Douglas Groothuis |Other
Books by D. Groothuis
Appeared in MOODY
August/September 2001 Issue
a way of seeing what others missed and ministering to those who
were forgotten, shunned, or misunderstood. He touched and healed
lepers when everyone else scurried away. He cared for those with
chronic afflictions such as congenital blindness and incurable
hemorrhage while others gave up. He bestowed hope where
others scattered the ashes of despair. He was love Incarnate (John
1:14; 1 John 4:16). We need that character of divine love if were
to see and minister to the hurts of others.
made strides in recognizing and assisting people with disabilities.
Most public facilities are now accessible to the handicapped.
The pool where I swim has a lift for the disabled. The law rightly
forbids discriminating against the handicapped (see Lev. 19:14,
Deut. 27:18, Matt. 25:40).
In the Christian
community, Joni Eareckson Tada has raised peoples awareness
of the needs of those who suffer from severe disabilities. She
has encouraged the afflicted not to despair, but to trust God
to use their broken lives for the glory of God and the good of
disabled people continue to suffer both chronic physical distress
and misunderstanding. Their suffering is masked by a healthy appearance.
They are not in wheelchairs and do not use canes. Yet their pain
and debility is real and chronic. They have "invisible disabilities."
It may be
the soul-sapping fatigue, environmental sensitivity, and chronic
pain of fibromyalgia, or lupus, or Lyme disease, or multiple sclerosis.
These souls suffer not only from their diseases, but also often
from the uninformed and hurtful reactions of others.
suffering from fibromyalgia, such as my wife, often ricochet from
one physician to another, repeatedly encountering the impatience
and defeatism that often characterize the medical community's
attitude toward those whose ailments are intractable, invisible,
and (usually) non-terminal." Insurance routinely refuses
to cover needed treatments. Worse yet, loved ones frequently do
not understand the nature of their invisible disability and respond
looks healthy, we are tempted to tell them to "just buck
up" and do what we think they should do. Those with invisible
disabilities are often expected to do what is beyond them. We
would never tell someone who uses a cane to run a marathon, but
just going to the store may be a marathon for someone with lupus.
student of mine looks healthy, yet he suffers from such chronic
and extreme back pain that he lost his medical practice. He also
lost a friend who could not accept the limitations that chronic
illness put on their relationship.
What can Christians
do to discern peoples invisible disabilities and display
the love of Christ?
can empathize with them, instead of lecturing or ignoring them.
The Book of Hebrews tells us to remember those in prison as though
we were shackled with them (13:3). Similarly, we must try to put
ourselves into the prison of the chronically ill persons
life. This is difficult, and almost nothing in our hedonistic
culture encourages it. Nevertheless, we need empathy to be agents
of love and encouragement. Jesus wept; so should we (John 11:35).
should listen to and believe what the afflicted tell us. My wife
looks so healthy and fit that someone in the locker room where
we swim thought she was a woman whod been swimming at top
speed for an hour. But if you listen to Rebeccas story
one of pain and frustration mixed with faith and determination
youll find things quite different from how they appear.
can look for ways to minister to those we know with such conditions.
Sherri Connells web site, The Invisible Disabilities Advocate,
offers a wealth of materials. Sherri, who suffers from an invisible
disability, has a big heart, an indomitable spirit, and much practical
and spiritual advice.
Let us seek
to have the eyes of Jesus, so we may look beyond appearances and
gaze deeply into the lives of those who are suffering. Then we
can offer them our love, understanding, and encouragement.
is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary. He is
the author of Truth Decay (InterVarsity Press), Unmasking the
New Age, Deceived by the Light and many more. He received his
Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Oregon. He is the author
of five books and several booklets and a contributor of articles
in a number of philosophical and theological journals. He is married
to Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, a freelance writer and editor, and
lives in Littleton, Colorado.
All Content Copyright © Moody Bible Institute 2001
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granted by Dr. Groothuis to IDA to post this article at www.invisibleillness.com.
The Invisible Disabilities Advocate at: http://www.InvisibleDisabilities.com