Faith and Disability

About Sarah Blake LaRose

Sarah Blake LaRose is a freelance writer and a professor of Biblical Hebrew at Anderson University School of Theology in Anderson, Indiana. She is one of three blind academic scholars who received the Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind in 2016 in recognition of innovative work in the field of access to biblical language texts and tools for people who are blind.

I went to chapel reluctantly. I had learned the day before that my insurance would not cover the medication which provided control of my migraines. I felt vulnerable, and I was acutely aware that I lacked solid friendships. I wanted nothing more than to disappear into a hole and never come out. At the same time, I wished that someone would dive into the hole after me just for the purpose of retrieving me and telling me that they wanted to be my friend and that everything would be all right. I tried to avoid thinking that if I had a husband, he would hold me while I cried myself to sleep at night. Thinking thoughts like this only made me feel more alone.

I went to chapel despite my feelings, hoping that God would speak something reassuring to me there. Instead of being comforted, I was brought face to face with my feelings of isolation in ways that I could not escape.

The person who was leading the music asked us all to face the center aisle, look at the people on the other side of the room, and “sing the songs of community.” I felt more isolated in that moment than I remembered feeling at any other time in my life. … Unable to see the people across the aisle, I wondered whether they were staring at me–or even whether they looked at me at all.

The above scenario illustrates a common dilemma in the lives of many people with disabilities. Situations in life create general anxiety and frustration and a need for God’s presence and comfort; but when the person goes to church seeking to connect with God, incidents that occur in the church environment instead add to that very frustration, and the person is unable to feel God’s presence, find encouragement in fellowship with other believers, or hear what God is speaking. The person may place walls up in an effort to shield himself from additional painful experiences; and this can make him seem hostile to people around him–even his own family and friends.

As part of its mission, Night-Light provides resources for those seeking to ensure a more authentic experience of fellowship and worship for people with disabilities or chronic illness. We especially welcome our friends who are visiting from outside our own faith tradition. While we ourselves are Christian, we understand deeply that people of all faiths have needs for welcome and fellowship. If we can assist you with developing strategies for advocacy in your own place of worship, please let us know.

To read our articles about faith and disability, please browse the site navigation menu under the topic “Faith and Disability”. If you are in need of a particular type of resource and we have not addressed it, or if we can help by consulting with you, please contact us.