Last spring I wrote a series called Autism in God's Economy that I had wonderful responses to. I thought that I would repost it again for the holiday season, this time in reverse order so that you can read from the top and scroll down through all six entries.
Merry Christmas from the Taylors
if there really is an omnipotent god why can't he cure autism in me and all the others and make autism a thing of the past?
Your question is great one and is as old as the hills. It is another variation of, "If there is a loving God why do good people suffer?"
The Bible's answer is that suffering is a part of the consequences of man's rebellion against God. That we were made to know him personally and live in peace with the world, but that because we thought we knew better, we opened a pandora's box of suffering for ourselves and now nothing works the way it was intended to.
My personal answer is that asking the question assumes that there is no good that can come from suffering. Ask the specific question, "Can any good come from autism?" and the answer is yes. Posts number 3, 4 and 6 in the series are about the good that can come from autism.
Finally, your specific question, 'Why can't God cure autism in me and all the others and make autism a thing of the past?' The answer is that He can. There are plenty of illnesses, like Ignaz Semmelweis's "childbed fever" that used to kill one in 10 mothers after birth and now is pretty much unheard of.
Why He has not chosen to do that yet with autism or weather or not He will eventually do it, only He knows.
We are figuring it out, and my son is much, much better than he was three years ago, but I think that part of God's wisdom is not protecting us from the consiquences of our mistakes (and a big part of autism is that we have poisoned ourselves.)
If you want to be cured, and want to know why He has not done it, ask Him. He doesn't mind us coming to Him with the hard questions.
Then why hasn't he cured your son? Have you asked him about your son (Sorry, Ginger, I forgot the name of your son)? You are apparently religious, maybe a fundamentalist who believes in the bible's literal interpretation, i don't know, so you have done all the lord wants you to if he exists, or at least since you might say even if you are not perfect whatever minimal sins you have can be forgiven. I think you are in favor of a cure for your son. So why haven't you prayed to God and asked him for a cure? Why hasn't he cured your son?
Because we don't always get what we pray for. Over the course of a lifetime I have asked for things, to many things to count, that God did not give me. And looking back on them the wisdom in saying no to me is really obvious. I am hugely grateful for so many of the no's.
(If I had gotten what I prayed for in college, I would have married a man who turned out to be an alcoholic, sex addict and lost everything I own in Katrina).
Reading the Bible it becomes clear very quickly that God thinks it is much more important to be wise and mature than to be 'happy'. If you look at people in the Bible, people who were praised for their wisdom, good works and faithfulness to God, they did not have easy lives full of good fortune.
Jesus himself didn't live such a 'happy' life. He and all his disciples had really hard lives.
To be sure, if Chandler woke up tomorrow chatting like a typical 5 year old, I would be happy.. no doubt. Life would become easy again. While that is certainly something I would choose for myself and for Chandler, for now, God has chosen something harder for our family... but ultimately something that has made us more "real".
Chandler's autism is a double edged sword... We have cried so many tears, and been so angry at the way the world has treated Chandler already, but out of that we have become brave. Scott and I truly don't care what people think of us any more (with out being callous of course), we just want to do the right thing whether it is popular or not.
Scott and I also have a marriage like few others. It has withstood tornado after tornado and it is only getting stronger. We are just like that scene in Mr. & Mrs. Smith when they were back to back in the Ikea shooting at all the attackers, only we are not as hot.
And Chandler's older brother Webster is one of the kindest kids I know. The care that he takes with his brother makes me cry!
God has done all that and so much more by not curing Chandler. I am hoping that soon we will have learned everything we need to learn so He can go ahead and have him recover fully, but again... that is not my call.
Bottom line, God does not always give us the answers we want, because quite often He has a much bigger plan than our selfish desires would allow for. He does not owe me a cure for Chandler, and if he never "cures" him (I know.. not a good word) then I have to be content that He has chosen not to for a reason.
Even if I was a some sort of Mother Theresa Super-Christian and was constantly pleasing God and getting forgiveness for every thing I have done wrong and praying constantly, that is no assurance of getting healing for my child.
Jesus himself did not get everything that he prayed for, and he was sinless. He prayed repeatedly not to have to go to the cross, but all ways added, "but not my will, but Yours be done". And although it was not what Christ wanted, He wanted what His Father wanted more.
