Friends of ours in an Asian land shared a very interesting thought: “People here love rice, but because of the shortage of land, someone developed a way to grow rice underground. Somewhere under the world’s largest city, they grow rice. Initially, the rice did not have much flavor. The reason, they discovered, was because the rice was not exposed to the elements outside—the scorching heat, the strong winds, and the summer downpours. So they began to simulate the weather outside. No matter what we might be going through right now, the heat and wind have a purpose—to make us ‘tastier!’”
Isn’t that interesting? In making a correlation to my own life, I can say that most of us want life to be easy, comfortable, happy and without a lot of effort! Yet, what makes us more useful and “tastier” if you will, is when the “elements” of life have their way with us.
It will happen to all of us—being “called” to overcome, endure, or work through some very challenging situation(s) at some time in our life. For some, the duration from start to finish will vary. We’d all love for our challenge to be short-lived; but in our challenge, although equally our joy, is now almost 30 years old!
Raising a child with special needs (mentally and developmentally challegned, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and some severe/fatal allergies) demands of us 24/7 attention and focus. It has required of me to make it a full time job without financial reward: finding services, jobs, doctors, specialists, etc. It often brings us to our limit of patience. It tends to be one reason for a divorce rate of greater than 85% in this group labeled “special needs families”. It has made me mad, strong, sad, happy, frustrated, joyous, and in the end, always thankful. But, many days are hard.
Nights on end when a typical child is ill are draining, but when special needs are added to the mix, it can be a different type of challenge. Children who can’t talk can’t share their pain or needs. Maybe they can’t even roll over or get to where they need to go to be sick. Maybe they need a diaper changed and they’re a teen. This is just one avenue of hardship – others include:
- family members who don’t understand and don’t that the time to understand or learn what our journey truly consists of
- dealing with agencies, the law, schools, workshops, etc.
- hours of study to find places our child will thrive
- hours of phone calling and travel to get what we know they need
- …and knowing they will never be able to do any of this on their own.
The hardships really don’t end.
And while that is true, over and above the hardships are the joys. The scorching heat of hardship allows us to learn lessons we wouldn’t otherwise learn, and if we weather those hardships, we can become an examples for to others. For me, I’ve sensed the hand of God working in my life through the challenges we experienced. When sadness and disappointment come to us like a strong wind, we can recognize that God has a purpose for all the things He brings into our lives – just what we need to grow and well, become “tastier”. God isn’t a crutch but a comforter. He doesn’t comfort us to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.
In turn, I comfort and mentor younger moms challenged as I have been – helping them see the broader scope—the bigger picture: maybe this is about what we will learn, how we will grow, how we will love. If God stood before me and offered to heal my son, I’d probably say no. WHY? Because I’ve learned that from the hardships have come much good:
- God knows what’s best for us in all ways – we just need to listen and learn
- that it was a blessing that I didn’t have to work, thus being able to help my child on a full time basis; I was healthy to do what was needed; I was able so I could also be willing; we worked hard to have a good marriage and it’s been worth it
- the many challenges and life lessons that have made me stronger
- that there are many wonderful people traveling down the same road as we are – giving, loving, kind and generous people who sacrifice their lives to make another life better, and they’ve impacted my life for the better
- that as others (and the Lord) have comfort me, I’ve been able to comfort others in return
I think hardships are good, and I’ll be satisfied to stick with the ones I have.