In February 1998, our family entered into another cultural world that would forever change our lives and ministry. Although we were Bible college graduates, seasoned ministers, committed to sound doctrine and biblical discipleship, we had no idea of the world we were entering! I wish I could say that this was a ministry that we had prayed for, studied best practices about, and put together a detailed strategic plan to guide us into this new reality.
A quadriplegic son was not what Sharon and I had envisioned for our sixteen-year-old son, Matt. We brought Matt into our home when he was just three day’s old. This bundle of energy, now after an accident during basketball practice, would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The Ware family entered the world of families affected by disabilities. (Matt’s story is one among many in the recently released resource by Joni & Friends and written by Doug Mazza and Steve Bundy, Another Kind of Courage: God’s Design for Fathers of Families Affected by Disabilities).
Families affected by disabilities draw our attention to weakness. We tend to focus on the limitations resulting from disabilities. Our family’s journey into the communities of families affected by disabilities continues to teach us several lessons. Biblical discipleship in a fallen world must rest by faith upon the eternally existent sovereign God who has spoken through His word and we must submit to him.
From Why to Who
Emotional and physical energy is drained by a mind fixed on negatives and/or questions God chooses not to answer. We can become paralyzed for years simply because we cannot answer the why questions. Why me; why now; how is this fair? God may or may not answer these questions to our satisfaction.
Ultimate peace does not arise from a satisfactory understanding of our circumstances. Our unconditional trust in the sufficiency of the grace of God leads us to trust the Who! It is the acknowledgement of our weakness and insufficiency that causes us to look for power and strength from our all sufficient God (2 Corinthians 12:8-12).
The strength of God does not always deliver out of circumstances, but will grant endurance and comfort through them (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). This truth should lead us to ask what God desires to teach and demonstrate through us.
From Why to What
God has spoken clearly in His Word concerning what we should do during difficult trials. There are positive words we need to claim by faith. However, faith does not always mean immediate deliverance from trials. Our family prayed earnestly that Matt would walk again. My faith was firm. But Matt is still a quadriplegic.
Too often we look at disabilities, be they physical, emotional, financial, etc., as limitations. Limitations from which the power of God must deliver us. We focus upon what we have lost—this is negative thinking. God wants us to ask the question, “How does He want to demonstrate His strength through our weakness?” This is positive thinking.
We are encouraged to ask God for wisdom when we are journeying through life’s trials. The wisdom is not how to get out, but rather how to be developed by God through the process (James 1:2-8). It is through trials, not the lack thereof, that faith shines brightest (1 Peter 1: 6-8).
Looking to the Who and asking what He desires births joy rather than sorrow in trials. Joy because we know that He is working in us the character that will demonstrate His power through us.
From Why to How
How could God’s power be demonstrated through circumstances that magnify our personal weakness? Sometimes God expands our ministry through our weakness! Although our quadriplegic son has not walked, God’s presence and power is very evident.
When his mother arrived at the scene of his accident, Matt was being transported to an ambulance. As his mom leaned on his stretcher in tears, Matt exhorted his mom, “Pull yourself together, remember God is in control!” Upon hearing these words, a sportswriter for the Indianapolis Star newspaper was inspired to write a front-page story.
Matt was elevated, through his weakness, to what seemed like celebrity status. A continuous stream of visitors entered his hospital room. Visitors ranged from teenage friends to medical doctors, to professional athletes. Correspondence from email and regular mail was received from around the world.
Our family’s insufficiency captured the attention of the body of Christ. Prayers were offered daily on our behalf. Our church collected $167,000 on a Sunday night to assist us with needs. A Christian construction company built a handicapped-friendly home at cost for our family. Through the sale of our previous home and gifts, we moved into our new home debt free. Additionally, Kroger Food Store purchased a handicapped accessible van and gave it to us!
Matt’s faith through trials, not deliverance from trials, became news! Media including newspapers, magazines, radio programs, and TV news all carried Matt’s story. His testimony was one of three featured during youth night at a Billy Graham Crusade held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
On July 7, 2013, Matt and Erika were joined in the covenant of marriage. We are sustained today by trusting in God’s sovereign care asking what He desires to do through our weakness! Counting our blessings rather than our losses often renews strength.
Join the Conversation
How could you take time to reflect on the character of God? How could you take time to seek direction from God through His Word? How can you begin to expect to see the power of God through your weakness?