By Mary Van Nattan Stephens
It has not been uncommon in the past for people to assume that someone is to blame when a child is born with some kind of defect. Many parents have travailed over the horrible questions, "Why?" "Why my baby? Why me? Why my family?" As my brother pointed out to me once, "It is not wrong to ask 'Why?' Jesus asked 'Why?' on the cross." That is a great comfort to us in our human weakness since we sometimes think, and too often are told, that it is a sin to ask "Why?" We are not better than our Lord and in Him is no sin, so "Why?" is not a sinful question and will be a normal part of the Christ-like life. A brokenhearted, urgent "Why?" is different from a rebellious, angry "Why?" The Lord will help to discern the difference.
Miraculous healings are not the purpose of every difficult situation like this, but still the works of God can be and are manifested through the lives of His children when they yield these situation to Him. Jesus Christ is still able to bring glory to His Father through these lives.
The following is a true story. I have altered the names and details and filled in some places. Otherwise I have tried to relate it the way I heard it to the best of my memory.
I have chosen the name "Violet" for the girl because violets are some of the hardiest, most vigorous flowers I know. I have grown them in Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee and in all three places they have done very well (as long as they had water), and bloomed even when the plants themselves looked malformed or sickly. Violets seem cheerful and friendly to me. They also have a sweet, delicious fragrance, but you usually have to get quite close to smell it.
The Lord allowed me to hear this moving story some years ago. There may be some who feel that those who are mentally, emotionally or physically handicapped or disabled are not as useful to the Lord. Some who are handicapped or disabled in some way may perhaps wonder if they can serve the Lord. I have little experience along these lines compared to some folks, but this story speaks for itself.
Sometime back in the 1970s there was a pediatrician named Sheila in a large city in middle America. Sheila had been raised in an agnostic family and was living a "good" life serving children with health needs, or so she thought. Her brother had gotten her into the profession and she was enjoying it. Yet, in spite of her apparent success she felt that something was "missing."
It so happened that one of her patients was a young boy, Jimmy, who was struggling with cerebral palsy. He had a very sever case which made life difficult for him. His own parents had rejected him at birth and he had been taken into the home of a kindhearted lady who was caring for him as her own son.
At some point in this time period, a Christian friend of Sheila's invited her to some special meetings. Since she had been questioning things in her life already, she decided to go. The gospel was given there and she began to contemplate the truth of it and also to understand it as the Holy Spirit led her to Christ. She eventually came to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jimmy had recently taken a turn for the worse. His cerebral palsy had made it necessary for him to be moved to the hospital permanently. It was only a matter of time before the muscles could no longer be controlled at all and his body would shut down.
When they were setting him up in his new room, the nurse moved the TV to where Jimmy could see it. Now Jimmy's cerebral palsy was so bad that he could not control his eyes. They jerked back and forth convulsively and were constantly on the move. Sheila questioned the nurse, "Why are you doing that? He can't watch TV" The nurse replied, "Jimmy likes to watch TV" This was the first clue that Sheila had that there was more to Jimmy than she had imagined. The nurse proved to be right. Jimmy liked to watch the TV.
As is normal for Christians, Sheila began to be concerned about the souls of those around her. Knowing that Jimmy was nearing the end of his life, she became extremely burdened for him. She knew that the lady who had adopted him was a Christian, but she couldn't help wondering if she had ever told Jimmy about the Lord and explained salvation to him. Sheila was assuming that others also thought Jimmy could not understand things because his body was so uncontrollable.
Now Sheila and Jimmy had gotten to know each other pretty well in some ways since she had been his doctor for a while. So, one day when she was with Jimmy Sheila decided she had to speak to him about it. Communicating with him as best she could, and not knowing if he would really understand she went to his bedside and bent to look into his face. "Jimmy," she said with great earnestness, "has anyone ever told you that you can know the Lord?"
For the first time she had ever seen, Jimmy's eyes stood still and focused on her. Now, Sheila clearly declares that she did not get a revelation, and the Lord did not speak to her audibly, but she says it was as if the Lord let her know in her mind somehow what Jimmy would have said, and it was this, "I wish you knew the Lord like I know Him!" She was profoundly moved, and once again she realized there was much more to these children than she had ever imagined. Sheila later learned that Jimmy's foster mother had taught him the things of the Lord.
Not long after this Jimmy passed into the deliverance of eternal health and joy with his Savior.
Now it so happened that close to this time a beautiful baby girl was born and became one of Sheila's patients. She was named Violet. This little one had the most beautiful dark brown eyes, jet black hair and a soft olive complexion. She also had cerebral palsy. Her mother shortly abandoned her, refusing to take any responsibility for her. But, before you feel grieved or angry about that, know that this was of the Lord. He had plans for her and used this to make sure she got into a home where she would learn of Him.
Being born with sever cerebral palsy is bad enough, but not having a mother makes it so much worse. Sheila was heartbroken for the infant and did not take long in deciding to adopt her. Of course, this baby was a lot of work, and it was a real challenge for Sheila to continue her practice and care for Violet's needs. She was able to continue for some time, however.
During this time period Sheila began to discover how God can use a "handicapped" baby for His glory.
