By Melanie Campbell, Crosswalk.com
What does life look like with a special needs child? Just as no two children are the same, there is no blanket answer to this question. A child’s challenges may come in the form of medical, developmental, behavioral or mental health issues. Each of these scenarios presents various concerns for the child’s parents: Am I doing enough? Will my child be okay? Why is this happening?
The uncertainty and struggles can lead to feelings of loneliness, despair, bitterness and hopelessness. When we acknowledge our feelings and surrender them to God, we find hope and encouragement. We may wonder where God is and what He has to say about parenting our special needs child. Turning to God’s word shows us the answer! Below are fourteen verses to encourage parents with special needs children.
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1. Thankfulness and Purpose
“For You created my innermost parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thesselonians 5:18).
When my daughter was young and we saw specialist after specialist in search of a diagnosis for her difficulties, Psalm 139:13-14 was a soothing balm to my mother’s heart. I love this verse even more now because I see how it is two-fold in how it speaks to me as a parent.
First, it assures me that my child is “awesomely and wonderfully made” by a God who loves us. God does not make mistakes. Each of us has a unique personality, ability and gift to offer the world.
This verse also points to the importance of gratitude. In Bob Goff’s book, Live in Grace, Walk in Love, he shares the following insight: When joy is a habit, love is a reflex. Goff points out that one of the keys to living in joy is gratitude. When we focus on what we are grateful for, joy is a result. This is a beautiful approach to life in general, and even more important if we are the parent of a child with special needs. In the darkest, most grueling days, we can be grateful for God’s eternal love and the knowledge that we are his workmanship.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us it’s the will of the Lord that we give thanks in all things. He doesn’t command us to do things for His own good, but for ours. The joy we find when we live with gratitude gives us a better outlook and makes us more effective disciples – and parents.
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“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who was also seated at the Lord’s feet, and was listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; but only one thing is necessary; for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42).
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Life with a special needs child will often make to-do lists and regular activities difficult or especially challenging. Each morning, decide what truly needs to be done and focus on those things. As parents, there are many things we must juggle throughout the day: jobs, housework, social gatherings, paying bills. But parenting our children is the most important job of all. It can be hard to shut out the noise and images of the world telling us how things “should” look and to focus instead on the God-directed things in our lives. Take heart in knowing the love we show those around us, especially our children, will have a far more lasting impact than a perfectly clean house or a trending Instagram post.
We also need to take time for ourselves and our relationship with God. We can’t pour out of an empty cup. Carving out quiet time for prayer and reading God’s word will fill us up so we can give our best to those we love.
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3. Community and Support
"Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor; for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up! Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
“Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you” (James 4:10).
God did not create us to journey through life alone. When we are going through any kind of trial, we shouldn’t hesitate to accept the love and support of extended family, friends, church members and coworkers. It’s not a sign of weakness to accept offers to babysit, help with housework, or companionship for a long and anxious doctor’s appointment.
Sometimes we’re afraid to open up to others about the struggles of our day-to-day parenting journey with a special needs child because we don’t think anyone could possibly understand. We also may be afraid of being judged. But the truth is, when we are transparent, it allows others to talk about their own challenges, even if they aren’t the same as ours. We learn from and encourage each other by sharing our struggles. Humility opens the door for fellowship and healing.
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
“Let’s not become discouraged in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not become weary” (Galatians 6:9).
In our fast-paced society, patience seems to be an undervalued virtue, and can even be perceived as a weakness. But Godly wisdom tells us something much different about patience. Nothing will test or grow your patience like parenting, and even more so if you have a child with special needs. Few things are more powerful than a calm spirit in the face of a storm, no matter what form that storm takes.
Sometimes our days may look like we accomplished little, but if we succeeded in keeping our patience during a trying time with our child, we indeed moved mountains. We can be reassured that though if may feel like we simply managed to survive the moment, we’ve made a lasting impact by the love sewn into the heart of our child.
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5. Don’t Worry
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Worry plagues all parents, but even more so for the parent of a child with special needs. On top of concern about the current day-to-day needs of our children, we may be anxious about what their future holds. How much will they be able to overcome? What will their adulthood look like? Who will take care of them if something happens to us?
The Bible contains hundreds of verses telling us not to fear or worry, no matter what our
circumstances. It’s human to feel the tug of worry and the cold dread of fear, but if we put our focus on how much God loves us—and our child—we can find the courage to act based on faith instead of fear. Knowing God is with us and will take care of the things that are out of our hands gives us peace and the ability to be the parents God created us to be.
6. Discipline with Love and Wisdom
“Train up a child in the way he should go. Even when he grows older he will not abandon it” (Proverbs 22:6).
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
I used to think that Proverbs 22:6 simply meant to raise a child according to biblical standards. But God is so much wiser and understanding than to apply a blanket method of parenting. While raising a child to follow the Lord is implicit in this passage of Scripture, “in the way he should go” literally means “according to the dictates of his way.” Our special needs children have specific, unique strengths given by God. They also have challenges and weaknesses to overcome. Our job as parents is to raise a child to be the best version of themselves and to guide them in making good decisions for life.
If we try to force our children to be something they are not, not only will we become frustrated and more likely to lose our temper, but we will also hinder them from finding the path God has for them in life. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can maintain discipline and structure with our special needs children while also allowing them to be and become who God created them to be.
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7. Be an Advocate
“Open your mouth for the people who cannot speak, for the rights of all the unfortunate” (Proverbs 31:8).
“Blessed is one who considers the helpless; the Lord will save him on a day of trouble” (Psalm 41:1).
In a world where our child may be misunderstood or not receive the best medical care because of ignorance, we must advocate for our them. Sometimes this will mean calmly explaining our child’s behavior to a daycare worker, sometimes it will mean getting second or even third opinions from a medical professional. When the answers are hard to find or don’t seem right, don’t give up. Keep searching, asking questions and pursuing the best for your child. Remember you’re not alone and God is your advocate, fighting beside you and leading the way for the best future for your child.
You are not alone in parenting your special needs child. Not only are there other parents facing similar challenges, but God is with you, encouraging and loving you along the way. He isn’t a God that makes mistakes. He knew exactly who your child would be. He knows who you are and what you are capable of with Him leading the way. Hang on to Him and let his love, wisdom and grace encourage and strengthen you in your parenting journey.
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