Disabilities and Your Child's Heart

Photo showing a tween girl who has Down Syndrome
Brian McEntire/Stocksy

If you are a music lover, perhaps you've heard of the virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman. Polio stole the strength of Perlman's legs, requiring him to use steel braces and crutches to walk. When he solos with an orchestra, he must clang and slide and awkwardly walk across the front of the stage with his disability on full display.

Then, Perlman begins to play his violin. When he plays, there is nothing limiting or awkward about the music. It is splendid! A promotional poster for the artist once read: "Now, let's see what works."

Have you spent too many years focusing on what's broken — either in you or your children — instead of what works? Children with special needs face many barriers and they certainly need our encouragement, but they also have a tremendous capacity when it comes to trusting God. Their faith works.

Never alone

Debbie Salter Goodwin says helping her daughter Lisa have a personal relationship with her Creator was her No. 1 priority.

"I always tried to help Lisa understand that God would speak to her directly. I didn't want her to confuse my voice and God's voice. Nor did I want her to believe that God would speak to her only through another person. I regularly nurtured the idea that if she listened and learned how God spoke to her, she would never be alone."

When she and her husband realized that Lisa's challenges were going to be lifelong, they vowed to pray for her spiritual health first and foremost, even before physical healing.

"God answered our prayers over and over again," Debbie recalls. Lisa's heart failed her more than once, she says, but it was as whole as it needed to be for her to follow God.

A loving heart

"I will never forget a conversation we had where I was trying to affirm Lisa for using God's gift of compassion to reach out to people who were surprised by her sensitivity. I was trying to tell her that God was using her in spite of her limitations. Her reply stunned me:

" 'But Mom, my heart isn't disabled.' "

It was truth, clear and unadorned.

This same girl, who always fell below the norm on reading comprehension tests, could read God's Word and share insights that defied every IQ test. When Lisa's physical health failed in 2016, her spirit went home to be with the God she loved and served.

But Lisa was right about what worked. Her heart was not disabled.

Adapted from Real Families, Real Needs. Used with permission of Tyndale House Publishers © 2017 by Joni and Friends. This article first appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Focus on the Family magazine and was originally titled "But My Heart Isn't Disabled." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get this publication delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
© 2017 Joni and Friends. Used by permission.