DISCLAIMER: I do believe that some children are born with or develop disabilities because of the sinful actions of their parents (or other adults). Substance exposure in utero and/or physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse and neglect after birth can directly lead to children being impacted for life. However, these are not the types of circumstances that cause the majority of disabilities among children, and it is definitely not the case for why Ethan has PBD-ZSD or why many of my friends children have debilitating diseases/disorders/conditions.
The Old Testament book of Job provides us with a clear picture of "bad things happening to good people," through no fault of their own, although the people around him (friends and family) asked what he he had done to bring about his suffering. Additionally, in the Bible in the ninth chapter of the book of John we learn about Jesus healing a man who was blind from birth. His followers wanted to know whose sin had caused the man to be blind. '"Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (John 9:3). The Apostle Paul, a man of great faith, prayed for the thorn in his flesh (which no one fully knows what that was, but we know that Paul suffered due to it) to be taken away. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he [God] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). The Old Testament and the New Testament is full of stories of the people of God who endured suffering.
I attend a ladies Bible study at our church. We are currently studying the book of Matthew, and this week's lesson happened to focus on the miracles of Jesus found in the eighth and ninth chapters of Matthew. As we discussed these miracles and how frequently Jesus would respond that it was by or through faith that they were healed, I shared my friend's story from a few years ago with the group. I also let them know that I believe with all of my mind, body and soul that God has the power to heal Ethan. I don't doubt that at all. I believe that if it was God's will that Ethan be healed that he would be, and in a blink of an eye my son would be free from PBD-ZSD. However, I also understand, that as much as I pray for that miracle, that Ethan being miraculously healed here on Earth may not be God's will. Does that reality hurt this momma's heart? Absolutely. Does acknowledging that mean that I don't have enough faith? I don't think so.
I'm not going to even pretend to fully understand the mind or will of God, and I freely admit that I have a lot of questions about why there is so much pain and suffering in this world. John Piper has a short article on "Why God Doesn't Fully Explain Pain" that I find encouraging, and serves as a reminder no matter how hard things get for us here in this live that God is still in control, He is still good and we can trust Him.
I think that as believers we need to think more clearly about what we say to people who are hurting. Telling someone that "If they just had enough faith (fill in the blank) will happen" is frequently exactly what NOT to say. Dr. Joe McKeever wrote an article titled, "How Not to Minister to the Hurting," that I have found helpful in addressing many of the hurtful things that most of us are guilty of saying/doing (although that was never our intention) and also in providing useful information about more helpful and meaningful ways to come alongside someone who is hurting. He ends the article with this:
It is likely that we have all been hurt at one time or another by someone who said something that was supposed to be comforting but really wasn't and we're probably guilty of doing it ourselves from time to time. I know that the way that I respond to people and situations today is in many ways very different than I would have five years ago. I'm far from perfect and I know I frequently don't know what the right thing to say is, so perhaps I also need to work on doing more of what Dr. Joe McKeever suggests: Saying, "I'm so sorry. My heart is so sad for you." Giving hugs, lifting others up in prayer, and being quiet.
*For more "Say/Do This not That" suggestions check out my Their Words, My Thoughts page.