Burnt toast, spilled coffee, and wrinkled clothes. Just a few things to add to your morning, after forgetting to set the alarm. Oh, and let’s not forget the sore back, the anxious spouse or special needs child that demands your attention. Yes, the special needs child that you love desperately, but consumes so much time, energy, and emotions. As you stare at the man looking back at you in the mirror, despair, regret, and sorrow await like rain clouds building to hide the morning sun.
I experienced one of those mornings some years ago. The discouragement and self-pity continued to mount as I left the house and sank into my car. I headed down the road on my way to work, my patience was running thin, and it seemed every driver on the road was on a mission to cut me off, slow me down and outright offend me. As my eyes narrowed on the driver in front of me, wondering if they actually had a driver’s license, I couldn’t help but notice my dirty windshield. So filthy, I could only partially see what was in front of me. Just a reminder that I don’t even have time to wash my car.
But then, another thought ran through my mind – the thought that my attitude was not much different than my bug covered, dirty windshield. My life was filled with blessings, but I could only partially see them because my mind was focused on my challenges. My attitude needed a good scrubbing so I could see clearly.
The Apostle Paul can certainly identify with trying times. If anyone had a reason to complain about bad life circumstances, it would be Paul. He often found himself suffering in prison at the hands of those who hated the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul, when writing to the Ephesians from prison, does not begin his letter with complaints, self-pity, or blame. Instead, he counts his blessings (Ephesians 1:15-18).
Remember the song from Sunday School, “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done…?” Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians is that their “hearts will be flooded with light…” (1:18). Why? So they could see through the darkness of life circumstances and count their blessings. Let’s count just a few together that Paul lists: spiritual blessings, adoption as children of God, forgiveness, kindness, wisdom, understanding, inheritance and his Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the promises of God! Wow, those are some blessings, and it is not even an exhaustive list. If you were to add to it the blessings of everyday life, from the beauty of creation to the beauty of relationships, your list would be positively overwhelming.
As one special needs father to another, allow me to give you a few tips on keeping an attitude that sees clearly, the blessings God has given you.
- God is for you! If you have ever felt that God has abandoned you, forgotten about you or cast you aside as a father and leader because your child has a disability – then I want you to know that nothing could be further from the truth. Psalm 139:13-16 reminds us that God himself formed your special needs child in the womb, and they are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has entrusted your child into your care and will empower you to lead your family.
- God gives you victory! We will all have mornings and days like the one I described above. Some days you may feel overwhelmed, and other days, you may feel like a failure as a father. Bad attitude, short temper, lack of quality time… should I go on? In Romans 8:28 & 37, Paul speaks of God’s working in all our life circumstances for our good. Did you catch that? Not all circumstances, attitudes or behaviors are good; however, God is big enough to work in those circumstances to bring about good, even to the point of making us “more than conquerors!”
- God gives you power! Let me remind you that as hard as being a special needs dad can be some days; you are not alone. God himself empowers you to be a godly and good husband and father. In fact, Paul tells us that God’s Spirit works in us with power and energy that literally fuels us to walk out the Christian life (Ephesians 3:16, 20). We cannot do this thing called fatherhood alone. Let’s learn from the greatest Father of all and allow Him to work His power in us for loving our families well.