Journey of Hope: it helps to know where to start

“I want to hold him, but he pushes me away,” a mom describes her angst. “I know it is his condition, but I still feel the rejection.” Moms with kids in the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face challenges others don’t dare to know.

“I have been praying desperately for my son, and when I learned of this treatment, I was so hopeful, but it didn’t work. Sometimes I feel that God is not really listening to my desperate cry for help.”

“This preacher prophesied that my son will be healed of autism, and I believed him. But it has been five years and it doesn’t look like anything is happening.”

“There is no cure, no hope for my kid. I know it and there is nothing to pray about. God won’t be healing my kid, and there is no use praying or trying, or go around looking for a cure.”

How do we find hope when there are so many options and no real promise of a treatment that works? Where is God in all this?

Moms suffer the pain of alienation from their autistic kids. It hurts. God knows the pain of alienation. Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” when he hung on the cross and suffered the pain of alienation from his Father. But beyond that alienation was great joy.

“ let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverancethe race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrew 12, NIV)

Hang in there with me will you? We will take a route that leads to the perfecting of faith and arrive at the prize of joy.

Did Jesus heal autism?

If you lived during Jesus’ time and you have an autistic child, would you bring him to Jesus for healing? I would jostle crowds, break through a roof, climb a tree, do whatever it takes to get my kid to Jesus for healing. Jesus healed people from all sicknesses, but autism was never mentioned.

It is quite apparent that the term “autism” will not be in the Bible as the term was coined only in the 20th century. Instead, we look for descriptions that might suggest autism, and in a short-handed way talk about autism / ASD in ancient texts. I still cannot find any such description in the Bible.

According to people cleverer than I, the incidence of people with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is 6-11%. By comparison, the incidence of blindness in India, one of the highest in the world, is 1.6%. Let’s assume people in Jesus’ time had three times more blind people than India. This brings it to 4.8%. If there were more autistic people than blind people and so many of the blind came to Jesus for healing, why didn’t the autistic come?

The world’s oldest medical manuals: the Chinese Huangdi Neijing, the Hippocratic Corpus, and the writings of Galen also fail to identify ASD. Can ASD be an illness that started only in the 20th century, like AIDS, SARS, etc.? Many suspect the 20th century toxins as the culprit: lead, mercury, PCBs, pesticides, dioxin, BPA, car exhaust, etc. Is something poisoning us that we have not figured out? Perhaps we are like the Romans who were poisoned by lead in their drinking water and sweetener and didn’t know it. Some even argue lead poisoning caused the fall of Rome.

Argument from silence is never absolute. But I think there is significant silence on autism in ancient texts all the way through to the 19th century. I know of no ancient text up to the 19th century that identifies autism. My tentative conclusion is that autism was rare or non-existent in biblical times and arose in the 20th century, or maybe a little earlier. So if we look for references to autism in the Bible to find hope, we will be disappointed.

The reality about faith and autism is that the Bible does not talk about it directly. Our hope and prayers are built on the reality that there are probably environmental factors creating this global crisis.

Seven prayers for the parent with an autistic kid

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4)

The most common way God heals us is “through means.” That is, God uses available means to heal our mind and body. For instance, if a person has a gall stone, the most common means for God to heal is through the hands of a skilled surgeon and through the follow-up treatment.

The problem we have with autism is that we don’t have a cure. Those publications that declare there is no cure for autism should qualify it as “no known cure according to the methods of determination used by the scientific community.”

The first prayer for your child’s healing needs to go beyond your child. What you, and others, really need is a cure for your child’s condition, not just for your child. Pray for a cure, not just a miraculous healing for “my kid.” Pray for those who are looking for an effective treatment for autism, that God will lead them to find a cure for this condition.

The second prayer also goes beyond your immediate troubles. Pray that researchers can discover the cause of autism. This is different from a cure because a cure without knowing the cause. However, knowing the underlying cause is important because it can produce a more robust treatment program and allows a correction to the underlying issues.

The medical establishment has a very rigorous process before they will declare a cure is found. This is good in that it prevents charlatans from cheating us. But it is bad because it also denies the validity of a cure until it has passed through their evaluative processes. If a treatment is already discovered but it is cheap and nobody stands to gain from it, the likelihood is that such expensive and rigorous tests will not be conducted and a sound treatment remains in the realm of anecdotal evidence. This reality leads us to the third prayer. If there is a treatment already discovered, pray the Lord lead you to it. At the same time, ask the Lord to keep you from charlatans who claim a cure only to enrich themselves.

The fourth prayer is for yourself as a caregiver. When you are a caregiver, your health, your strength, your mental state, are all affected. Pray for yourself.

The fifth prayer is for God to provide. A parent with an autistic child faces incredible challenges, not the least of which is the cost of care or treatment. I am not suggesting that God has to provide you money for every flaky scheme out there, but ask God to provide your child’s real needs. Ask the Lord for wisdom to manage your finances. Your needs are likely to be specific – pray for them.

The sixth prayer is for you to understand the role of pain in your life. Some Bible teachers give false hope – this leads to disillusionment. Others give no hope – this leads to despair. I like to suggest to you there is a real hope in the midst of pain. Real hope accepts reality and finds God’s goodness in the midst of what may be a harsh reality. Real hope gives strength and courage in times of despair. Real hope returns happiness to a life surrendered to the tyranny of autism.

The seventh prayer is usually our first and only prayer. I leave this to the last because it is the exception rather than the rule. We pray for God’s supernatural / miraculous intervention to heal our kid. There is every reason for us to believe that the Jesus who healed out of compassion still does so. Some things are not meant to be, for reasons we do not know. But from time to time, God has the blessing of a miraculous healing for an illness.

This last prayer is a rather self-focused prayer. It benefits nobody but you. And that is one reason why God often does not grant it. God hears our cry for help. But he knows things we don’t know, and if our apparent good is not ultimately good, he will not hear us.

God is not a befuddled old chap who indulges our every desire. There are prayers he will not grant, there are prayers he grants in limited instances for reasons he alone knows, and there are prayers he loves to grant. He loves to grant prayers when our hearts are opened to the needs of others, when we pray for the healing of all autistic kids.

Servant of the Lord Jesus Christ

Peter Eng

  • Next article: The journey of hope: it helps to know how it will end
    God’s journey of hope is not a journey just hoping for the best while fearing the worst. God has given secure promises of how your journey will end.

See this: Raising Autistic Kids

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