And because he did, and because he went with God's judgment instead of his desire to avoid pain, man can be redeemed from all the selfish desires and decisions we have made.
God had a bigger plan.
I will always ask for healing for Chandler. But it is much more important that Chandler is wise and godly and loving and peaceful than it is for him to be neurotypical. I pray a lot harder for those qualities a lot more than I pray for a 'cure' for him.
Am I answering your questions? Sometimes I am a bit too verbose.
There is a popular evangelical pamphlet that people use to explain the message of the Bible to other's. It begins, "God love you and has a wonderful plan for your life".
It hints at the view that God is Santa and if you become a Christian that life will suddenly be easy because you will get what you want.
Scott and I don't think that is a biblical idea at all. Not only do do hard circumstance come, but if you want to obey Jesus, you will purposely make them harder because you will choose to do the right thing even when you know it will lead to circumstances that will totally suck for you.
There is a really good book called, "Jesus Mean and Wild" that, in opposition to this odd idea "Easy Street Christianity" that, begins, "God loves you and has a difficult plan for your life".
But when you come through those really difficult things, and even manage to grow to the point that you can do it gracefully, how great is that?
Unfortunately, there are many questions for which we can't get answers until that time we can ask them of God face-to-face. I think I can wait a while before I have that opportunity.
Thanks for reposting this Ginger.
as far as jesus having had a hard life and not getting what he prayed for apparently jesus did not care, because, as you apparently believe in the holy trinity, then Jesus was actually god himself and he came to earth and foresaw what would happen, including his crucifixation, so your examples of Jesus are irrelevant.
Actually, that does answer a good many of my questions but not all of them. Have you asked God why he will not cure Chandler? As far as the Nietzschian explaination that this adversity you and Scott and Webster have experienced has only made your family stronger, then why would it be necessary for you to consult a DAN doctor and spend all of these thousands of dollars and hours you are spending? If you are a good christian then perhaps God could give you the answer as to why he did not grant your prayers. As you may know, people go to Lourdes in France before the statue of the virgin Mary and claim that their prayers for cures for various diseases have been answered. As a person with an autism spectrum disorder who longs for a cure and eradication of autism and an agnostic in terms of a belief in god why won't god cure us? You said that god would give me an explaination if i asked him. Then if you are a devout believer and you asked him what was his answer? Why won't God stop all the pain and suffering of autism? I would really like to know the answer to that. Certainly your family could save a lot of time and aggravation and money if god had answered your question so as a practicing christian aren't you entitled to an explaination? If you have it, could you please tell me why God refuses to cure autism, as apparently he came to earth in the form of jesus about 2,000 years ago and enabled the cripple to walk and fed the whole town with one loaf of bread and turned water into wine, etc. Why won't he cure autism?
. . . Have you asked God why he will not cure Chandler? As far as the Nietzschian explaination that this adversity you and Scott and Webster have experienced has only made your family stronger, then why would it be necessary for you to consult a DAN doctor and spend all of these thousands of dollars and hours you are spending? If you are a good christian then perhaps God could give you the answer as to why he did not grant your prayers.
Your questions could be asked of any disease or disorder (I wish there was a better word for me to use, but it's not just a "difference"). It's a question I could have easily asked many years ago while watching my father slowly die in a hospital room. But instead I paid attention, and learned more about my father, about my God, and about myself than I thought possible.
Such lessons are painful, and there will always be unanswered questions -- at least unanswered while we are here in this world. But that does not mean the answers aren't there, or that there is no purpose.
Not a day goes by that I don't wish my son had never regressed into autism. Yet I can't ignore the strength my family has received, my growth as a parent, or the new and wonderful friendships I have found (including Ginger). Many of those lessons come from the struggle and the improvement we see in our children. That's why we seek competent medical help, and why we pour a lot of money into the process. Indeed, those lessons would be meaningless if we simply threw up our hands, and said it's God's will that my son be autistic. It's not the disease/disorder that's God's will; it's the struggle and the learning.
As usual, Wade speaks for me.
As usually I will expound and write a very long explanation of what he managed to say in two paragraphs.
