Devilishly Disabled or God Enabled?

For some reason, the fact that I was born with Cerebral Palsy and now work as a Religious Affairs journalist is something that people find very interesting – there really is no accounting for taste!  Over the last 25 years I have been invited to speak on and write about the issue of disability many times.

Most of what I am asked can be summarised by the following three questions:

  • Why does disability occur in the first place?
  • How can a God of love allow people to be born with or acquire a disability?
  • Where do you stand on the whole issue of treatment and curing of disabilities?

In answer to the first question, I believe that in general terms, disability is a result of what is described in Genesis 3 as ‘The Fall’, i.e. the time when humans decided to make a dent in a previously perfect world by disobeying God. As a result of man’s actions, all the terrible things that we now see on this planet, i.e. decay, age, sin and disability came into the world.

Second, from my understanding of the scriptures, I believe that forms of disability and illness come from either God’s enemy, the Devil, who specialises in misery and suffering, or the consequence of living in a broken world . Satan is described as ‘the father of lies.’ (John 8:44) God, on the other hand, is the giver of ‘life and life in all its’ fullness’, (John 10:10). God did not intend for disability to be part of the equation, it is the product of living in a ‘fallen’ world. A world infected by the Devil’s presence, and his desire to break us and the world even further. The question of why God, who is infinitely more powerful than the Devil allows disability is a thorny one and an ill-judged answer is liable to cause offence.

I do not know exactly why I have been allowed to have a disability. Nor do I know why my condition is more severe than others I know; such things will be difficult to understand this side of eternity. What I can say for certain is that God will not allow me to be tested beyond what He knows I can endure. (1 Corinthians 10: 13.) God allowed me to have a disability because He knows that I can handle it. Yes, it is sometimes hard, yes it can lead to frustration, pain, etc. But people with no disability also endure pain, struggles, frustrations, etc., often to a much greater extent than I. No two people experience a disability or anything else the same way, but speaking for myself, I have seen God use my disability to challenge myself and others for the better; I may not have been able to progress in my relationship with God the way I have, unless CP had been part of my life. Therefore, whilst I don’t always bounce out of bed every morning shouting; “yippee, disabled and proud”, I know that God can be glorified in my life and body as much as any able-bodied person.

Thirdly, the debate surrounding cures is controversial.  Yet, I am honest enough to admit that if a wonder drug became available without side-effects, I would take it. Furthermore, I have undergone surgery over the years, physiotherapy and do take medication daily. All the above has been useful and life-enhancing, I also know people who have been cured of various illnesses and that is wonderful. However, I have also known of children and adults who have been dragged, or dragged themselves round the country, putting too much faith in ‘quack treatments’, new theories and have ruined their own lives and others in search of a cure that doesn’t exist. I believe that all things are possible for God. He could cure my CP if He chose to, but it is highly unlikely that He will. Therefore, I must not only exist but more than that, live my life, enjoy it, celebrate it, cherish every aspect, roll with the punches, and say thank-you to God daily for the opportunities I have.

Joe Boyd (Journalist and Author of ‘Trading Places’)