Victim or Conqueror?

As a parent in the special needs community, there are many things I have noticed in how we care for our kiddos. I see how deeply parents love their kids and how they vow to always be their most devoted advocate. It’s incredibly touching to see how committed and connected they are to their children. As most things in life, there is a delicate balance to be applied. Parents, whether of special needs children or otherwise, all have to find the balance between productive, effective attention and fruitless, controlling obsession. For some parents of special needs children, this balance seems much more difficult to achieve.

Early on, when we received the diagnosis from the Children’s Mercy Hospital neurology clinic that Kaiya had an incurable disease, there were so many mixed feelings that it took a while to assess how I really felt. But, I will say with utter assuredness, what I didn’t feel was…defeated. The reason for that has to do with me having a deeply set idea of who God created me to be and the strength I had already seen Him provide for me in life’s unexpected moments. More about that in my book, This Special Life

Now, when I say that I didn’t feel defeated, I do not mean that every moment has been easy from that moment on, or, that I never broke down in tears over the emotional grief I felt at times. Emotions were very RAW on some days…many days. Though, I never wanted people to feel sorry for me. I never wanted to draw attention to myself with a “woe is me” type of attitude. I felt that it was ok to have down moments. I felt free to let God know of my frustrations. But there was something in me that knew that I couldn’t remain in a constant woeful state for two reasons. For one, if I did, I would be no good to my husband or the two children that closely followed after receiving her diagnosis. Secondly,  I felt like I would be denying the beauty of God’s plan for my daughter’s life just to relish in my own personal, selfish desire to have a “normal kid" who could do "normal kid" things.

The unsettling feeling that something has been done to you when you realize that your life is about to look quite different from the lives of most others around you is something that is very easy to slip into. Sure…I can’t say that having a little girl who can’t walk or talk is something I’d ever say I wanted. No one dreams of this life. In the beginning, I questioned many times if I did something to deserve it. But it never added up.That was not the kind of God I knew and it didn’t add up to the kind of God I read about in His Word. Just as every child’s life is, my child’s life is a great gift. Yet, because of the struggles that they have and we have as their parents, we can sometimes feel like someone or something is working against us. So, it’s no wonder that many of us unconsciously begin to identify as a victim. Some of us may even fall into a whole lifestyle of playing the victim’s role and unknowingly use the special needs of our child to be the reason we believe we are not capable of living a privileged life. 

The word “victim” is defined by like this: a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency.

What are some of the behaviors of a victim? They plead their case that they were wronged or their lives have been negatively affected in some way by a defendant or culprit of some kind. Victims also have a way of taking up arms or fighting back against whatever force they feel is coming against them. This is a behavior I see very often in parents of special needs. I don’t blame them for this behavior. I understand it fully. Having said that, I do not believe it is a healthy behavior to be able to fully experience all that could be experienced as the parent of their special gift from God because their minds are so focused on the negative. The blessing of that child becomes overshadowed by bitterness.  One thing I couldn’t understand when I entered the community as a momma of a special needs child was the amount of energy some parents spent on cursing the disease, speaking to it with rage, and talking about it as if it was an actual thief that busted into their home and robbed them. I do realize WHY some parents do this. It’s because they’re ANGRY! They are angry that their kid has to live this kind of life; that their kid doesn’t get to experience the same kinds of things other kids do; that their kid has health challenges every day that risks their very life. They. Are. Angry. I get it. I have felt this anger…momentarily. The thing that yanked me from any momentary pit of fierce angst, was simple. I just had to remember and fully grasp who I was created to be and the divine power that came with it.  According to God’s word, I am more than a conqueror in Christ Jesus.

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But here is the following clarifying fact which I also eventually realized. If God said that for me, then He must mean that for my daughter too right? She isn’t left out of God’s promises, right? She must be a conqueror through Christ Jesus as well, right? So…I, nor my daughter, should feel defeated by Rett Syndrome or anything else we may face in this life, even death.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.                                                               Romans 8:38

I have such a sense of peace reading that last verse because even in death, my little girl is still a winner in Jesus. She still will have victory over pain, sickness, and whatever disability she once lived with. Will it hurt? A hundred times, YES! But her temporary life of troubles is no match for an eternity of divine glory. So yes, even in death, we are indeed conquerors! 

People are really only angry when they feel defeated or that they’ve been wronged. I knew that our lives were going to look different from what we had ever pictured before, but I didn’t really feel wronged or like something had been stolen from me. Identifying myself and daughter as both conquerors AND victims just wouldn’t sit right in my head. So…I chose one. I made a decision that whatever it is God meant for her to do on this earth, she would do. I first had to open my mind to the reality that God really does have a purpose and plan for my daughter's life, and that she is victorious to achieve that purpose. I also made a decision that no matter how different my life looked, I’d accomplish every thing that God created me to accomplish in every area of my life. But we wouldn’t do it in our own strength or will. We could only do it through HIS grace and power because, after all, our lives were never our own. Our lives and the purposes of our lives were always designed by God. And His Word says that we already have what we need to live the lives He’s called us to.

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The hard part is, accepting that maybe the lives He's designed for us, looks completely different than the lives I previously imagined. Yet, victimizing myself just didn’t make sense to me if I believed what God’s Word says about me. I have had to continuously remind myself of these scriptures laid out in God's Word to help me have this winning, overcoming perspective. I want to strongly reiterate that I understand the need to feel anger and bitterness. However, I am so thankful for the power of this truth and the freedom it has graced my life with! I have obviously learned this through the situation of my daughter being born with an incurable disease. Yet, this same truth can be applied to anyone’s life. Because no matter what, I guarantee, you’ve been smacked in the face with some kind of reality that has left you feeling disappointed in some way. Maybe, you really are a victim of some horrible crime or mistreatment. Guess what? You still get to claim “Conqueror” as a description of who you are through the power and love of Jesus Christ. 

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Knowing this has given me a different perspective on my life. I can smile…BIG. I am now open to exciting possibilities and opportunities I was not open to before because the anger and bitterness no longer limit my imagination. This is what I desire to see so badly in so many of my fellow mothers of special needs children! I want to see her dream again! I want to see her live a victorious life! God’s Word is many times called a “two-edged sword.” This is because it has the ability to both destroy the work of the Satan, your adversary, while also creating abounding victory in the life of whoever believes and applies it. 

“for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 

        1John 5:4

If you have identified as a victim instead of as a conqueror, here is your permission to retire that title. Embrace your life; the good, bad, and everything in between. God desires to use everything to prove His faithfulness and power in your life. He longs for you to experience life to the fullest capacity possible. The fear you’ve lived with, you are a conqueror over it. The constant pain which seems will never go away, you are a conqueror over it. The guilt and shame that torments you, you are a conqueror over it. No need to live as a victim any longer and allow anger and bitterness control and downgrade your life. The longer you live as a victim, the further away you’ll be from the abundant life Christ died for you to have. This world is full of people who decide to live beneath their potential because of their circumstances. I invite you to make a decision to take ownership of the truth that you are indeed a conqueror over all things. If you can make that decision, I believe your life will be much more gratifying than you ever imagined was possible! 

Rhianna Sanford