A Handicapped Christian

By A. T. Quattlebaum, Jr.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing l besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me”  (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

I suppose that the title of this article may seem strange for something written for a church publication, but after you have read this, I believe you will agree that it is a fitting title for the subject.

Anyone who has studied the New Testament understands that the apostle Paul was speaking of some kind of physical defect or handicap when he spoke of having been given a thorn in the flesh. In 1 Corinthians 2:3 and Galatians 4:13, he speaks of the weakness and infirmity of the flesh. Then in Galatians 4:15 he says, “for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.” We do not know what that thorn in the flesh was, but whatever it was, it must have been grievous to Paul, because he begged the Lord thrice (three times) that it might depart from him. Then the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” After he had received this revelation, Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). I believe that Paul was saying in these verses that Christians who are handicapped physically should not be bitter about their condition. They should do all that they can do to help themselves to be in a better condition. I think that Paul teaches we should do everything we can medically, mentally, and spiritually. Yes, I said spiritually. I think Paul taught that we could pray for our handicaps or afflictions to be removed, our pain relieved, if it be God's will. I also believe we could ask for the prayers of the church.

But, if God sees some good, or has some reason to let our “thorn in the flesh” (our handicap) remain with us, we should not keep complaining about it. We should try to accept our handicap and do all that we can to make ourselves and those around us happy. We should use our minds and every part of our bodies that we can possibly use.

I suppose there are some who are reading this who are handicapped themselves and are saying, “What does this fellow know about what it is like to be a handicapped person?” Brethren and friends, I have been a handicapped person all of my life. I received a brain injury during birth. This injury caused me to have what is known as cerebral palsy. My muscular coordination is impaired. I cannot make some of my muscles do what I want them to do. As an example, I am typing this article with my feet, because I cannot use my hands as well as I do my feet. I use my feet to do many other things that most people do with their hands, because I had to learn to do them that way, if I were going to do them for myself.

I thank God that I was raised by Christian parents in a Christian home. Although I was severely handicapped all of my life, my parents raised me as far as was possible like any normal child. They did not spoil me but made me obey them the way that they made my two older sisters (who were normal) obey them. I had to do all that I could possibly do by myself, but I was also taught that if there was something that I could not do, that I should ask for help and not feel frustrated because I needed help.

As Christians who are handicapped, we must learn to be patient and long suffering, both in our everyday life and in our spiritual life. If it takes us three hours to do something that someone who is not handicapped takes only half an hour to do, we should not become discouraged. We should do what we do the right way and keep working until we have finished, no matter how long it takes.

We should also consider our spiritual life. Even if we are so handicapped that we could not possibly steal, commit murder, or commit fornication, we can still be sinners. We can let evil thoughts condemn us. We can be lost by not doing anything! What I mean by that is this: by not repenting, not confessing our faith in Jesus Christ, or not being baptized, we will be lost just as if we were murderers. Paul wrote, “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). But when we obey the gospel, through the grace of God we will be saved.