February 23, 2010

The Ongoing Struggle

It's been 3 1/2 years since my son was diagnosed with autism. My husband and I have passed through the phases that face all parents after the diagnosis: shock, denial, grief, and anger (to name a few). We have come to a place of peace and acceptance. Not that we like autism! But I can see the gift it has been in our lives, especially at how it has molded me into a much more compassionate person.

But there is one thing that I still wrestle with on a consistent basis.


I am a list-making, type-A kind of gal so somehow I got it in my head that if I just work hard enough and provide the right environment for Will...poof!...the autism will go away. So if I don’t fight it off, the worry often leads to (surprise!) control issues. I see a hole in Will’s development and attempt to fill it with the determination of a kamikaze pilot, thinking if I work hard enough I can make up for his disabilities and miraculously alter his future. I tend to shove God aside and attempt to take things into my own hands, which, honestly, only feeds the worry. It puts me in a position where I simply can never work hard enough or do enough. I see weaknesses rather than successes.

Then worries tend to pile up: Do people think he's weird? Will his teacher be good next year? Will he continue to progress? Will he ever understand the gospel and place his faith in Christ? Will he have friends in middle school? What's puberty going to be like? Will he ever have a relationship with a girl? Will he live on his own? I sometimes forget that no parent knows their child’s future. Typical kids are forgetful and lack refined social skills just like my child.

It’s then that God, ever the gentleman, taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that, ahem, He doesn’t need any help. He’s got the future in His hands. I imagine that when I worry over what is to come, God throws His hands up in amused deference and waits for my last gasp of “Uncle!” before stepping in and lovingly taking over.

Job questioned God too and His answer could not be more clear: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?...Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the doors of the shadow of death? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this.”[1]

What is abundantly clear, according to Scripture and from my experience, is that we cannot change or affect tomorrow through worry.[2] The ability to affect the future is God’s domain alone and, thankfully so, because He tells us that the future He has for us is good, even if He has to bring it from difficult circumstances.[3] Our only appropriate response, then, is to trust Him with it. When we give our lives to Him initially, we trust Him, but we also have a choice to trust Him on a daily basis by placing our cares and concerns in His capable hands.

Trusting Him is not passive. I have to actively seek Him, renew my mind in the truth of who He is, and feed on His faithfulness. A passage that has been instrumental in my response to autism is Psalm 37:3,4: “Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” If we feed on the character of God, our souls are satisfied and at peace just like a full tummy after a great meal. There is rest because we can trust the Lord is always at work, preparing and moving us toward a hopeful future. He never needs a break. He never grows weary. He is always working for our good.

When anxious thoughts arise and I begin to question what will happen tomorrow or twenty years from now, I have to set them aside. I simply cannot go there. I hope in God. I feed on Him, knowing that God loves Will more than I ever could. His plans are better than anything I could even imagine. I’ll leave the future up to Him.

[1] Job 38:4-7, 17,18
[2] Matthew 6:27-34
[3] Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28