There was a woman we shall call "June" whom Sheila met while helping at a mission in the city where she lived. June had serious problems. She had a background of violence, abuse, drugs, etc. She was a mess, but she wanted something better. Slowly, through one thing and another she was being drawn to Christ. Sheila was attempting to help her in this, but it was a difficult task. June was constantly hindered by her own struggles.
One particular day Sheila took June to an evangelistic meeting hoping that perhaps somehow she would see the truth of the gospel. Sheila had Violet with her that day. Now June was not the kind of woman that a mother would want to hold her baby, especially a baby with very special needs. June could not be trusted. She was somewhat unstable mentally and very rough. However, June very much wanted to hold baby Violet. She was very attracted to her
Sheila was very hesitant and nervous about it at first, but, as was her custom, in her heart she sought the Lord's wisdom about it. The Lord gave her peace and comforted her that it would be all right. Still somewhat apprehensively, Sheila handed Violet over to June.
To her amazement, June loved the baby and handled her well and Violet was content with June. Sheila later felt that the softening of holding and loving that baby were instrumental in helping June come to Christ as she did not long after. Sheila began to see that this baby with special needs might have a special place in God's great plan!
As the years passed, Violet grew, but she did not grow to be as large as an average adult woman. She also could not feed herself. She could not dress herself. She could not run or play like other children. She was destined to be confined to a wheelchair her entire life. In fact, she could not even talk or control her saliva.
But there was one thing that Violet could do. She could smile! And what a smile it was! It was lit from within with the very joy of heaven, for by and by she understood the Gospel and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ herself.
Sheila eventually gave up her practice and moved to southern California. There she met a Christian man who had recently been widowed, and through one thing and another they eventually married. He loved both Sheila and Violet dearly and felt privileged to be a part of their very unique life.
They moved into a house next to Violet's new grandmother, who was also a child of God. Her grandma was a faithful prayer warrior and eventually she and Violet became staunch prayer partners. Daily her dad would wheel her over to her grandma's house for their season of prayer together. Though Violet could not speak her words, she prayed from her heart, and both she and her grandmother considered it an important ministry that God had given them.
Violet had gone to school in a public service for the handicapped for some years, but Sheila finally decided to finish her education at home. Violet took much longer to finish school than most people because she had to use a computer and had very limited motor skills, so progress was very slow. However, Sheila found Violet to be a bright student mentally and she rejoiced to be able to communicate with her about both scholastic and spiritual things as they worked together finishing Violet's high school education.
Perhaps one of the most interesting ministries the Lord allowed Violet to think of was cheering people up. Her million dollar smile was truly a gift from God. When they would go into a restaurant Violet would look the other customers over and select the one who seemed the most downcast, gloomy or grumpy. She would then watch them closely till she caught their eye. Because of her rather noticeable wheelchair and handicap it is quite likely that this did not take overly long. But, when she did catch their eye she would beam at them with her winning smile, and she would keep this pattern up till they finally broke down and smiled back at her! (I trust that her parents have had many opportunities to witness through this.)
Now many would excuse Violet from active service of the Lord because of her sever physical limitations, but Violet didn't see it that way. She was determined to do what she could with what she had, and God blessed this desire and made her a blessing to others. Her parents and grandmother and other friends who knew her closely were touched by her love for the Lord and determination to do what she could for Him.
Christian friend, what about you? Do you have a child with handicaps? Are you teaching them to do as much as they can for the Lord? Have you been faithful to read the scripture to them and explain the gospel? Even if they don't seem able to understand entirely, how can you be sure they do not at least understand a little? Encourage those who can do a little to at least use that for the Lord. God will show you how to help them if you seek His wisdom in this.
Maybe you are the one who is handicapped. Maybe you need to take Violet's example to heart. What did she have? The ability to pray in her heart (she cannot talk) and a smile. And yet she gave that to God and used it for His glory. What are you doing for the Lord? Are you His child? (If not please see The Gospel page.) If you are, then there is something you could do for Him. If this was not so, He would take you home to be with Him in heaven. He loves to have His children with Him in heaven, so we can be sure that as long as we are on this earth there is some purpose of His we are to fulfill.
As long as you are here, there is something you can and should be doing for His glory. The bonds of your handicap will be "loosed" as God makes a way for you to glorify Him in His purpose for you life. You can offer Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the Lord's name - even if it's only in your heart.
But, after all, if you are reading this on a computer then perhaps you have an avenue of ministry. If you can type out an email you can write to others on behalf of the Lord - both to encourage other Christians and to testify of our great Saviour. Perhaps you could print out helpful articles, poems, and so forth from various web pages to give to people who need help in some way. Perhaps you can be an encouragement to those who care for your needs by simply persevering and giving God the glory for what He has done for you.
Look not on the "unworthiness" of your vessel - your body.
We are all earthen vessels. But, the treasure is from God, and as His own possession bought with the blood of Christ, you also hold the same treasure that any other child of God has. In a very real sense Violet shows the glory of the face of Jesus Christ in her smile and her fervent prayer as she allows the Lord to bring His treasure to this troubled world through her earthen vessel. Feeble though it is, the treasure is still great for the excellency of the power is of God, not her!
How about you? Your mental, physical or emotional problem is not so difficult that God cannot find a way for His glory to be worked through you. Even if you are forced to commune with Him alone from the quiet of your heart and mind, He is still glorified. May God give you wisdom to see a way in which you can graciously and sweetly show forth this treasure as well.