I remember when my son was first diagnosed with autism. It was hard to hear the word autism. There were so many decisions to make. Choosing therapies, education options, considering diets, programs, devices…… But there was hope at that point. I truly believed that his diagnosis gave us the power we needed to now move on head first into helping my son. I believed if we just found the right “fit,” for him, figured out how he best learned, figured out what he needed, we could and we would indeed conquer this. I believed whole heartedly that with the right amount of faith, prayer, and good old fashioned love, my son would be just fine. He would talk. He would grow. He would learn. He would overcome, and one day we would look back and say, “wow! Look what God has done for him!” I was so not prepared for what lied ahead.
I have worn out my knees in prayer over the last several years, holding steady to my faith. I believed in the power of prayer, in the power of God, in the power of healing. My son was going to be fine, my marriage was going to be fine, my family would be fine. This was just a bump in the road for us. While my faith was indeed strong, I had a complete misunderstanding of what faith truly was about and that misunderstanding has led to additional unnecessary pain.
As Christians we learn early on about the importance of faith. After all, the Bible tells us the faith as tiny as a mustard seed can move mountains. We are taught that if we just have enough faith, God will answer our prayers. I truly believed that faith meant believing and expecting God to heal my son. The problem with that idea (although it is certainly true that God often does heal and answer many prayers) is that by that reasoning, an unanswered prayer, or at least not the answer we are looking for, leaves us wondering, “is my faith not strong enough or does God not care?” Not only do we then begin to doubt ourselves, we are far too often judged by other well intentioned, yet misguided Christians, who think it is their responsibility to let us know that we should just “pray harder.”
My son is now 11, and nothing has gotten any easier. He is still considered “low verbal.” He speech is mostly limited to 2-4 word requests. “I want juice, I need blanket.” Not only has my son not been healed, but his challenges have increased. We now have the addition of panic attacks and severe anxiety. It is difficult to go anywhere at this point. Even getting him into the car can be a challenge. He bolts, he wanders, he bangs his head. He is much bigger now, and stronger, and faster, and much harder to manage. We are at the most difficult place we have ever been in our autism journey.
Which has lead me to question my faith, question my beliefs, question why God is not doing something, ANYTHING, in all this. It has led me to a sometimes deep, dark, and lonely place that can be hard to get out of. It has however, led to me a new understanding of what faith is, of what it truly means to trust in God.
It is easy to trust and believe when you think things are going to get easier, better. When my daughter asks me for something (that is within my power to give), it doesn’t require faith. She has learned over the years that she asks, she gets. Period. It is something she has experienced over and over, and come to expect. We often go to God with that same expectation. I ask, He gives, and many times he does. But that is not really some great act of faith, it is just something we have learned through experience.
What I am coming to finally learn, is faith, real faith, goes far beyond expecting the answer to our prayers. Faith is believing God loves us. Believing He is always by our side, guiding us. Believing in his power and his strength to get through anything that comes our way. Faith is believing God has the power to answer our prayer, but trusting Him enough to know that if He doesn’t give us the answer we seek, He is still a good and merciful, loving God. That is faith.
I am learning it takes faith to believe God CAN heal my son, but it takes a greater, deeper faith, to accept if He doesn’t. That if we must walk through the fire, we will not be alone.
It has not been an easy lesson. It is one that I must adjust to daily, but it is making me stronger. God loves me. He loves my son. He loves my family. And if we hold onto that, we can not only withstand any storm, we can thrive in it.