Rick Langer Responds to Sanctity of Life and Disability

To facilitate a truly global conversation, we ask Christian leaders from around the world to respond to the Global Conversation’s lead articles. These points of view do not necessarily represent the Lausanne Movement. They are designed to stimulate discussion from all points of the compass and from different segments of the Christian community. Please add your perspective by posting a comment so that we can learn and grow together in the unity of the Spirit.

A response to Joni Eareckson Tada’s “Sanctity of Life and Disability”

I was struck by the importance of expectations as I was reading Joni’s article. The central issue she raises is our understanding of our world. Is it a normal world, or is it an abnormal world? It is broken or well? It is a model home or a fixer-upper?

Getting this straight at the outset radically alters our expectations. If we buy a brand new home, we expect everything to work. If the dishwasher does not work, we complain to the seller. But if we buy a fixer-upper, we are just glad if the floor holds up the dishwasher without collapsing. And notice how our expectations relate to explanations. Simply put, we do not demand explanations for what we expect. A broken dishwasher in a fixer-upper needs no explanation—that’s why we called it a fixer-upper. If I do demand an explanation, it shows I was not really expecting a fixer-upper.

By biblical reckoning, this world is a fixer-upper. Brokenness is expected.

Our relentless desire to have disabilities explained shows we have not really embraced the biblical picture of a broken world. Disability violates our expectations. Yet paradoxically, people talk about living in a fallen world all the time. After twenty years of pastoral experience I began to see a pattern in this paradox. Most people expect the world to be a fallen place; they just do not expect their world to be a fallen place. When something bad happens to others we sigh and say “It’s a fallen world.” When something bad happens to us we cry and say, “I never thought it would happen to me.”

So what is the solution? Do we relent in our demands for an explanation and quietly suffer? Is this all the biblical worldview has to offer us?

I do believe this is part of what Bible offers us, but I don’t believe it is all. The Bible may not offer an explanation, but it does offer some additional perspective. First of all, it reminds us that our lives are just a chapter in a much longer narrative. Our story is swallowed up in God’s story. And like in any other book, many bad things happen in any given chapter, but they are all part of the hero’s journey. We just need to remember that in the grand biblical narrative, we are not the hero, Jesus is. History is his story, not ours. Our chapter is part of a larger story and it only makes sense when attached to the plotline and the hero that the story is actually about.

One additional bit of perspective: the story we have been caught up in has a very good ending. It is a comedy, not a tragedy. You can always tell the difference because tragedies end in a funeral and comedies end in a wedding. God’s story ends with a wedding feast and we are the bride! We are cleaned up, made whole and dressed in white. Our tears are wiped away, and we live forever with our King. So while we may struggle with our fixer-upper today, there is some consolation in knowing that one day we will inherit a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.