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Parenting Kids, Christian Parents

For Fathers with Disabled Children

  • Steve Bundy Vice President, Joni and Friends
  • 2014 6 Jun
  • COMMENTS
For Fathers with Disabled Children

God has a significant servant’s role for each man to fulfill in his family, church, circle of friends, career and community. And his role is often revealed through his children.

If you’re the father of a child with a disability, that can be a daunting task. Most people don’t have a clue about the never-ending lowly tasks that are required to get your child through a regular day.

If your son has physical impairments, you may help him with dressing, exercising, feeding, brushing teeth, and toileting care. If your daughter has a developmental disorder, her therapy schedules may feel like a full-time job.

Many dads fight fatigue like soldiers on a secret mission, and as if that isn’t enough, they’re also expected to know about medical trends, diets, and treatments.

Depending on a man’s personality, these demands can either bring out the best in him or magnify his character flaws. Some fathers turn all the work over to their wives and as a result end up carrying a guilt trip the size of a Boeing 747. Other men grab the reins of their child’s care like a racehorse jockey bolting out of the gate – and soon discover that they’re too tired to go another lap.

I have a special-needs son myself. It may sound strange for me to say that serving helps bring about healing, yet I’ve seen this profound mystery illustrated in life and in Scripture. In Luke’s Gospel the apostle tells the story of a “sinful woman” who washed the feet of Jesus with an expensive perfume and her own tears.

Although she was ridiculed by some who saw her action as lowly and wasteful, Jesus praised her by declaring that she was forgiven of her sins and on a path of healing. Her act of service displayed her own brokenness as well as her willingness to let go of pride, arrogance, and self-reliance. This example should challenge our ego and humble us to receive healing from the One who gives to all freely.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to serve alongside Joni Eareckson Tada. People travel from all over the world to get just a moment with this inspiring lady. Many who are attracted to Joni have themselves suffered and feel that Joni identities with their journey. They often share their issues and pain with her, knowing that she will remember to pray for them.

Joni is so gracious to every visitor. I’ve watched her listen to people’s stories, offer words of encouragement, and take a moment to pray with them. Then she invites them to serve others.

If there is a mutual acquaintance or a need that Joni is aware of in a person’s hometown, she asks that individual to pray about meeting that need. At times, she might ask someone to visit a hurting friend in a certain hospital or care facility. And she often requests daily prayer for her own need or for our ministry at Joni and Friends.

After watching Joni’s pattern of redirecting people to acts of service, it finally dawned on me what she was trying to achieve. It came as I listened to her testimony one day to a group of students. Joni said that by taking her eyes off herself and serving others, she had found the healing power of God in her own life.

When we focus on our needs and problems, we prolong the healing process and give in to a “poor me” attitude of self-centeredness. God’s healing touch, on the other hand, moves us into something greater than ourselves – acts of service to others. Joni has redirected people to acts of service for their own good.

Serving others, beginning with our family, brings the added benefit of healing to our souls. God has designed us to give to others – and when we serve in his name, we are open to receiving his healing touch in return.

This article is adapted from Another Kind of Courage: God’s Design for Fathers of Families Affected by Disability by Doug Mazza and Steve Bundy, a Vice President with Joni and Friends.

Publication date: June 6, 2014