A close friend recently made a supreme sacrifice for the cause of a mentally disabled brother. Following the death of his mother, he prematurely retired from school teaching to assume full care of his brother. The change has brought grief, not only for the loss of his mother, but also for a career he dearly loved. And that’s only the beginning. There’s all of the moment-by-moment care involved in providing for his brother’s health and safety.

Like many people, my friend takes a different slant on glibly referring to mentally handicapped people as, “special children,” whom we are “privileged” to care for. While that may be true in theory, it takes a lot of faithfulness and patience to care for the constant needs of such an individual.

Relatives and friends who assume the caregiving role in such situations find it sometimes difficult to accept flippant pat answers for their hours and hours of sacrificial pain. Such catch phrases as, “thank goodness we don’t have to go through that,” “but for the grace of God that could have been me,” or “I understand how you feel,” hardly get the job done for weary hearts who wish for one moment of normalcy and peace.

Without meaning it that way, such statements imply a sense of superiority where we are thankful that we are not blind, handicapped, mentally disabled or paralyzed. Though such comments are well-intended, what does it really do for the ones afflicted with such maladies?

God never meant for his grace to put us in a “better light” than others. To the innocence of many who unintentionally make such comments, the reminder needs to get out there that such statements:

— Imply that we have been given some divine favor that the other individual hasn’t received.

— Makes it sound like there is some reason why we have been blessed while the other hasn’t.

— Appears to presume that those born with handicap needs are being “tested” while those without are off the hook and “more blessed.”

— Imply a special “feeling good” gospel of wealth and health while those who aren’t blessed according must be doing something wrong.

Many scriptures caution us to be sensitive about presuming such positions of superiority. I Cor. 10:12 tells us that if we think we are standing firm, we should be careful, lest we fall. Gal. 6:2,3 instructs us to bear one another’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ.

All of this may make us ask the question, “what do I say? How can I be there?” Who says we have to “say” anything? Just “being there” to care, hug, support, and silently pray is often the most meaningful to those in pain over disabled loved ones. There needs to be scrutiny to make sure that well-intended comments don’t slander or hurt someone. May we see this world and all of God’s children as though we were looking through the eyes of God Himself.