Raising a child with a neurological or behavioral disorder

April 5, 2017

This is for the family whose life is not as they expected it would be. It’s for the family who may seem normal from the outside, but on the inside is hurting, stressed and unsure of the future. It’s for the family who wonders if they did something wrong or could have prevented the struggles they face and asks, “Why, Lord?” as they face the responsibility of raising a child with a behavioral or neurological disorder.

Unlike many diseases, illnesses and injuries that can be diagnosed, explained and treated, most behavioral and neurological disorders are complex, unique, perplexing and as shifting as the wind. Even a diagnosis barely suffices to describe the drastic impact these disorders have on the life of a child and his or her family. The majority of these families live in utter isolation, feeling as though no one really understands what they are living through.

As a family that struggles with this, I wish I could say we have come through our struggles and have all the answers. However, those answers wouldn’t bring true hope anyway. Our hope lies in believing that Jesus Christ can take what is broken and destructive and turn it into something beautiful and eternal. So, here are a few reminders as we look to this hope in order to keep pressing forward:

1. When you feel alone, let it drive you to Jesus (Ps. 145:17-19)

Yes, there are others who are suffering as you are as they try to navigate these unchartered waters. But even in the midst of this truth, there will often be times when we feel alone. This loneliness can either drive us to isolation and self-pity or to find our strength, comfort, peace and joy in Jesus, who will never let our foot slip (Ps. 121:3). Grasping this has sustained and carried me through countless painful moments that I have had with my children. When I find myself in a heap on the floor, flooded with the pain of something much bigger than I can wrap my mind around, I’m quickly driven to cry out to Jesus.

If you find yourself walking through church, your job or the grocery store feeling as though no one can enter into the pain that weighs heavy upon you, let it drive you to ask Christ to fill you with more of himself. We’ll find contentment in knowing that Christ knows our pain, is intricately a part of our lives and is using all these things for our good. Remembering that he proved his love for us at the cross, we can step out in faith and confidence without needing the approval and complete understanding of those around us.

2. You have hope (Rom. 5:2-5)

Our hope must never lie in our earthly circumstances. Whenever we start daydreaming about what could be or what could have been, we’ll find ourselves discontent, frustrated and stressed out. Instead, there is present hope for the believer in God’s perfect and sovereign will over our lives, and a future hope where all things will be made right. Somehow, God will show himself to be good and sovereign, regardless of what he allows in our situation, both now and in the future. Because of that, we can hold fast to the hope we have in Christ, despite how hopeless our circumstances may seem or feel.

3. Your identity is not defined by your child (Ps. 147:3-5)

This can be so hard to remember for the parent whose child is labeled as out of control, disobedient, disrespectful, aggressive and “different.” I’m often tempted to feel ashamed and embarrassed by my child’s behavior, fully aware of what other people must be assuming about us.

But, our security and confidence cannot be defined by our children, parenting or anything other than who we are in Christ. If you’re a Christian, trust that you’ve been chosen and called to parent this child. If the God who spoke all things into creation ordained this in your life, who else’s opinion should even come close to stealing the confidence and security you can have in his loving purpose for you?

We all desire acceptance, but our confidence needs to be in Christ. Although this will be a lifelong process, we can grow in this as we spend time in the Word, fill our minds with what’s true and pray for Christ to help us in this area.

4. You have an opportunity to display God’s glory to a world without hope (Isa. 55:8-11)

The realization that changed my outlook is that it’s never been about me. If I dwell on thoughts that focus on my own plans for my happiness and purpose, such as, “I could do more in life if I didn’t have this hardship”, or “I’m missing out on what my life could’ve been,” then I can get sucked into discontentment, anxiousness and despair. By God’s grace, we can be encouraged and strengthened even in our hardest circumstances when we believe that he is working to make us more like his Son and display his glory. As we learn to trust Christ and find joy in what seems inconvenient and destructive to the world around us, we become a beacon of light to draw others to the joy and hope we have in the gospel.

If you’ve been given the privilege and responsibility of raising one of these challenging, but precious children (or someone you know has), I pray you’ll be strengthened with these truths and reminded that all of this is a part of God’s perfect plan of redemption. Although we aren’t promised healing while on earth, we are promised that Christ will not waste one tear we shed over these painful effects of sin within our world. You have been entrusted with a unique opportunity to raise a child with special needs so that God might glorify himself mightily through your family’s life and story.

A form of this article was originally posted here.

Sarah Walton

Sarah Walton is the co-author of Hope When It Hurts and Together Through the Storms, and the author of Tears and Tossings: Hope in the Waves of Life. She and her husband, Jeff, live in Colorado Springs with their four children, where they are members of Cross and Crown Church. … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24