What if you knew a child who said they hated God, because He gave them a disability?
How would you react? What would you think?
Would you consider what could bring a child to the point of saying this?
Would you consider what made them hate their disability and who they were so much, that they blamed God for it?
I heard a parent recount this about their child recently, and it broke my heart. I’ve heard it time and time again.
What was it that brought them to the point of hating who they were – enough to reject God – because they believed he was responsible for the perceived injustice of it all?
I can’t speak for this one child or any of the others – that’s their story to tell, but let me lead you through a few things that happen in church that can make the self loathing of our disabled bodies happen and lead us to blaming God.
One element of this process can be what we call the ‘tragedy narrative’.
When a baby is born with a disability, it is common for everyone to say to the parents “I’m so sorry” rather congratulate them on the birth of their child. It starts with the medical staff at the hospital and continues through life. I still have people say “I’m so sorry about your disability”. Why?
This continues as the child grows with people saying something like “you do so well looking after them” to their grown ups, or asking invasive questions about the child’s disability….along with a face that loudly ‘shouts’ their pity for both the parent and their child.
Then we have the spiritual comments such as “We’ll pray that God gives you the strength and grace to cope with them”. The child can hear the comments and sense the meaning: they’re not normal and they are a burden on their grown ups.
Let’s move on to the next stage of ‘tragedy’: the need to make things better. It’s well intentioned and generally starts with advice like “have you tried…….”
Then we get the quoted bible verses – often out of context. For example: ‘God won’t give you more than you can handle…..’ again, we have that issue of seeing disability as a problem or suffering.
After that, we have a lot of ‘theology’ stuff thrown at us. God gave you this child because He knew you could cope (A comment hated by many parents of children with additional needs and disabilities, and again sees the child as a ‘problem’).
We often have the ‘God’s will’ explanation too; “God gave you this disability”. The reasons why vary greatly!
But we regularly get the polar opposite too – you caused it because someone sinned, unforgiven sin, you don’t have the faith to be healed, and my personal hated favourite: “there’s a generational curse on your family”.
Whatever the reason or the theology – they all seem to either blame God or the disabled person, and quite often both.
The horror of this is; the child can hear it and pick up the all the vibes that say to them: “I am a problem and God caused it”.
Recently I’ve been writing and speaking a lot about how the constant need to cure disabled people affects them (or in the language of those with no disability – the need to ‘heal’ us). The effect on children is no different.
Parents tell me stories of being accosted by people wanting to pray for healing for their child, accusing them of being demon possessed, faithless, having hidden sins – the list goes on. Many lay hands on their child without permission
What is it with this rudeness? It speaks the wrong message over the child and their family – ‘your disability makes you unworthy’.
It needs to stop. Now.
Parents who don’t go to church are put off ever going. They and their children are given the impression that God only wants people who are not disabled, not ill or so called ‘normal’. It tells them they are not welcome.
When you are disabled, child or adult, the church is often responsible for making us feel ‘wrong’ rather than God’s perfect child who He loves. It makes is feel like a mistake that needs to be fixed rather than a person made in God’s image.
A problem – not a blessing.
When a child who is disabled or has additional needs says they hate God, don’t point the finger at their grown ups. Don’t tell the child off for saying it.
Look for the reason why.
You might not have to look very far.