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"Do Not Be Afraid!"
Good News, Great Fear
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people."
A phone call in the middle of the night, or from our child's school in the middle of the day: both flood a parent's heart with instant dread. Before a single word is spoken, our hearts brace for impact our ears have yet to receive. For years after our son's diagnosis and enrollment in special-education classes, his teacher prefaced every midday call home with, "Hi. Don't worry. Everything's fine. We just need____."
Sometimes, it was a missing permission slip. Other times, it was to notify us of a mild bump or bruise he'd sustained on the playground. And of course, there were the "difficult" days, when an uptick in behaviors or ill-health necessitated a call home.
As a veteran special-education professional experienced in interfacing with anxious parents, she anticipated the pre-elevated stress of a special-needs parent. She preemptively sought to assuage them. No matter how severe or mundane the reason, every call came preceded by, "Don't worry ..." because she knew we'd worry.
Of course we'd worry. Special-needs parents are people forever changed by unexpected news.
Good News, Great Fear
"Fear not" is one of the most oft repeated exhortations in the Bible. Within the first two chapters of Luke, an angel of the Lord disseminated good news to three parties whose fates were intertwined: Zechariah, a priest tending to his temple duties when startled and gripped with fear (1:11–13); a betrothed young maiden, Mary, greatly troubled, wondering what kind of greeting this might be (1:28–31); and shepherds tending to their flock, when accosted by heavenly hosts in the dead of night (2:9–10).
Each had been faithfully tending to their God-given responsibilities when interrupted. They could not have prepared for the news they were about to receive. The bewildering message and the shocking manner of delivery were frightful enough. To a geriatric Zechariah: "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John" (Luke 1:13). To a young virgin: "You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus" (Luke 1:31). To the shepherds who hastened to Bethlehem: "You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). "Good news of great joy" was met by great fear. Zechariah wondered in his heart, "How can I be sure of this?" and Mary in hers, "How will this be?" What normal person wouldn't be terrified? It would have been abnormal not to be afraid. "Good news that will cause great joy for all the people," (Luke 2:10) was stunning and exhilarating at best, alarming and dreadful at worst. Yet each responded to the confounding favor of God with a faith that defied their incredulity.
How Is This Good News?
Your child has autism. He'll need at least forty hours of intensive therapy a week. He may not learn to speak, function, or live independently. He'll likely not go to college, marry, or have his own family. You'll have to abort your plans and rearrange your lives to care for him full time. His prognosis? Unknown. You'll have to just wait and see.
Our child's lifelong prospects — all the unspoken possibilities every new parent assumes as a birthright — had suddenly been snuffed out. Our toddler could barely walk when his future suddenly ran out on him. How could this be? How would his life turn out? How would our lives turn out? All-encompassing fear crowded out space for anything else. Rather than soothe, well-intentioned exhortations of, "Don't worry. Don't be afraid. Just trust God!" only aggravated an already troubled heart.
In the world's economy, a diagnosis of disability is hardly "good news." To a parent, it's the worst news in the world. The sudden upheaval of lifelong plans are legitimately terrifying. In that moment, it would have been utterly mindless and insensitive for anyone to dare tell us, "Do not be afraid!" Any normal parent would be stricken with grief and dread.
Providence anticipates our shock, fear, and dread. He knows we are terrified and stricken. He has compassion for our aversion to things too marvelous for us to comprehend (Job 5:9). He is wise to greet us with eternal words of assurance, "Do not be afraid." The same God who comforted terrified shepherds, a startled priest, and an innocent young maiden, comforts us in our terror and bewilderment of today. The eternal Spirit of God comes upon us to assure, "Do not be afraid! Your prayer has been heard. You have found favor with God." Though we may not understand our circumstances now, though our hearts are filled with fear, His promises bring good news of great joy that will benefit all people: our children, our extended families, and our communities.
When stricken at a child's diagnosis, take heart. We stand in good company. Heavenly hosts once heralded the most terrifying and wondrous news the world ever received, to a handful of terrified sheepherders in the dark. Despite their terror and astonishment, the thrill of hope drove them to Bethlehem, where they were amazed to find all the things "just as they had been told" (Luke 2:20).
God has the audacity and authority to prelude our journey with "Do not be afraid!" because He already knows how our story will unfold. A sovereign God already knows the future that awaits our child, and the inconceivable blessings that wait for us. He who can birth life from barrenness, inject peace into chaos, and spring life from death, can transform the most shocking news and redeem it for our good (Romans 8:28). For nothing is impossible with God. He has done it before, and He will do it again. Despite the terror that threatens to keep us paralyzed in the dark, let us respond with a supernatural faith that propels us toward His light. Fear not. Go and see. We, too, will be amazed to find things just as we have been told.
