Q96 : Why are People Born with Handicaps?

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Q96 : Why are People Born with Handicaps?

I have been trying to answer my own questions, even asking about them to people connected with theology.

One of them that I believe made mother Theresa shake in her faith a little is, “Why are some children are born blind or crippled, with some sort of handicap?” For God’s glory, said Jesus once? A child is born blind or crippled for God’s glory?! There must be something between the lines here that is not being well understood by me...

A96 : by Tony Garland

The situation you refer to is recorded in John's gospel:

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him." (John 9:1-3, NKJV)

There is no mystery in this particular instance as to why this specific man was born blind: it was God's intention to use his handicap to bring Himself glory by healing this birth defect through Jesus—pointing to Jesus' unique qualifications as the promised Messiah (Mat. 11:5 cf. Ps. 146:8; Isa. 35:5; 42:7; John 9:17,32).

We also know from other Scriptures that God is actively involved forming each individual in the womb (Ex. 21:22-23; Jdg. 13:5; Job 10:11; 31:15; Ps. 22:9-10; 119:73; 139:13; Ecc. 11:5; Isa 44:2,24; 49:5; Jer 1:5)—which is one reason why abortion is immorala because it circumvents the will of God—especially in cases where the baby will be born imperfect as we are discussing here.

God is completely sovereign, even in the operation of the curse which afflicts creation since the rebellion of man:

So the LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?" (Ex. 4:11, NKJV)

Now we are facing a very clear teaching in Scripture which many people struggle with: God is absolutely sovereign and works through and in the midst of sin. He is not the author of sin, but sin cannot thwart His plan for history nor His glory. In the case of birth handicaps, the root cause is not a malevolent intent on God's part, but the result of man's rebellion at The Fall which brought all of creation under a curse (Gen. 3:17-19 cf. Rom. 8:22). Thus, all defective births are a manifestation of the outworking of man's sin—not necessarily in the actions of ancestors (e.g., parents, although sometimes this can be the case), but in the operation of the curse upon all of creation resulting in errors and flaws in what was originally a perfect reproduction system instituted by God. In some cases, like the situation involving the blind man above, God has chosen to overcome the present sinful situation for His own glory. But this is not always the case.

How does God gain glory in these situations? The answer will differ in different situations. As with the man born blind who was healed by Jesus, God will use the initial handicap as the basis for a subsequent supernatural healing which shows the character of His power and promise to redeem and restore the entire creation one day. In the vast majority of cases, we won't be able to see as easily how God gains glory in the suffering of a handicapped individual. It may be that the individual and those who are care-givers are brought to a point of total dependence upon God and a realization of the value of all life regardless of the ravages of sin leading to imperfection. There are many who have lived with handicapped individuals (e.g., Down Syndrome children) who come to see the tremendous riches they have derived from the unique care-giving relationship—but usually only after-the-fact after years have transpired. In other situations, there is no evident purpose. Many of these cases are simply the outworking of the presently cursed creation whereas others we simply can't see "behind the veil" into what God may be accomplishing. Regardless, for those who love God, we know from Scripture that every difficult situation is according to His ultimate will and purpose for us (Rom. 8:28).

Ultimately, God does not owe us an explanation for each situation. This is when we must consider passages like Psalm 131:

LORD, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever. (Ps. 131, NKJV)

There are things which are too profound for us which are intended to force us to set aside our desire to master understanding and to rest in what Scripture reveals to be the perfect love and higher plan of our Creator. When we take the stance that everything taught by God's Word "must" be reduced to something we can comprehend and approve of before we will rest in God's truth, then we sit in judgment of the Holy Scriptures and overestimate our intellectual capacity. Many aspects of God's sovereignty exceed our comprehension and any quest to reduce it all to acceptance by our own intellect is doomed to continual frustration. There will always be a place for studied humility in any approach which truly honors and trusts God. Individuals who hold faith at ransom until all the complex subtleties of why God allows evil in the world bow to their limited intellect generally wind up as proud God-rejectors.

Regardless of our limited understanding, in all circumstances we are to trust in Him and to pray for, assist, and comfort the afflicted knowing that one day there will be no more sin and pain (Rev. 21:4). Until then, we live in a fallen world of hope deferred which is designed to drive us to the Redeemer, Jesus Christ!

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