(Below is a Testimony I gave at a Community Bible Study meeting. My friend Sondra who is also a great editor, edited this for me from it’s original version. I decided to keep it mostly ‘as is’ and not completely edit it for this blog. I pray somehow this will encourage you.)
My name is Rebecca and I am here today to share with you God’s work and faithfulness in my life through a difficult journey with 2 of my 4 children after they were diagnosed with Autism. It was a journey that I was not prepared for in any earthly sense. But looking back, I see how God prepared me spiritually for this unexpected journey.
My testimony begins when I was a single, 22 year old new believer in the Lord Jesus. I was basking in the newness and the fire God placed in my heart for Him. Everyone around me heard the Gospel and I couldn’t wait to tell others what He was showing me in Scripture. I understood his Word for the first time and in my zeal I would ask my brothers and sisters in my singles group to pray for me to be put through the refiner’s fire – because I wanted to really grow-and grow now!
God had given me favor at my place of employment and he gave me a blessed ministry there with women as well as the women in my single’s group at church. My time with God was rich. I spent 8 years as a single pouring myself into the study of His word and in fellowship with Him.
God was also faithful in surrounding me with solid believers who helped me get grounded in His word and kept my face turned toward Him. When I think of my journey, the verses in Lamentations 3:22 and 23 come to mind: “The LORD’S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail, they are new every morning, great is your Faithfulness”.
After eight years of walking with God as a single, God answered my prayer and I met my husband at a picnic. I fell in love with his humble heart for the Lord Jesus and his desire to minister to singles. God was faithful and answered my prayer many times over. We dated and then married a year later. God blessed our marriage with our first son Elijah, and after a short time we were pregnant again with our second son, Isaac. Elijah and Isaac were awesome babies, but needless to say life got a lot busier for Patrick and me.
When Isaac was almost 2 years old, our third son Andrew was born. At this point in time, I had 3 boys under the age of 4.
Elijah was a chatterbox and spoke at an early age. But Isaac didn’t talk much at all and wasn’t interested in interacting with other children. He was pretty quiet compared to his older brother, and a few of my friends would mention how it must be a relief to have my second boy be so quiet. Another friend told me he didn’t talk much because Elijah did it for him, so I just assumed he was a quiet child by nature.
As time went on, Isaac’s quietness and lack of social play with other children grew more pronounced. All he could do was repeat the last line of phrases he would hear. He also started occasionally flapping his hands and exhibiting non-functional pacing. That graduated into flipping his fingers in front of his face real fast over and over again. Instead of playing with cars and trucks the normal way, he would run them up and down the wall repeatedly. He did not have any understanding of what to do with the rest of the toys. When he received a Buzz Lightyear life size doll for his birthday, he would take the doll and hurt himself with it because he had no concept of pain, so I had to take it away.
Isaac was unable to make eye contact with people. He also began throwing tantrums and going into mini trances or stares that were hard to get him out of. He would go round and round in circles with his head tilted like he was chasing his tail. He was unable to make expressions on his face as well as understand other people’s expressions. He was also born without the ability to imitate which is an essential tool God has given us and is foundational for learning.
When taken to a playground, Isaac would vanish and the next thing we knew he would be at the top of the tallest ladder – totally unaware of the danger. He did this frequently and one time jumped into the deep end of the pool and almost drowned. Needless to say, we were becoming increasingly frightened and very concerned.
We had been to a pediatric doctor who told me to keep an eye on him and if he wasn’t talking by age 2 ½ then we will research further.
I didn’t want to wait. It was obvious something was wrong, so a friend told me to get on the waiting list at a disability unit at a hospital where he could get a thorough look by a team of doctors. So I put Isaac’s name on the list.
After waiting for two months, Isaac was seen by a team of Doctors. We endured a half a day observation by a psychologist, speech therapist, Occupational therapist, pediatric doctor and a full hour observation by the hospitals top pediatric neurologist. At the end of the day they pulled us into the room, handed us a box of Kleenex and told us to sit down. “I’m sorry but your son has Autism”. I asked how bad it was and they told us he was presenting “severe”, but that it could change in time with good therapy.
Patrick cried. I didn’t. Instead I took the reins. You see, I was always able to fix things in my life. When any adversity came along, I was able to fix it and it was out of my hair pretty quickly, but this time it was going to be different as I would soon find out. The first words out of my mouth were, “O.K. so how do we fix this”. They explained to me that with the right therapies he could improve so much that others might not be able to tell he has it, but there are no guarantees. They explained that he will never lose his Autism or be cured.
