to steal my joy and send me into occasional depression. Combatting his lies is still an ongoing process, because just knowing that the devil is a liar does not keep him from trying to deceive me. I am writing this article so that individuals who have disabilities, are oppressed, have a chronic illness, or have any other affliction can recognize these lies at work in their own lives and refute them with God’s Word.
LIE: Your life would be better if you were not disabled.
TRUTH: Psalm 119:71—It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees. Psalm 119:75—I know, O LORD, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me. Matthew 5:4—Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
I have often wondered if my disability caused my parents to divorce not long after I was born. The lie that Satan fed me was that it did indeed cause the divorce, and not only would my life have been better without the disability, it would have been much better without the divorce. I have refuted that lie with the truth that, sadly, in today’s society, the divorce rate is very high and many couples who do not have children with disabilities end up divorced. And I have learned that many children (with or without affliction) believe the enemy’s lie that they caused their parents’ divorce.
Those who have a disability or a child with a disability are expected to experience a certain amount of grief. Inabilities and unfulfilled dreams for oneself or one’s child are losses that cause pain. I believe God understands our pain and is there to comfort us, as He has promised. While there are times of mourning that might come and go with the losses we experience, we need to remain steadfast in the knowledge that God is sovereign and He has a plan for us. We are to keep in mind that there really are reasons God has permitted us to have a disability, and they are for His purposes. In the words of author Priscilla Shirer, “When God places an abnormal calling on your life, it is because He has abnormal results He wants to produce through you” (Jonah: Navigating a Life Interrupted). Holding on to these truths keep us from believing the enemy’s lie that our life would have been better if we did not have the affliction.
LIE: Your life is totally different than the lives of those without a disability.
TRUTH: Matthew 5:45—He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
God’s Word directly combats the lie that our lives are totally different than those of the nondisabled, but for a child, this is harder to understand, and this is probably the lie I have allowed to cause most of my depression. In childhood, I was always one of the last to be chosen for teams in physical education classes, and in adolescence, other kids (including my sister who is five years younger than me) got a driver’s license and a car.
I was born in 1965. I come from a small town and when I was growing up, I knew only a few other people who had cerebral palsy. (Of course, this was years before we could connect with other people through the Internet and social media.)
As the Lord would have it, the one I became close friends with was born in the same week and at the same hospital I was, and we were in the same year of school. We spent a lot of time together, and she has a good sense of humor that really encouraged me. As we have entered the adult world, we have had less contact but still occasionally discuss medications and therapies that seem to help, and we usually have to talk about our dogs. (We both love dogs!)
A few years ago, I met a lady at a Women of Faith conference who has cerebral palsy and whose husband has the same. We talk a lot about aging with our affliction, but also share recipes and marriage advice, and discuss issues other than disability. The friendship of these ladies has been a godsend!
Because the enemy uses isolation to foster lies, I think it is important not only to network with people who are going through difficulties similar to our own, but also to realize adversity is universal (as stated in Matthew 5:45), and life on this side of heaven has hardship and pain—and not just for people who are disabled or ill. Brokenness is painful, but God is the God of comfort and peace.
LIE: Your disability is your fault or the fault of your parent(s).
TRUTH: John 9:1-3—And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” Romans 8:28—All things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.
While volumes have been written about why misfortunes and tragedies occur, basically, the reason is that we live in a world marred with sin and its consequences. Once Eve took a bite of the apple in the Garden of Eden, the consequences of sin began, and they are still a part of the human experience today.
There are also situations in which bad choices made by individuals or their parents can cause the affliction. These usually have some connection to alcohol, drug, or other addictions, and lies believed by the person making the bad choices. Even in these circumstances, we know that God is able to do as He wills, and so, the circumstances causing the disability were not beyond His ability to disallow. Therefore, He has a plan to use these circumstances for good. So, even if a disability results from bad choices, we have a chance to get beyond any guilt and anger, and instead partner with God to see how He can use the disability for the good.
When we look at the afflictions Job suffered and the difficult times endured by Paul, and how God chose to use them, we realize that God does indeed use adverse circumstances to display His power in the lives of those who surrender their circumstances to His lordship. The enemy will tell the afflicted they are being punished when, in fact, the Lord is allowing the adversity to be used for His glory. Life on earth is so short in light of eternity! I want to think that God has used my disability and my weakness to display His power in me, to cause people to come to know Christ. Perhaps I will meet those very individuals in heaven.
LIE: If you are not productive, you are of little value.
TRUTH: Psalm 139:14—I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, my soul You also knew full well.
Having grown up on a farm, I learned very early that hard work was expected and a work ethic played a big part in defining a person’s character. I did finish college, and I worked full-time for many years. Over the years, my disability has made me less able to do physical work and has reduced my stamina. Those moments when I have felt weakest have been the moments when I have struggled most with this lie. While I still advocate use of all the talents God gives us and know that He does not look favorably on laziness, I know that when He formed me in the womb, He knew that I would have this disability, and His will is perfect. When I have less strength, I find that I have more time for the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study, and I know that honors Christ.
LIE: People should understand you and have patience with you.
TRUTH: Ephesians 4:26—In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. Romans 12:18—Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Philippians 4:8—And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
One thing I know a great deal about, as a result of my cerebral palsy, is frustration. Frustration can lead to anger and anger can lead to sin. We live in a very fast-paced world, and those of us with physical disabilities are often slower than our “non-disabled peers.” For example, when I’m going through a store checkout line, my disability almost seems like an inconvenience to store clerks and those behind me in line.
Also, others often assume that I am mentally challenged because of my cerebral palsy. My husband and I both have this condition, and on one occasion, when we were dining with a friend, the waitress asked our friend what we wanted to eat! One way I try to avoid sinning through anger is to realize that Christ, the Son of God Himself, was misunderstood by many who came into contact with Him. If people didn’t understand His motive or His heart, how can they understand me?
If I could suggest one prayer that should be prayed consistently for those of us with disabilities, I would ask that the prayer be that we have patience and kindness, and gentleness and self-control when people do not understand or have patience with us. Pray that Christ will accomplish His purposes in us and that Christ will shine through us. We must also live out the truths of Philippians 4:8 by thinking “about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”