Let me say Jonathan... I really appreciate all the earnest thought in this and the chance to address these really important questions. It is nice for an agnostic like you to step into my world view and take a hard look at things.
[background on me since you have made some educated guesses from what I have written, I do believe in the trinity, the literal interpretation of the bible (in the proper context of course, providing for parables and wisdom sayings and such) and I could best be classified as Reformed Christian following the interpretations of Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon and Sproul among others].
“as far as Jesus having had a hard life and not getting what he prayed for apparently Jesus did not care, because, as you apparently believe in the holy trinity, then Jesus was actually god himself and he came to earth and foresaw what would happen, including his crucifixion, so your examples of Jesus are irrelevant.”
It actually is relevant… because of Jesus experience in the garden of Gethsemane before He was arrested, we can see that he really, really cared. He was described as being in very serious distress to the point of sweating blood. He really did not want to go to the cross and experience all that He was about to experience. When you take the view that because He knew what was coming, it was no big deal to Him, you forget his dual nature. That He was both fully God and fully man. (We have a tendency to want to make Jesus one or the other but it is hard to wrap our brains around Him being both) As a man he would experience every emotion that we experience. In the garden He showed his extreme dread.
The thing that separates Jesus from us is that when we experience such dread and anxiety over a coming event, we usually fight or flee rather than just doing the right thing no matter the personal cost to us. He didn’t make that choice. The Max Lucado passage that I quoted in the installment called “Those with Autism” discusses the idea that as much as He didn’t want to go to the cross because of what it would cost Him, it meant more to Him to follow through with the plans of the Father and to win us back.
”Have you asked God why he will not cure Chandler?”
Yes, many times. And He has given me lots of answers. Many of which I have shared in this series. Let me share with you a very specific answer and then offer a possible answer as to why God has not chosen to cure you. It is a long story, but a perfect illustration to answer your question.
The entire ‘Autism in God’s Economy’ series is a result of having our son and our family mistreated by a church and by individuals who claimed to be Christians, but would not do what God asked of them.
I believe that one of the reasons that Chandler has not been cured is because God is using him in his disability to test those of us who claim to be Christians. One of Jesus’ parting lessons to people who claimed to be his disciples was that their claim would be tested by the way they treated the vulnerable, “What you do unto the least of these, you do unto Me”. I am interpreting that lesson quite literally here.
If you read the second to last installment of Autism in God’s Economy, “Those in Power Over Those With Autism” it gives very serious warnings to those who abuse their power over autistic people who cannot advocate as well for themselves as the neurotypical can. That installment was written about several people who had abused their authority over Chandler during our short experience as an autism family, but most specifically about the Senior Pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, Mark Brewer. He is a man who claims to be a follower of Jesus, but mistreated my son.
We were member of the church for years, and while my kids were at the church’s preschool, I witnesses one child with an autism diagnosis and two other’s that the school had considered, ‘at risk’ and in need of special services, being mishandled by the school with out their parents knowledge or consent. When I brought this to the attention of the school’s administration and two of the parents of the kids involved, rather than handling the problem honorably, the school tried to get my husband and I to sign a document promising not to talk about what we had seen (and other illegal restrictions like giving up access to our kids while they were in school) or they would throw our kids out of school. We refused and they kicked our kids out of school with out ever bringing a complaint against us.
When we reported this punishment for whistle blowing to the Senior pastor, who was responsible for all these people’s behavior as their pastor, he made a commitment to us to get to the bottom of it, then did nothing, eventually calling me to insult me over the phone and following up with a letter that said, ‘we are all in agreement that your children are no longer enrolled in the school’, still with no explanation on why they were expelled.
Now Mark Brewer’s public reputation is a good one. He wears Hawaiian shirts and tells jokes all the time and plays golf with the rich and famous acts like everyone’s bud. But the guy that he is behind closed doors is not the honorable guy that he pretends to be in public. In private he throws his weight around if his ‘ministry’ is threatened, and can be a bully if you confront him for something he has done wrong. (We are not the only people to get such a treatment for pointing out Mark’s misbehavior.)
