Disability affects families, it affects homes. As families who have encountered disability can attest, your whole world turns upside down. All those expectations for children change in a moment. Whole lives can seem to stop because of a car accident, an extra chromosome, a sensory impairment, a genetic abnormality…
We never expect these things for our children or our siblings or our parents, but these things happen. It is a reality for many families. Being a Christian who works in the caring profession, people ask me, “Why did God let this happen?” “Did God make a mistake?” “What does the Bible have to say about disability?” Let’s find out.
Perfect and imperfect bodies?
Firstly, it is important to realize that no matter how healthy our bodies are, they are all compromised in some shape or form. Nobody has a flawless physical body; we all have physical limitations and the vast majority of us take corrective or preventative measures to stop them deteriorating further.
For example, we brush our teeth to prevent them from decaying. We should eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly to prevent build-up of harmful fats in our arteries. Many people wear glasses to correct their compromised vision. Many diabetics need to take insulin to correct a compromised pancreas. Many do daily physiotherapy to correct painful joints or muscle pain.
All of our bodies are imperfect and weak. Even if we do have perfect health now, we can expect that this will only be temporary. Have you ever looked through pictures of your grandparents when they were younger and thought, “how have they changed so much?” If we are blessed with old age, it is inevitable that our bodies will become frail, wrinkled and weak.
Why is it this way?
Having compromised bodies is a direct consequence of original sin. This was when evil first came into the world as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God. You can read the story in Genesis 3.
As a result of their sin, the perfect world that God created became imperfect and corrupt. Decay, pain, brokenness, sickness, deterioration and ultimately death, all came into the world as a result of sin. Sin destroys everything. Our bodies are impaired and will ultimately die, and more seriously our relationship with God that was once perfect is now broken.
So anytime you see a pharmacy, a dentist, a wheelchair, a crutch or even a pair of glasses, be reminded that it was not meant to be this way in the beginning.
Does this mean that disability is an accident?
Definitely not. To believe that God is now out of control of the world lost to sin is grossly unbiblical. God is sovereign. That means that He has divine control over everything that happens. There is nothing outside the control of His loving hand. Jesus said “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29).
God is also righteous, that means that all of His works are good and holy.
“The Rock, His work is perfect,
for all His ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is He”
These two attributes, sovereignty and righteousness, are integral to His being. He cannot act outside of these attributes. The way our bodies are created is included in this description of how God acts, sovereignly and righteously.
It says in Psalm 139:13-16:
“For You formed my inward parts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are Your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in Your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”