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
"The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1).
"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you" (Isaiah 26:3).
"For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid ... for I myself will help you,' declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 41:13–14).
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).
"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you" (Psalm 56:3).
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6).
God of comfort, we confess our fear and dread about our child's diagnosis. You already knew how this would terrify us, so You go ahead of us with understanding, patience, and compassion. You also know how our child's life and our family's story will turn out. Though we cannot imagine how this could possibly be "good news," we claim Your promises, goodness, and faithfulness in advance, no matter how we may feel. Fill us with Your presence. Enable us to defy our natural fears with supernatural faith in You.
1. What was your initial reaction — thoughts or feelings — to the news of your child's diagnosis? How did you respond?
2. What are your biggest fears or worries for your child's future and that of your family?
3. What is your "Bethlehem"? What are the next steps you can take to support your child and family while also working on your faith?
"What More Could I Have Done?"
WHEN CHILDREN DON'T TURN OUT AS EXPECTED
What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?
In the final months leading up to the birth of our first child, my husband and I delighted in a common rite of passage for expectant parents: the baby registry. Armed with a digital scanner, we scampered about the baby section of Target. We tagged items, paying no regard to price or quantity. Giddy with possibility, we ventured into aisles with items we wouldn't need for years: dictionaries, science kits, bicycles, and musical instruments. Anything and everything felt like ours for the taking.
Back at home, we washed organic cotton onesies on the delicate setting and gingerly tucked away baby shower gifts. The freezer was stocked, checklists checked and double-checked, suitcases packed and repacked for good measure. The only pending item was the baby's arrival. Life was beautiful, promising, and good. So very good.
But then: an unexpected diagnosis. The sudden abort of dreams. The emotional whiplash from a jubilant "It's a boy!" to a hushed "I'm so sorry ..." was swift and staggering. We expected parenting to be challenging. Sleepless nights, we signed up for. But no book or website could have prepared us for this. Disability barged into our home uninvited, with no forewarning or instructions.
What more could we have done? We had done everything we could to prepare perfection for our child, so why did we get disability instead?
It Was Very Good
In the opening chapters of Genesis, the first Parent in history prepared lavishly for the arrival of His firstborn. He outfitted the universe with unparalleled artistry and enthusiasm. The God who made the heavens and the earth and everything in it spared no expense. He did things up big to prepare perfection. He saw all that he had made, and it was good. But nothing compared to the glory of His ultimate creation: His children. Only then was the creation described as very good (Genesis 1:31).
Then, a mere two chapters into the infancy of humanity, sin smuggled in. Doubt, distrust, and disorder broke out like a disease run rampant. The chaotic descent from joyous birth to degeneration was steep, devolving into a downward spiral of wounding and being wounded. These perfect children ... God became grieved in His Spirit that He had made them at all, and His heart was filled with pain (Genesis 6:6).
The glory of creation was irreparably marred. Defective. Ebullient hope and promise sank on its maiden voyage. How could a breach happen so soon? A loving Father had ensconced His beloved in the middle of paradise. He provided His utmost to guarantee their fruitfulness, blessing, and joy. Why did they turn? Why did they yield disappointment and sorrow instead? What more could He have done?
What more could I have done for my child? After all I've done to secure their health and happiness, why did we get this? When I planned for perfection, why did it yield heartbreak instead?
Our heavenly Father understands our outrage and grief. He, too, intended perfection for us, His children: plans to prosper and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). The perfect Parent did everything possible to ensure His children's joy and fulfillment. It was not for lack of intention, wisdom, or preparation. There was nothing more He could have done.
We grieve the loss of what could have been. Our Father understands and grieves with us. Yet for every parent who mourns, the ultimate Abba is also at work to exchange beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning (Isaiah 61:3). God understands our heartache, but He does far more than that. He redeems it.
God had a solution for our salvation from the beginning. Despite His profound loss and heartache, the heavenly Father launched a master disaster recovery plan. He had a plan to redeem. From the Garden of Eden, to the cross at Calvary, and over every crushing disappointment today, our God is still a Redeemer. It's the only kind of God He knows how to be.
We could do nothing to prevent our child from being born with a disability. When the enemy injected doubt, like he did in the Garden, relational dissension and discord ensued. At that time, our physical, spiritual, and emotional lives (once perfect) became the definition of imperfect and fallen.
