I run a Facebook group focused on self-care for special-needs moms, and I recently asked them what was causing the most stress in their lives right now. “Worry about meeting my child’s needs now and in the future” was the number one answer.
It was no surprise to me. I grew up as a special-needs sibling (my sister has Down syndrome) and I’m now raising a child with special needs (my eleven year old has level 3 autism). I was aware of the worry my parents felt decades ago and now feel it myself.
It keeps us up at night. It keeps us turning to Dr. Google for more answers. It keeps us from experiencing the joy in this moment because we don’t know what will come tomorrow.
As I share these worries common to so many of us, I also share hope. And I’m praying you are able to focus on that hope even more than your worries today.
The top five worries of special-needs parents and how to overcome them:
Who will care for my child when I’m gone? This is scary for those of us who have children dependent on care from others. That’s true for my son and my sister. The writing of Greg Lucas has always been an encouragement to me on this topic. He shares:
This one verse in Deuteronomy has provided years of comfort and proven assurance for our family: “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8)
When we place our faith in the future grace of God through the finished work of Jesus, we are placing our faith in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Father. He is not lacking in His love or care—past, present, or future.
Plainly speaking, He is all knowing, all powerful and all present. He is not only near you; He also goes before you into your unknown future.
Is my child able to learn about God and experience salvation? I am married to a preacher. Few kids are in church, hearing the good news of the gospel, more than pastors’ kids. But we don’t know James’s level of understanding about God, sin, salvation, or heaven. If James can’t see it, it doesn’t seem to exist for him, which makes discussing abstract ideas very difficult. I am encouraged by a story found in 2 Samuel 9. After King Saul’s family had been wiped out, David wanted a way to fulfill his vow to Saul’s son Jonathan, who was a friend to David. He asked, “Is there anyone left in the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (v. 1). A servant told David, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” If we look back at 2 Samuel 4:4, we see he was crippled because his nurse took him and fled at the news of his father’s death. He fell and became lame. David asked for Mephibosheth to be brought to him. Mephibosheth came before the king and fell on his face before him. David said to him, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always” (v. 7). Verse 11 says, “So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.” God didn’t let David forget about Mephibosheth, and God won’t forget about James either. So even though I can’t be certain what James understands about God, I can be certain about what God understands about James. And I will trust in God’s love and care for my son from now until eternity.
Is my child safe? In 2016, two stories captured my attention. First, from the town where I grew up in Oklahoma, 8-year-old Damion Alexander Davidson left his home around 2:00 am because he liked thunder storms. His body was found fourteen days later. Months later in my current town, 9-year-old Marcus McGhee went missing and his body was later found in a pond near the family’s property. I watched the news accounts from both cities that I knew so well, and I wept. People from the communities had searched and searched, calling for the boys and hoping for an answer. James is mostly nonverbal and would have been unable to answer if people were searching for him, so we taught him a how to answer “Here I am!” when asked, “James, where are you?” But that just alleviated one worry from my mind. With recent school shootings and reports of lockdowns, now my fear is he wouldn’t be quiet enough to be safely hidden from someone determined to harm him or his classmates. But I can never guarantee James’s safety. Not even when he’s home with me. I can guarantee that God loves him and has a plan for his life. Even in unsafe situations, God is in control.
What does my child’s future hold? Again, being a special-needs sibling helps give me perceptive on this. I don’t get discouraged when I think about James’s future because he has such a great role model in my sister. She turned forty in December and has a full and fun life. She lives at home with my parents, she volunteers at a food pantry, she watches her favorite shows each day, she goes to exercise class, and she adores her nieces and nephews. She’s happy. Picturing James living a life similar to my sister’s is a huge encouragement to me. Of course I plan what I can for James’s future, helping him learn skills to care for himself. But I try to release the worry and illusion of control about what the future will bring.
Am I doing enough? Over three years ago we moved from Pennsylvania to Texas. There were lots of factors to consider, but we didn’t research autism services here. We just assumed Texas was progressive enough to have services similar to what we received in PA. When we got here and started talking to the school and other parents, we realized how wrong we were. Texas felt about twenty years behind what we were receiving in PA. When I talked to one agency that helps connect families to services, the director actually said, “Did you have to move here? Can you go back to where you came from?” But we couldn’t go back. We felt called here. And the Book of Acts says God determines where people live and when they live. So we trust He has a purpose for us here at this time, and we believe in His promises. Am I doing enough? Is James’s school doing enough? Is his therapist doing enough? Yes. Because we are working with the resources God has give us in this time at this place and His purpose for James’s life will be accomplished.
John Calvin wrote, “When the light of Divine Providence has illuminated the believer’s soul, he is relieved and set free, not only from the extreme fear and anxiety, which formerly oppressed him, but from all care.” I’m praying you’ll experience the light of Divine Providence today and release your worry!