During his last great political campaign, the American President, Theodore Roosevelt, was shot by a would-be assassin. The surgeon who was treating his wound handed him his steel spectacle case, telling him that it had saved his life. The case, which he had been carrying in his pocket, had broken the force of the bullet, and deflected it from hitting his heart! “Well, now, that’s strange,” said Roosevelt, as he took the case with the shattered spectacles, “I’ve always considered my glasses a handicap, and now they have turned out to be the means of saving my life!”
We may not ALWAYS know in this life the reasons for the handicaps with which we may be afflicted, but we can be certain that they are often blessings in disguise! You say, “Well, needing to wear glasses is no great handicap! What about people who are crippled, deaf or blind? What kind of an advantage is there in having a serious disability like that?”
Well, being a cripple didn’t stop Shakespeare from writing the World’s finest plays! Being blind didn’t stop John Milton from writing England’s greatest poem, “Paradise Lost!” Being stone deaf didn’t stop Beethoven from composing some of the most beautiful music ever written! In fact, history is FULL of great people who accomplished great things in spite of serious handicaps! Alexander the Great was a hunchback. Homer was a blind minstrel. Renoir painted some of his finest masterpieces with his fingers twisted by rheumatism, his artist’s brush strapped to his hand. Handel’s right side was paralysed when he composed his greatest work, “The Hallelujah Chorus!” Edison was deaf when he invented the phonograph.
But you say, “Couldn’t these people have accomplished so much more if they HADN’T been handicapped?”–Not necessarily. It’s like the ancient account of a Greek soldier who had a painful disease that was likely at any time to kill him. So, because he expected to die at any time, he became completely fearless in battle! He had nothing to lose. His General, Antigonus, so admired his bravery that he had him cured of his disease by the best physicians. But from then on, the once-valiant soldier was no longer seen at the front! He avoided danger and tried his best to PROTECT his life instead of RISKING it! His affliction had made him fight well, but health and comfort destroyed his usefulness as a soldier!
So often handicaps bring out the best in people and cause them to fight against the odds and achieve heights of accomplishment that they otherwise might NEVER have striven for! The poet Myra Brooks Welch, who wrote the masterpiece, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand”, used to pat the arm of her wheelchair and say, “And I THANK GOD for this!” Imagine being thankful for a wheelchair! But her tremendous talent lay undiscovered prior to her wheelchair days! And NOW her poems have blessed the whole World!
Handicaps can either make you BETTER or BITTER. The English poets Lord Byron and Sir Walter Scott were both cripples. Byron was very bitter about his lameness, and was always moody and self-conscious about it in public. Scott, on the other hand, was never heard to complain or speak one bitter word about his handicap, not even to his dearest friend! Is it surprising then that Scott once received a letter from Byron, in which he said, “Ah, Scott, I would give all of my fame to have your happiness!”
Charles Elliot, one of the greatest presidents of Harvard College, felt terribly bitter as a boy about the serious facial disfigurement with which he was born.–Until one day his mother gave him this advice which changed his life!: She told him, “My son, we have consulted the best surgeons and they say that it is not possible for you to get rid of this handicap! But it IS possible, with GOD’S help, to grow a MIND & SOUL so BIG, that people will forget to look at your face!”–And he DID!
Like Charles Elliot and Sir Walter Scott, little 8-year-old Fanny Crosby-blinded shortly after birth–made up HER mind that she too would never allow her handicap to make her bitter. That was when she wrote her first poem–
“O what a happy soul am I
Although I cannot see.
I am resolved that in this World,
Contented I will be!
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
To weep & sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I WON’T!”
To compensate for her lack of eyesight, the Lord blessed her with many OTHER gifts. In her lifetime she wrote more than 6,000 hymns, including some of the most famous and best-loved Christian songs of all time! On her 90th birthday she told her friends, “If before birth I had been able to make one request, it would have been that I should be BORN blind!–Because when I get to Heaven the FIRST face that shall ever gladden my sight, will be that of my Saviour, Jesus!”
And who hasn’t heard of Helen Keller? She was deaf, dumb AND blind! But because of the love and dedication of a sweet Christian nurse, Annie Sullivan, she learned not only to write but to TALK! She became a World famous poet, writer and public speaker, and was a tremendous encouragement to millions of deaf, dumb and blind people throughout the World! She gave them HOPE that they didn’t have to get discouraged and give up and be useless just because they had such severe handicaps! She once said, “I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work & my God!”