Take comfort in God's heart for our children and for us, His children. Our settings may have vastly changed, subject to the wiles of a broken and capricious planet. Yet God's character remains steadfast. He is still the God of good, good, and very good.
The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Remember His original design and intentions for perfection. Wholeness. Paradise. We may be in the genesis stages of our journey as a special-needs family, but He is already at work. God will prevail over what we could not prevent. Just like how He knew the Genesis story would resolve in Revelations and beyond, He also already knows how our glory story will unfold. It will be more than we could imagine.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted" (Matthew 5:4).
"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word" (Psalm 119:28).
"Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?" (Jeremiah 8:22).
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13–16).
Lord, You prepared Your utmost for Your children too. You had high and lofty expectations for us. But we didn't turn out how You hoped. I take comfort in knowing You understand and share in our heartbreak. You grieve with me over my child — and over me. Lord, help us to trust in Your original plans to bless us with very good. You are still a very good God.
1. In what significant or unique ways did you prepare for your child's arrival?
2. How have you had to adjust your expectations and plans for your child and family?
3. How is God shaping your character or challenging your ideals about parenting?
"This Is Not the Way It's Supposed to Be!"
WRECKED: FROM HALLOWED TO HOLLOWED
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father's house into a market!" His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me." The Jews then responded to him, "What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?" Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." They replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
Perhaps the early years of childhood flew by in a blissful blur, just as they should. Until subtle hints began to emerge: A missed developmental milestone, then another. The sinking sense of a pattern developing while our child did not. A series of dissonant mental notes that kept growing louder, only no one else seemed to hear.
"All kids do that. My child was late with that too."
"You're being paranoid. Stop overreacting. I'm sure he's fine."
"He'll grow out of it. All children develop differently."
All we knew for certain was an unnerving sense of, Something's just not right. This is not the way it's supposed to be. Either the baby books and websites were wrong, or something else was.
Or perhaps an ultrasound detected signs of genetic anomaly, the physical evidence confirming itself at birth. Long-held silent prayers and closeted dread went unanswered, until now. Regardless of how gradual or sudden the onset, a child's diagnosis slams into a family with brutal, blunt force.
Excerpted from "Unbroken Faith"
Copyright © 2017 Diane Dokko Kim.
Excerpted by permission of Worthy Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Joni Eareckson Tada xvii
Introduction: "Just a Piece of Paper" 3
1 "Do Not Be Afraid!": Good News, Great Fear 9
2 "What More Could I Have Done?": When Children Don't Turn Out as Expected 15
3 "This Is Not the Way It's Supposed to Be!": Wrecked: from Hallowed to Hollowed 21
4 "Where Do I Go with My Pain?": Permission to Grieve 27
5 Angry "with" God: Leaning In, Not Away 33
6 "Don't You Care, God?": Writing Our Own Psalms 39
7 "Broken" Child, Broken Parent: Our Personal Peniel 47
8 "Did You Lead Us Out Here to Die?": Trapped by the Impossible 53
9 "If Only You Had Done Something!": Couldn't vs. Wouldn't 59
10 "Why Won't You Fix This? Don't You Care?: Good Gifts 65
11 "Why Won't God Intervene?": Close to the Brokenhearted 71
12 "Me? A Special-Needs Parent?": Lord, Pick Someone Else! 77
13 "But I'm Not Qualified for This!": Unschooled and Ordinary Men 83
14 "I'm the wrong Parent for This Child!": Our Liabilities Leveraged 89
15 "But I Don't Want to Be Special": Have To vs. Gel To 95
16 "Why Me? It's Not Fair!": An IEP for Me 103
17 "No One Understands!" The Fellowship of Otherness 109
18 "Sit with Me, for I Am Overwhelmed": Compassion: Suffering With 115
19 "Is Tins It? Or Should We Expect Something Else?": Jesus, Plus 121
20 "Never, Lord!": When God Won't Behave 129
21 "What Has Happened to Me…?": Life, Hijacked and Imprisoned 135
22 "What Do We Do Now?": Losing Our Way along the Way 143
23 "I Can Never Die": A Secure Surrender 149
24 "Why Was He Born This Way?": Crisis and Culpability 155
25 "What Is the Work of God?": Believing, Despite 161
26 "What Do You Want Me to Do for You?": Dumb Questions 167
27 "What Good Could Come from This?": Low Expectations 175
28 "How Can My Child Live a Worthy Life?": Kingdom Currency 183
29 How Is This "Blessed and Highly Favored"?: Inconceivably More 189
Author's Note 197
Additional Resources 205