Rejoice to do good.
Those words from Ecclesiastes 3:12 have been easy to obey this month with the release of Sharing Love Abundantly in Special Needs Families, which I co-wrote with Dr. Gary Chapman. Yeah, he's the love languages guy. So I have plenty to rejoice about these days.
But when I was a kid surreptitiously carrying my dad's urinal to the empty in the church bathroom or feeling the stares of neighbor kids as I wheeled him around the block, the command to rejoice to do good stuck in my craw.
After the birth of our first child, my reaction to the rejoice to do good thing would have been to throw my Bible across the room. If I'd had time to read my Bible. Which I didn't thanks to sleep deprivation, and atypical baby care like pumping breast milk 6 times a day to pour down his feeding tube, and way too many 240 mile round trips from the remote town where we lived to the doctor's office.
All of which prevented the throwing of my Bible. And proves that Romans 8:28 is true. God does work all things to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.
Back to rejoice to do good thing. My point is this.
Throughout my childhood, when Mom, my siblings, and I cared for Dad we were doing great good. My husband and I also did great good caring for our son during the hard first years of his life. In both situations, we had no idea we were doing good. We were just doing what loving families do–we were taking care of our family members who couldn't care for themselves.
I'm sure there were people who pointed this truth out to Mom, but it went over my daydreamy head. I think there were people who pointed out this truth to my husband and me, but we were too sleep deprived and stressed for it to register. Not to mention that hearing such a sentiment from a person who is hasn't raised a child with disabilities or special needs would have been hard for me to swallow.
I, however, am a parent who raised a child with special needs. I am like you, so I can speak this truth into your heart. You are doing great good.
You do great good every time you race your medically fragile child to the doctor's office or hospital.
You do great good when you stand calmly beside your child when he has a meltdown at the grocery store.
You do great good when you advocate for your child at IEP meetings and annual reviews.
You do great good work when you change your adult son's diaper or your adult daughter's menstrual pad.
You do great good by showing up at church with your entire family on Sunday morning.
You do great good when you drag out of bed every night to comfort your child.
You do great good by biting your tongue and choosing words of affirmation instead of frustration.
You do great good when you look into your child's eyes and say, "I love you. You are worthy. You are made in God's image."
In these ways and a thousand million others every day you are doing great good.
Though you may not see all the good now, one day–in this world or the next–you will. In that day, you will be amazed by the good God has accomplished through you and through your child. This is why we can rejoice to do good even in the hard days of caregiving. We can rejoice to do good because as believers and children of God, we stand upon God's promise to use our present situation for eternal good. We know, without a shadow of doubt, that the best is yet to come.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works within us,
to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20–21 (NASB)
Written by Jolene Philo
Jolene Philo is the mother of a son born with life-threatening special needs and the daughter of a father severely affected by multiple sclerosis. In her 25 years as an educator, she integrated children with special needs into her classroom. She’s written 5 books about caregiving, special needs parenting, and childhood PTSD. Most recently, She co-wrote a book with Dr. Gary Chapman about how parents of kids with special needs can use the 5 love languages in their families.
Jolene speaks at conferences around the country and internationally, facilitates classes about childhood trauma for educators, and trains special needs ministry leaders and volunteers. She blogs at www.DifferentDream.com.
She and her husband live in Iowa.
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