Q Does God have a calling for people with disabilities, especially those with cognitive impairments?
A The answer is yes! Because calling, first of all, is not reduced to a paid job. We might think that people with disabilities, especially those who have cognitive impairments, are hard-pressed to find meaningful vocations to fulfill God’s calling. But calling is not tied to some important job or position. God’s call to us is first and foremost to join his mission of reconciling all things and all of life back to himself through Jesus Christ (Col. 1:19-20).
This call to join God’s mission, then, is not applied only to one small area of our lives—our paid vocations. It is applied to all of our lives—our friendships, families, hobbies, communities, and so on. God calls people with disabilities to join him on this mission too.
Second, we do not use only certain illustrious gifts to fulfill our calling. We think of teaching, preaching, and leading as gifts designed for calling. But hospitality, encouragement, a loving spirit, a kind heart, and similar gifts fulfill our callings as well.
Moreover, not only our gifts but our whole identity, our experiences, even our brokenness are part of God’s design for our calling in Christ. Would the apostle Paul be the same theologian-missionary if he had never been blind or never suffered from his illness? (See Acts 9 and Galatians 4:13-15.) People with physical and cognitive disabilities are part of God’s kingdom and have specific callings that only they, with their disabilities, can fulfill as part of God’s mission.
Shiao Chong is a Christian Reformed chaplain at York University, Toronto. He is the father of a child with Down syndrome.
Q I’m angry but have been raised with the idea that being angry is bad. However, I’m struggling with depression and think it has a lot to do with unresolved anger. How do I find my way through this?
A Just as there are only three primary colors (red, yellow and blue), there are only five primary emotions: joy, sadness, anger, guilt, and fear. Trying to live without accepting our right and responsibility to feel, express, and understand our own anger would be like deciding red does not belong in this world. Such a decision would not make sense, and believing “anger is bad” also does not make sense.
God gave us our primary emotions, and the whole range of emotions comprised of various combinations of these five, because they are all necessary for our health and our enrichment.
Unfortunately many Christians have taken the directive from God in Ephesians 4:26: “do not sin in your anger” to mean “do not become angry, or you will be sinning.” They assume that passages such as Ephesians 4:31 and Colossians 3:8, which exhort Christians to get rid of stored anger, actually command Christians simply to get rid of experiencing anger altogether.
Anger, as a good gift from God, is a strong feeling of passion against an injustice of some sort. When we feel angry, it’s a signal to us that something in our own life or others’ lives is not as it should be. In the same way the experience of pain tells us that something in our body is not functioning properly, the experience of anger tells us an injustice (or perceived injustice) is being done against us or others. The energy that anger brings helps us to do something. Jesus’ chasing the money changers out of the temple is an example of how this works. Jesus saw an injustice (a selfish and greedy use of his Father’s house); his anger gave him the energy to do something about it and “right” the situation by returning the temple to a house of prayer.
But what about anger that cannot be discharged? Stored anger often erupts in violent outbursts that feel out of proportion to the perceived infraction. Anger has to go somewhere. If I can’t discharge my anger properly, I will store it as bitterness against others, which will erupt inappropriately, or bitterness against myself, which will result in depression.
It’s important that you first give yourself permission to experience and express all your feelings, including anger. You may need the help of a therapist to begin to get in touch with long-repressed feelings. When you have a clear sense of the things that have made you angry over the years, the next step is to find the proper target for those feelings. When you’ve worked through who you are angry at and why, you’re ready to give up your anger against someone to God. God invites us to forgive “our debtors” as God forgave us.
Anger, along with our other negative emotions, is a good gift from God only when it functions as it was intended—as a feeling of passion to give us energy to help us speak out when we experience an injustice against ourselves, our neighbors, or against creation.
Judy Cook is a family therapist and clinical director of Salem Christian Counseling Services, Hamilton, Ontario.