Special needs parents experience 5 phases as they adjust to their new role and family dynamic. The phases are outlined in my book, Unexpected Blessings: The Joys and Possibilities of Life in a Special Needs Family. They mirror the journey Paul was on in Acts 27 as he sailed for Rome but found himself in unexpected situations. The first phase is recognizing Plan B. Phase 2 is recovering and rebuilding rhythms that work for your family. In phase 3, parents must rebuild their faith foundation.
Idols and false beliefs don’t hold up in times of suffering. The blessings of this storm and of our ship going down are that we get know God in new and better ways.
Maybe it’s the idea they are being punished by God.
Maybe it reveals the idols they were putting their faith in.
Maybe they had unknowingly bought into the prosperity gospel message, believing that if they did everything right, God would bless them with healthy kids and are rethinking everything since life didn’t go according to their plan.
When we catch up with Paul and the ship’s crew at sea in the storm, we see his encouragement to the others as their foundation shifts.
Since we were violently storm-tossed, they began the next day to jettison the cargo. And on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
… Paul stood up among them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me and not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.” Acts 17:18-22
They weren’t going to die, but they would lose the ship.
The ship is all you have when you’re in the middle of the sea. But the truth is it’s not the ship or any man-made object that saves us. Here are some of my favorite verses from Psalms that remind us of that:
- Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7
- For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. Psalm 44:6
- The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love … Psalm 33:16-18
Imagine all the battles the authors of these Psalms had seen and probably won. The temptation would be to trust in your own strength and power. But we’re reminded again and again to trust in God above all else. Now is not the time for cliche sayings like “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” That hasn’t proven to be true. But what is true is that God will never leave us or forsake us.
Resources for phase 3, rebuilding our faith foundation:
- Focus on the Family interview from Jan. 2022, Experiencing God’s Grace in a Special Needs Family.
- Sins We Face as Caregivers
- The importance of praying for and with your child with special needs
- Unbroken Faith: Spiritual Recovery for the Special Needs Parent by Diane Dokko Kim