Embracing Community as a Special Needs Parent

Special needs Community

Being a special needs parent can be a challenging and isolating journey.

I was feeling lonely and anxious and depressed and desperate for a friend, someone to talk to who wasn't my husband. God designed us to need each other to support and encourage each other, and I begged God to send me someone, or several someones who could be my friends and my support on this painful journey I was traveling.

The first connections I found were online on special needs parenting Facebook groups. It felt great to know there were people in the world in similar situations who could share their questions, their struggles and victories and be general support.

But what our hearts truly need is a face-to-face friend. Someone we can call or text or meet for coffee and share our hearts' struggles and desires. It took me a while to find these friends, but when I did, oh how it brought relief to my soul!

How I rejoiced in God's provision and marvelled at how He orchestrated our paths to cross when God did bring a special needs mom into my life. She became one of my closest friends, as we helped each other when we were down, and celebrated with each other our own and our childrens' victories.

Embracing Community as a Special Needs Parent

Sitting in your circumstances

There's a passage I read once that totally changed my perspective on why we need community. It's found in 2 Kings 7:3-9, situated in the middle of a great famine in the city of Samaria. The Arameans had surrounded the city, cutting off all their access to supplies so that they experienced a great famine until they surrendered. The king blamed God for their troubles.

Outside the city, the Arameans were enjoying their wealth and their victory over the Samarians trapped inside. It is in these circumstances we meet four unlikely men who will change things for the city of Samaria.

"Now there were four men with leprosy sitting at the entrance of the city gate." 2 Kings 7:3

Ah, I can relate to these four men. I doubt when they were little they dreamed of being shunned from their culture for their physical disease which left their skin rotting and making them culturally unclean. But here they are, in the middle of a famine, cut off from all supplies, not allowed to interact with their families and friends, their bodies wasting away from leprosy. Depression probably set in. Anger at God, like their king, who blamed God for their circumstances. Anyone relate to any of this?  How easy it is to sit in the middle of your grief and pain and questions and wallow?

Supporting each other in fellowship

"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 just allow God to reveal it to you. Ahh, how sweet, to see that there were four men, all who were experiencing a similar trial. They weren't sitting at the gate alone. They could relate to the physical, emotional and spiritual pain the other was experiencing, and had established a friendship of sorts.

I don't know if they were besties, doing everything together, or if they just happened to meet at the gate at certain times of the day and share in their misery together, or maybe this day they met each other for the very first time. Regardless, they were not alone. They had found each other for support. They understood each other better than anyone else could.

Stepping into blessings

They said to each other, "Why stay here until we die? If we say, "We'll go into the city'-the famine is there and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let's go over the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live. If they kill us, then we die." 2 Kings 7:3-4

Because they had each other for support, because they were not alone anymore, they had the courage to do something. To not just sit at the gate and complain about their circumstances until they died, but to do something that could change their lives.

"At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, "Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!"

So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.

The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took the silver, gold, and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also." 2 Kings 7:5-9

Look at all the wealth, the 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. God wants us to experience that too! He doesn't want us to sit by a gate, complaining about our lives and feeling miserable about our circumstances and all our unanswered prayers, when if we just focus our gaze on the good things in front of us, we will see just how many blessings there are for us to experience!

Finding our own community

I was so inspired by these men. They risked their lives to try something.  I'm not saying we need to risk our lives here, but I am saying there is a benefit to risking some vulnerability and sharing what's going on in our lives with people. To reach out to a friend. A Bible study group. Connections from church. A special needs parenting support group in your area.

If you don't have any of these support systems in your life, you need to find one. Pray for and search for a group or a friend you can be in community with and share your heart and your journey.

We're not meant to sit at a gate wallowing in our circumstances by ourselves. We're meant to experience His provision and blessings. God created us to be in community, and 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.

Do you have someone who has been a true encouragement to you on your journey?


Embracing This Special Life - An encouraging book for helping mothers of children with special needs learn to flourish in their faith and in their lifeJenn Soehnlin is a mother to two 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.