I wouldn’t allow myself to grieve because I didn’t think it would do Isaac any good. By grieving, I thought that somehow I would lose control. What I had to learn was that this was completely out of my control. I didn’t know how to handle this, but God in his great compassion and mercy knew I was struggling with a myriad of emotions. Control, worry, anxiety – you name it – I was experiencing it. What I needed to do was to quit clinging to God like I was hanging off a cliff, but rather let go and fall into his arms. God in his patience knew that would take time. I was still wrestling with God – trying to take the reins and to stay in control of this trial.
Finally, a year later while driving in the van on the way to a friend’s house I broke down and cried out to God for his mercy on Isaac. I finally surrendered my illusion of control and let go. And it was by letting go that I finally fell into the strong and loving arms of my Heavenly Father. Matthew 11:28-30 says: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
During this journey, the Holy Spirit so faithfully counseled me with God’s Words. He brought them out of my heart – where I had stored them so many years ago – and into my mind. He comforted me over and over again through His living Word. I clung to God’s promise in Isaiah 26 where He tells us to keep our minds staid on Him and He will keep us in perfect peace, and to trust Him because He is our everlasting rock. He used Philippians 4: 6-7 to remind me to: “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
God continued to give me His peace in the midst of my pain. It still amazes me how God used all those verses I memorized and all that time in his word as a single to prepare and strengthen me for this time.
At the time of Isaac’s diagnosis, we were also studying scripture with an older wiser couple, Bob and Nancy, whom God graciously gave us during this time.
Bob said something to Patrick and me that I have not forgotten to this day. He told us that God had wired Isaac this way. He had allowed Isaac to have Autism. Bob reminded us that his Autism was no accident and that God had a plan and a purpose for Isaac – just as he is. Psalm 103:19 says,“God has established his throne in the heavens and his sovereignty rules over all”. Yes, God is sovereign and knows what He is doing – not just in our lives – but in Isaac’s life as well.
So we embarked on the long and arduous journey of intensive in home therapy, but God wasn’t done increasing our family and He surprised us with our fourth son Jacob. I have to admit I was scared when I found out I was pregnant with Jake. We were in the midst of doing intensive therapy with Isaac and I had Andrew and Elijah who needed me, a husband working long hours and I was now pregnant again. I was overwhelmed, but God had me in a place where I could look nowhere but in His face.
Four years after Isaac’s diagnosis our eldest son Elijah was diagnosed with a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome which is on the Autism spectrum. So, now we had two with Autism. They told us to keep an eye on our third son. Worry crept in and again the Holy Spirit gave me His word to combat my thought life during this uncertain time.
One of my greatest worries was that Isaac would never be able to understand the Gospel. Whenever Satan put this worry in my mind, God reminded me again of how He is the one who prepares and brings understanding to the heart, and yes he can do this with Isaac.
Flash forward to today. Isaac is 9, he gave his life to Jesus two years ago, on his own. God brought him understanding. Even someone with Autism who sees life completely different than the rest of us can understand and accept God’s great gift of salvation. Praise be to God!
Isaac is now high functioning. His Autism will never go away, and he still struggles with friendships and social interaction, but it could be a lot worse.
As for me, remember the prayer I asked my single’s group to pray for me so many years ago? That I would be put through the Refiner’s Fire so I could grow? Well, God has spent the last Twenty Three years refining me. He has taught me that we will encounter various trials until we are taken home to glory, and that Isaac is His, not mine. He taught me that only by giving up control, by surrendering; by fully running to Him and resting in His arms while entrusting Isaac into His capable hands would I experience the peace of God which passes all understanding.
Patrick and I are currently helping with an Autism Support Group that has started in our community. We are thrilled that we have the opportunity to be salt and light to the young couples who have new diagnoses, who are right where we are at. I can’t imagine going through this without Jesus.
I would like to conclude my testimony today by glorifying the Lord in song. The song I would like to sing is what I call my “soul song” to God during this trial. I can testify that God gave me His peace as I struggled daily to let go of the cliff and fall into his arms. I pray this song will encourage those of you who may be struggling with an unexpected journey today. It is called “It is Well with My Soul”. Thank you so much.