In this case specifically, Mark was commanded in the Bible (and from his own lessons that he gives from the pulpit) to root out corruption in the church by investigating the whole thing, holding a hearing with everyone present and issuing appropriate consequences for anyone found guilty of wrong doing. Doing his duty before God however would open him and the church up to civil law suits from us and the three other families, so Mark made the choice to disobey God, allow the rights of the children to be violated in order to protect Bel Air’s money and reputation.
Jesus was really clear. What Mark Brewer did to Chandler, because Chandler’s autism makes him one of “The Least of These”, Mark Brewer did to Jesus himself. When Mark now goes to pray and tell God how wonderful He is, Jesus knows that, to be frank, Mark is full of crap, because he has wronged a disabled child and is completely unrepentant of it. Between my husband, myself and my father in law, this pastor has been addressed more than 5 times on the corruption in his church and on his own disobedience to the Bible and to the laws of the state of California, and yet he admits to nothing, responds to nothing and stays the course that he is on. (I will post a copy of the letter we wrote to him last summer so you can see that the man has been confronted, in no uncertain terms, about the wrong that he has perpetrated on my disabled son. http://adventuresinautism.blogspot.com/2007/06/open-letter-of-rebuke-to-mark-brewer-of.html We never got an answer from him or from the elders of the church when we brought the matter before them).
So according to Jesus teaching in Matthew 25, specifically verses 45 and 46 which say, "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.", because Mark did not offer justice to Chandler, he did not offer justice to Jesus and unless he repents of this and cleans up the mess he made, he is not really a Christian but someone who worships himself and his own power and will not go to heaven at the end of this life.
It is not what a pastor says in the pulpit or the face he shows in public that proves him a Christian, it is what he DOES in his personal and professional and private life. What God has done in this episode in Chandler’s life, through Chandler’s disability, is to put Mark Brewer in a position to be judged on whether or not he really loves Jesus, or whether or not he really just loves the recognition and influence of being a pastor. God has used ‘the weak’, my 4 year old autistic child, ‘to shame the strong’, a well known pastor of a church of thousands with lots of rich and powerful friends.
Now as long as Mark is still breathing, he still has a chance at redemption, and if he actually repents of what he did, admits to his wrongdoing and sets things right regardless of the consequences to him and his ‘ministry’, he will have proved that he actually loves God more than he loves himself and his own agenda (just as Jesus did in going to the cross). And if Chandler is still autistic, he will be the instrument of Mark’s redemption the same way he is now the instrument of his condemnation.
After going through this process with Mr. Brewer, I can say with confidence that one of the reasons that Chandler is still autistic, is that God wanted to use him to judge the heart of a powerful man who claims to be something that he is not.
Conversely, I have seen people who I never would have thought had it in them, make real sacrifices for Chandler. They put their money and their time and their resources where their mouth is and they have proven that they are true disciples of Jesus, to God Himself, through their love for my disabled son.
Now I don’t know you or hardly anything about your life, but just from reading the first entry on your blog, I can make a guess as to one of the reasons as to why God has chosen not to cure your autism. You have written about being turned down for SSI even though you need it and fit the criteria for it. For the sake of argument, let’s say that you do meet the legal requirements and are actually due that money. If that is the case, and there is someone in that office on Olympic Blvd that is denying you your legal right to that money, then God can look at that person and judge them according to their actions.
Are they working hard to find a way to help you or spending overtime to cut through red tape for you? Or are they in a cushy government job that they know they can’t loose, and they guess that your complaints will fall on deaf ears and they just can’t be bothered with you and your needs and rights?
If (for the purposes of illustration) all of this is true, then God stands by, watching it all, and judges those in power over you and your money to see if they are really working in your interests or theirs.
I am sure you can come up with lots of other examples from your life of people who mistreated you because they could do it and get away with it.
Lovaas has met his maker. He could have stood before God all day long and claim that he was working in the best interests of children, but bottom line, he hit them and taught others to hit them. That is not therapy, it is child abuse. What he did to those kids, because they are ‘the least of these’, he did to Jesus himself according to Matthew 25.
God’s judgment of others is what I have written about here, but that is just one of areas that we could explore in the ‘why autism’ area. Our personal growth and wisdom is another that you are looking at in the context of Nietze’s writings.
