Over the winter months, my wife and I, and even our dog, have loved having a fire burning away. There’s nothing like the crackling of timber and warmth of a fire.
The only problem is that when we need more timber, I am too weak to carry it. I’ve had to ask a friend to do it for me.
It’s moments like those, one of many examples I could give, that remind me of my own disability.
When my physical weakness slaps me around, it can make me feel like less of a man than I once was.
You see, the more dependant we are on others, the less significant we feel.
The more of a burden we are, the less useful we feel.
The more help we need, the more helpless we feel.
The more it cost to keep us moving, independent and social, the less of a value add we feel.
Our disabilities mean we are less able. Being less able makes us feel less useful or even useless.
And while my limitations are caused by a disease (MND/ALS) in my body, I also know that the wear and tear of life, disappointments, disillusionment, relationship breakdowns, negative mindsets, and even the reality of our humanity and aging bodies, can at times, all make us feel “less than.”
Let me encourage you on how I have been challenged to think of my own worth and usefulness in spite of my limitations.
I believe you need to know today, that you are “never-the-less,” no matter what life has served up to you.
Your disability, your limitation, your disappointment need not lessen you.
God has shown me that He always see us as “never-the-less.”
Have a look at this verse from the Bible. In Deuteronomy 31:8 it says, “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
It’s a promise that no matter what, God will be with me always. He is my constant companion through the valleys and the mountaintops of life’s experience.
But it is even more than that.
The word I want to draw our attention to is “forsake.”
God not only promises not to leave us, but He also promises not to forsake us.
If you’re like me, for years I just took the words “leave” and “forsake” to be a repetition of the same meaning, just spelt differently.
But “forsake” actually means that God will not relinquish, resign, surrender, abandon, or reject us.
God will never leave us, but he will also never see us as less when we can do less or we feel less.
Friend, God says He will never retire, relinquish or reject you. No matter what weaknesses you have or limitations you are plagued with.
One of the biggest challenges a disabled person may face is the feeling of being “less.” Less when it comes to their humanity, their self worth, their belonging, and their value to the world.
Whilst we are inspired by the efforts and courage of many disabled people, we are less likely to be friends with them. This can make them feel like less.
God says, no matter what your condition is, He can use you now. You have meaning, purpose and usefulness.
You may have been abandoned by your spouse, retrenched by your boss, rejected by your community, but not by God.
When we believe it, we become empowered to live it out. We understand that in being human, we have intrinsic value placed on us by God Himself.
To be honest, until you see yourself as “never-the-less,” then others will struggle to as well.
I used to be the pastor of a thriving Church with an incredible team of people around me. Today, because of MND/ALS, I could never have the energy to carry such responsibility and create the momentum that a growing Church deserves.
I am blessed because most of the circle of friends that I had when I was a pastor have responded like God responds to our increased weakness. They didn’t forsake me. They didn’t see me as less, but as “never-the-less.”
I have continued to speak in Churches and at conferences, invited by people who see me as “never-the-less.” I’m sure if the day comes when I can no longer speak, God will have something else I can do.
In fact, you just being you and rising with courage above your disability into His ability for your life can be an inspiration to many.
Feelings of being less are closely attached to the reality of what we can no longer do (the focus being on what we’ve lost).
But when we realise that we are “never-the-less,” we focus on what we are able to do and more importantly, we feel that others see our strengths, not our weakness, our ability not our disability.
I have a friend who is completely paralysed and unable to speak, but who, through technology, disciples new Christians online, answering their questions and helping them discover who Christ is.
In fact, another friend, the same one who carried the timber for my fire, rang me before heading overseas. He said, “Phil, can you do something for me? Pray for me while I’m away.”
If you have people in your world who are unable to do what they used to be able to do, don’t forsake them.
Find ways to help them know they are “never-the-less” and believe it to be true of you too!