The Gospel and Disability
I will never forget the punch to the stomach I felt when, just days after visiting one of my best friends in St. Louis—watching our son, Joshua, playing with Steve and Jen’s daughter, Amelia—we found out Amelia had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Sweet Amelia was just three months old. But no one could have guessed at that time how difficult the road would become. During Amelia’s fourth round of chemo, a virus attacked her brain and left her severely disabled both cognitively and physically.
This was my first up-close window into life with a disability. Amelia is eight now. She is cancer free, but her life is far from what most of us consider “normal.” She is confined to a wheel chair. She can communicate, but not with her mouth or her hands, but with her eyes—the direction she looks.
A couple summers ago, I remember standing in Steve’s kitchen and seeing the mountain of plastic syringes for feeding and for her countless medications, all sitting on the counter drying. I was struck again by how consuming and unrelenting a trial like disability can be. Their journey has been like wading out into the ocean and being caught in a barrage of crashing waves. The first one hits you by surprise, and before you can catch your breath or find your feet, you get hit again. And then again, and again, and it never seems to let up. Amelia is beautiful and beloved, and they wouldn’t exchange her for anyone. God has already used her to change so many lives. And yet her disability is a daily reminder that the world does not work the way it’s supposed to. Her pain, her suffering, is not the way it’s supposed to be.
Which raises an important question: what hope does the gospel of Jesus hold out for those whose lives are marked by disability?
Right now at Westgate we’re working our way through a series called “The Gospel for All of Life.” Our working assumption is that the good news of Jesus is universally relevant. What Christ accomplished on the cross not only rescues us from sin’s penalty, but applies to every aspect of life right now—personal life, church life, public life, school life, work life, and home life.
But is that assumption true? Does the good news of Christ really make any difference for those whose home life is marked by an often crushing disability? How does the gospel narrative give us categories for making sense of disability? How does it give us direction for loving and sharing life with those who live with disability in the church? What hope does it hold out, and what difference does that hope make?
Join us this Sunday, June 21, at Westgate Church as we look at 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 and consider the gospel and disability. We’ll also hear one of our congregants share her story of grace raising a special needs child.