“As far as the Nietzschian explaination that this adversity you and Scott and Webster have experienced has only made your family stronger, then why would it be necessary for you to consult a DAN doctor and spend all of these thousands of dollars and hours you are spending?
Another great point. My explanation of the very real power that he gives to the disabled, that He makes them the fork in the road that others will take that will either lead to His pleasure or His judgment even strengthens your question. If God does such great things with autistic people, then why pour our resources into curing Chandler’s autism?
Because we have a responsibility as his parents, as we do with our typical son, to make him as healthy as we can with the resources that God has give us and to prepare him as best we can to live in a world that we know will be, at least uncaring, and at worst, hostile to him.
Chandler has lead and mercury and yeast and the more we get them out, the happier, healthier and more functional he becomes. Chandler has food sensitivities and gut problems and the better his diet, the less distracted he is and better he learns. Chelation and antifungal and the GFCF/SCD diet does not work for all people with autism, but Chandler is one of those people, so we owe it to him to manage his physical symptoms as best we can, not only if it cures him, but even if it only makes a small improvement in his quality of life.
“If you are a good Christian then perhaps God could give you the answer as to why he did not grant your prayers. As you may know, people go to Lourdes in France before the statue of the virgin Mary and claim that their prayers for cures for various diseases have been answered. As a person with an autism spectrum disorder who longs for a cure and eradication of autism and an agnostic in terms of a belief in god why won't god cure us? You said that god would give me an explaination if i asked him.
I hope that my very long explanation answers these questions better, but I want to be clear I don’t know that God will give you an explanation as to why he chose you specifically to be autistic or why he has chosen not to cure you. There are questions that I have asked God about why he made me the way he made me for going on 30 years now that I don’t have an answer to. But earnestly asking the question of Him opens up the conversation.
“Certainly your family could save a lot of time and aggravation and money if god had answered your question so as a practicing Christian aren't you entitled to an explanation?”
Actually no. This is one of the hard teachings of the Bible. He is God and we are not and He does not have to explain Himself to us. Every once in a while he does give us a few, “whys”, and it is a gracious gift when He does, but he does not owe it to us. Romans 9 says, “who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”
For most people, everything in us fights against this. We want to know why, and not just to know why, but to know how to talk Him out of it.
And honestly, if there really is a God, and He really has orchestrated this whole world and every person and every molecule into a very specific, very complicated story, if He tried to explain to us why, would we have the capacity to understand it? When I imagine myself standing in front of Him and the end of this life and can finally ask Him face to face why He made Chandler autistic, I picture the answer to that question taking several millennia.
I think it will probably go something like this, “Well Ginger, about three minutes after Chandler was conceived… and when your girlfriend Julia suspected he might be autistic she did a wonderful thing and… so when Mark Brewer said to you, ‘Don’t you quote scripture to me. I know that book better than you do and we will go back and forth all day long and I will win”, I saw the proof that it wasn’t really Me that he loved but… and you don’t know this but when you wrote that blog post about how personally I take it when people with autism are mistreated, Ellen Smith in Bath, England read it and cried because she never knew I felt that way about her and the next day at school when Mildred teased here, it didn’t even bother her because she knew… and then Chandler said her name and she felt so special because there were only a very few people that Chandler called by name… and it took 10 years of cleaning up poop for you to finally be humble enough to admit that… and then at his 16th birthday party Chandler said to Ethan… and when Webster’s youngest son was so impacted by his autistic uncle that he started the legal defense fund to fight for the rights of the disabled he had no idea that it would lead to the US Supreme Court decisions that… and then in the year 2422 because of………” And on and on and on.
How long do you think it would take God to explain how he used your autistic life to impact every person who came in contact with you and the ripple effect you had on billions and billions and on all who came after you?
“If you have it, could you please tell me why God refuses to cure autism, as apparently he came to earth in the form of jesus about 2,000 years ago and enabled the cripple to walk and fed the whole town with one loaf of bread and turned water into wine, etc. Why won't he cure autism?”