God’s ways are sometimes mysterious, and we don’t always understand the reasons behind everything He does. But one thing we can be sure of is that the Lord ALWAYS has a reason and a purpose, and that “ALL things work together for GOOD to them that love the Lord!”–Rom. 8:28.–Even though it may not always SEEM like it.
Jesus has the power to heal or deliver us from ANY handicap or affliction, but sometimes He DOESN’T deliver us from our handicaps because He knows that, for some reason or other, it’s good for us to have them.–Perhaps if you ask Him, He’ll show you why!
Let’s face it, EVERY ONE of us has some real or imagined defect of one kind or another! We’re ALL handicapped with shortcomings, weaknesses, failures and mistakes–SPIRITUAL handicaps–which can be much more serious than mere physical ones! That’s why JESUS had to die for us, because we’re ALL handicapped with SIN! But whether our handicaps are physical or spiritual, big or small, we can’t spend our lives feeling sorry for ourselves and wishing to be something we’re not! The LORD is happy with the way He made you, so why shouldn’t YOU be happy with the way you are? There are certain physical afflictions and handicaps He heals us from when they have served their purpose and taught us necessary lessons, but there are others, which, in His infinite wisdom, He allows us to HAVE for our whole life. Sometimes we have to simply accept such defects, make the best of them and move on!
Most important of all, whatever our handicap or weakness, we should never allow it to stop us from being a WITNESS for JESUS in whatever way we can! Victoria is a missionary in South America and her story is another good example of how someone turned their handicap into an advantage. She writes: “When I was two years old I got polio and since then I’ve had a half-paralysed leg so that I have to use crutches. One day, I met a group of young Christians on the street who prayed with me to receive Jesus, and from that moment on, my life changed! They told me Jesus needed me to help reach others, and this broke my heart, as nobody had ever needed me before!
“The doctors had always told me not to get too tired and to walk very little, and that I could not live the same life as other people! But as soon as I started going witnessing and telling others about Jesus, instead of getting weak and tired, I got stronger and more liberated and happier!
“That was 9 years ago!–And since then the Lord has blessed me with a husband and a beautiful baby boy and a place of service as a fulltime missionary in South America! Now I don’t have to ask God why I have to use crutches, because HE uses them greatly! Very few people say no when I offer them the Gospel, and I am often able to witness to more people than the able-bodied ones! Also, when other handicapped people see me, it gives THEM faith that they TOO can be happy and can serve the Lord! NOW I KNOW why the Lord wants me to be this way, and He has NEVER failed to give me the strength to keep on going! Praise God!”
So never underestimate the ADVANTAGE of a handicap!–”When we are WEAK, we are STRONG, for then HIS strength has a chance to be made perfect in OUR weakness, that the excellency of the power may be of GOD and NOT of US!”–2Cor.12:10; 4:7. God LOVES to help weak people, broken people, the handicapped, people who KNOW they ARE nothing and HAVE nothing, for then He can show HIS power and strength! So your handicap need not be the END, but only the BEGINNING of a wonderful new life of reaching out to others with the Love of the Lord! “We comfort others with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of GOD.”–2Cor. 1:4.
Dale & Roy Rogers, the famous cowboy movie stars, had a little mongoloid girl. Dale even wrote a book about her called “Angel Unaware”, all about what a tremendous change that girl made in their lives & how she was a tremendously good influence on them both, bringing them closer to the Lord!
In fact, this is true of nearly all families in which there is an afflicted child. It usually has a very good effect on the whole family! The pity and love for the child is increased and amplified by the child’s affliction, and it causes the whole family to be more humble, loving, kind and understanding! It usually draws them all closer to the Lord and is an enriching experience which strengthens faith, deepens love, lengthens patience and teaches humility and many other lessons which otherwise might not have been learned!
Mongoloid children stay children their whole lives, so they avoid many of the problems of growing up and becoming adults, that cause many other people to stray away from the Lord! These children stay childlike and believing and faithful and loving and kind and gentle and help keep their whole family that way as well! And after all, that’s one of the main reasons for living: To learn to be more loving!
So God has His purposes in these things! HIS ways are above our ways, “as high as the Heaven is above the Earth!”–Isaiah 55:8,9. God often works in very mysterious ways His wonders of love to perform!–So TRUST Him! The Lord LOVES you, CARES for you and “is TOUCHED with the FEELING of your INFIRMITIES.”–Hebr 4:15. Learn the ADVANTAGE of YOUR handicap!–And let it make you BETTER, not bitter! Amen? God bless you!
Copyright (c) 1998 The Family