Why are some babies born disabled?
The first thing that needs to be said is that if you are reading this because it is a very urgent issue in your life, these words are written in the hope that you will find them sensitive and sympathetic. To have given birth to a disabled baby can, in the first instance, seem like a tragedy. The Christian Enquiry Agency is able to offer individual conversations by email to those who would like to discuss their thoughts about God or the Christian faith in these circumstances. To contact the agency confidentially, click one of the 'Get in touch with us' boxes below.
Christians answering honestly the question of why some babies are born disabled begin by making it clear that no one knows. Jesus firmly denied some of the unpalatable reasons that were suggested to him. When it was put to him that a man he met had been born blind either because he had sinned or because his parents had, Jesus refuted it. It had happened, Jesus said, ‘So that the work of God could be displayed in his life.’ This attitude that the life of a disabled person should be regarded as one of value and opportunity seems very modern, but was counter-cultural at the time.
The Bible says very little about children in the womb. The science of the time was too limited to offer detail. However, when the New Testament speaks of Jesus’ cousin John, it relates that even in his mother’s womb he was filled with the Holy Spirit. This suggests that God’s knowledge and loving relationship with a person begins before his or her birth. All that Christians know of God suggests that this is true, even if they are unwell in the womb. It leads Christians to suggest that lives lost before or soon after birth are precious to God and destined for heaven.
God has brought into being a world in which some people have a long life and some people have a short life.
Christians believe that human lives are eternal. From the viewpoint of eternity all lives will seem to have been fleeting, and the joy of being in God’s presence will allow people to understand why their circumstances varied so much. Although this does not supply a reason, it does provide a deep consolation.
For those who are carrying babies in the womb who have profound disabilities, it is inevitable that the possibility of termination is raised, either explicitly or in their minds. Christians have different views about these tragic circumstances. Some campaign for absolute laws. Others argue that dogmatic opposition is cruel and wrong in situations in which both mother and child are suffering. Both sides stress the deep compassion of God in whom there is understanding, forgiveness in every circumstance, and the ability to provide strength to persevere through all the difficulties that life can bring.
Long and short lives, able bodied and disabled lives are treasured by God. He regards them all as beautiful lives.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
You created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Where to find it:
About these words:
This song, written about one thousand years before Jesus, affirms that God’s care for a human life begins long before birth.
And they said...
Chris Pratt, the actor, talking about the baby that was born very prematurely to he and his wife Anna Faris:
We were scared for a long time. We prayed a lot. It restored my faith in God, not that it needed to be restored, but it really redefined it. The baby was so beautiful to us, and I look back at the photos of him and it must have been jarring for other people to come in and see him [in the intensive care unit]. But to us he was so beautiful and perfect.
Nick Vujicic, born without arms or legs, and author of Life Without Limits:
Because of the ministry of Life Without Limbs, God has used me in countless schools, churches, prisons, orphanages, hospitals and stadiums. In face-to-face encounters with individuals [I tell] them how very precious they are to God. It is our greatest pleasure to assure people that God does have a plan for each and every life that is meaningful and purposeful. God took my life, one that others might disregard as not having any significance and he has filled me with his purpose and showed me his plans.
Joni Eareckson Tada, living with disability after a diving accident and subsequently with breast cancer:
Even though I have rough moments in my wheelchair, for the most part I consider my paralysis a gift. Just as Jesus exchanged the meaning of the cross from a symbol of torture to one of hope and salvation, he gives me the grace to do the same with my chair. If a cross can become a blessing, so can a wheelchair. The wheelchair, in a sense, is behind me now. The despair is over. There are now other crosses to bear, other ‘wheelchairs’ in my life to be exchanged into gifts.