I do not know the whole answer to that. To be able to answer that fully would be to know the mind of God. I know that you don’t even know if He exists or not, but it can’t hurt to start the conversation by asking him the question, “Why me”, earnestly, not in that entitled, “how dare you, you should have done it another way” tone that we usually take with God (I am talking to myself here too), but really being open to getting an answer, and just see where it takes you. You may find that the answer is that He has something more important for you than simply physical healing.
Jesus had amazing things to say to the mistreated and the humble and the broken. In fact when He began his public ministry, He did it with the announcement that he came for the poor. He didn’t come for the ‘haves’, they didn’t think they needed Him. He came for the ‘have nots’.
Hi Ginger, thanks for the very lengthy and interesting explaination. I wonder if god would actually ever speak with someone and tell them why autism exists. If you believe in the literal interpretation of the bible then you believe that god actually spoke to Noah, Abraham and Moses and actually showed his back to Moses. Maybe he could do that with someone interested in the question of autism.
Also, I wonder if there is a god if he is not testing all of those DAN doctors you have gone to. He must be according to your own logic. I am reminded of another quote from the book of Matthew though I can't recite the exact chapter and verse: "Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps clothing because inwardly they are ravenous wolves" Perhaps he was talking about the DAN doctors and all of the these others you have consulted and spent so much money and time on to provide a quick fix for Chandler's autism. Something for you to think about.
"Perhaps he was talking about the DAN doctors and all of the these others you have consulted and spent so much money and time on to provide a quick fix for Chandler's autism. Something for you to think about."
Jonathan you are not wrong.
I have dealt with DAN docs who really want to help kids and will spend hours talking with parents and giving advice without charging a dime, and I had one doc who I just sat and smile and nodded at until he gave me the Rx that already I knew I needed for Chan. I have heard of a few DAN docs that charge insane sums of money for a 1 hour intake and when parents compare notes they are all given the exact same treatments.
It is the wild west days of autism treatment. I will be happy when it settles out more. I think that is starting to happen as parents figuring out who is worth their salt and who is full of it.
As far as God talking to us, it is generally agreed that He did it directly back in the day because there was no written instruction. Now that we have it, there is no need.
If I were God though I would talk to non verbal/non communicating autistics. Who knows, maybe He does.
As far as God talking to us, it is generally agreed that He did it directly back in the day because there was no written instruction. Now that we have it, there is no need.
actually that explaination contradicts the book of exodus where moses is given the ten commandments, written on tablets so that can't be correct.
Well sort of. My understanding was that direct revelation was done in stages that started with Moses and 'The Law', was still happening after Jesus' ascension with Paul on the Road to Damascus and wrapped up with the Apostle John at the end of his life after he had outlived all the other apostles.
Unless of course you count all the televangelists who say that God told me to tell you to send me your money. 'Cause those guys are totally hearing from God.
An intersting discusion!
Hi, I have a 9 year old son who has autism, he is non-verbal (he has a few words) is still in diapers and understands very little language. I suppose I could go on and on about him. Thanks for your posting about Gods economy and faith. Caleb's (my son) diagnosis kind of blew up my faith pretty good. It ok though...it needed blowing up :) Its still something I'm struggling with but I think anything worthwhile needs to be struggled through and fought for. I appreciated what you said about "the least of these", I always thought of "these" as the poor on the other side of the world, or the homeless, but never as my own child. What a whole different perspective....thank you.
I've had a discouraging couple of days with my son, and I'm so glad I ran across your blog. I'm just so tired....its relentless isn't it?
Anyway thanks for your encouragement and for understanding where I am and what I go through everyday.
It is relentless.
Thank you so much for these comments. It makes it all so much more worthwhile when it means something to someone else.
I am sorry I didn't respond to your comment sooner, I missed it. I was actually signing on to the comments to leave a follow up to my discussion with Jonathan.
I sent two sermons to friends of mine today and listening to them again they were really applicable to this conversation, so I want to post them here.
Tim Keller is a pastor in NYC that I just love. One of my friends and I joke that we feel smart for just getting what he teaches. His sermons on Praying our Tears and Praying our Fears were really wonderful for me when we were going through the really hard stuff in '06.
I encourage you, and anyone who is struggling right now to take some time and listen.
I hope that things get better for you, but if not, I hope that God gives you real encouragement and contentment in the hard times.
Thanks for these posts Ginger.
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