This special needs parenting journey can be challenging, lonely, and isolating. I remember begging God to send me a new friend and a supportive community who could be my companions on this painful journey I was traveling.
The first supportive communities I found were online, in special needs parenting Facebook groups, and with Key Ministry’s online community groups. It felt great to know there were people in the world in similar situations who could share their questions, their struggles, and victories.
Sitting in Your Circumstances
There’s a Bible passage I read that totally changed my perspective on why we need community, especially when we’re struggling with hard circumstances. It’s found in 2 Kings 7:3-9, situated in the middle of a story about a great famine in the city of Samaria. The Arameans had surrounded Samaria, cutting off all access to supplies. The Samaritans experienced a great famine until they surrendered. The Samaritan king blamed God, saying, “This disaster is from the LORD. Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?” Outside the city, the Arameans were enjoying their wealth and victory over the starving Samaritans trapped inside.
It is in these circumstances that we meet four unlikely heroes. “Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gate.” 2 Kings 7:3.
I can relate to these four men. They longed for full bellies, healthy bodies, and happy hearts. They longed to be part of community, for life to be a little easier, for life to go as they had expected it to go.
Instead, they find themselves sitting at a gate in the middle of a famine, cut off from their families and friends, their bodies wasting away from leprosy. Depression probably set in, along with anger at God, who—like their king—blamed God for their circumstances. They may have sat and wallowed in their misery.
Supporting Each Other
“Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gate.” 2 Kings 7:3.
I love how the same verse can have a different emphasis if you allow God to reveal it to you. These were four men experiencing a similar trial—leprosy—but they weren’t sitting at the gate alone. They could each relate to the physical, emotional and spiritual pain the others were experiencing; they had established a friendship of sorts. I don’t know if they were best friends, doing everything together, or if they met at the gate at certain times of the day, or maybe this was the day they met each other for the very first time. Regardless, they were not alone. They found each other for support. They understood each other better than anyone else could.
Stepping into Blessings
They had each other for support; they were not alone anymore. This gave them courage to do something about the Arameans. They decide in 2 Kings 7:4 that they’ll go into the Arameans’ camp. Sure, there was the risk of being captured or killed, but it was a risk they were willing to take, because they hoped to be able to get food, water and supplies. And it sure was better than just sitting around, feeling miserable. They decided they didn’t want to just sit at the gate and complain about their circumstances, but to do something that could change their lives.
Continuing in 2 Kings 7:5-9, the four men went into Aramean territory. God provided the protection they needed so that the Arameans ran away in fear; the four lepers were able to eat and drink their fill. Then they gathered food and drink, silver, gold and clothes for themselves and also for those in their city who were suffering during the famine.
Look at all the wealth and blessings that these men suddenly experienced. God paved the way for them to experience a banquet after all the hunger and desperation they had been experiencing. They got to collect riches that would not only enrich their lives, but the lives of other desperate people in their city.
We Can Do That Too
God wants us to experience that too! He doesn’t want us to sit alone, feeling miserable about our circumstances and all our unanswered prayers, when there are many blessings and much joy available for us to experience and to share with others.
It takes vulnerability and courage to reach out to a friend or a group, to share your heart and struggles with them. It takes risk to advocate not just for yourself and your children, but for each other as well.
We’re not meant to struggle by ourselves. God created us to experience community and His provision and blessings. God created each person to be in community. With the stress levels we experience as special needs parents, we need that community and support even more.
Make it a priority to be involved in a community. If you don’t have one, pray for God to show you where to look, or consider if you should start one yourself. Don’t just sit at the gate when there are other lonely and isolated special-needs parents looking for community and joy, too. Then step out in obedience and watch as God provides you with the friends and the community you need.
Do you have that kind of support and community?
Jenn Soehnlin is a mother to two young boys who are precious blessings and who both have special needs. She is the author of Embracing This Special Life: Learning to Flourish as a Mother of a Child with Special Needs. Jenn enjoys blogging about faith, praying scripture, and special needs parenting at www.embracing.life.