Written By Yahya A. Tioso, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
I have many reasons to feel sorry for myself. The biggest one is my physical disability: I was born deaf. I could not speak until I was seven years old, when my parents sent me to a special elementary school for handicapped people.
Throughout my childhood, I felt comfortable only when I was at home with my family, or when I was in school with friends who had the same condition. I lacked confidence in interacting with people in public places. When it came to ordering food, for example, I was afraid that others would not understand what I said or that they would laugh at my weird voice. So I usually asked my parents or my sister to order my meals for me.
I often played the victim card and saw myself as someone who needed to be pitied and helped. The excuse I gave myself was always: “What can I do? I’m deaf, so I need to be helped.” At the time, it did not occur to me that if I continually pitied myself, I would miss the opportunity to grow the potential and talents that God had given to me.
But God demonstrated His unlimited love and power to me through His amazing work. He taught me how to avoid self-pity and to renew my mind according to His Word.
1. Rely on God in everything
After I graduated from the special school, my parents sent me to a mainstream junior high school, which did not provide any special support for deaf students. Although I knew that my parents had prayed and sought God for His leading before sending me to the school, I still felt scared. I felt that people there would be smarter than me, and I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
It turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. When I started school, I felt frustrated. There were significant differences between those who could hear and those who were deaf. I felt like I was on another planet, all alone and isolated. No one would approach or talk to me. I could hardly understand what the teachers taught because they spoke too fast. Everything was beyond me and I often retreated to the toilet to cry.
I started to compare my present situation with the past. In my previous school, the teachers taught at a slower pace and I could understand everything they said. My friends always understood me and played with me. Everything was easy and fun!
When I could not take it any longer, I asked my parents to transfer me to a special school for the deaf. To my surprise, they didn’t agree. Instead, they asked me: “What will you need in order to survive?” I answered immediately, “A friend.”
They told me to pray earnestly and ask God for a friend. So I did, and God answered my prayer.
One day, one of my classmates approached me and asked if I was able to talk. “I can . . . a little”, I replied.
He became a very good friend, and was always eager to learn how to communicate with me.
He would ask me to repeat myself if he could not catch what I was saying, and if he still could not understand after a few tries, he would get me to write what I wanted to say in a notebook. He would do the same if I couldn’t understand him. This practice gradually built up my confidence to speak again.
I was amazed by this act of God’s grace in my life. The experience strengthened my faith in God and my trust that He hears the prayers of His children. I have learned to come to the Lord and ask for His help in times of trouble, instead of wallowing in self-pity.
2. Be Grateful
Self-pity made me focus on negative things and neglect the presence of God’s grace in my life. It made me compare myself with others and blame the situation, others, and even God.
“Why did God create me like this?”
“Why am I not as beautiful or handsome as somebody else?”
“Why did God place me in this family and not in another family?”
“Why are my parents not as good as my friend’s parents?”
“If only life were so much easier.”
But God opened my eyes to see that there were so many things I could be grateful for in my life. He gave me a loving family, a comfortable place to live in, delicious food to enjoy, the opportunity to go to school and make good friends, good teachers, and many more.
But the most remarkable thing was that He allowed me to know Him and to experience His love. The Word of God tells us that He created each one of us individually, including me, (Psalm 139:13-14) and that He loves us very much. That’s why He sent Jesus into the world to die on the cross for us, so that we could be His children (John 3:15).
When I started to focus on God’s love and goodness, my heart became light and full of joy. All my problems became small compared with all that He has given to me. While I still had my problems, God gave me His strength to face them together with Him. My focus was no longer on the problems, but rather on the greatness of God.
3. Surrender my personal rights to God
My self-pity subtly made me believe that I had the right to be cared for, to be helped and served, and to be given special treatment because of my unfortunate circumstances. I started to focus on myself and got disappointed whenever others did not live up to my expectations.
I found myself complaining often, “Why doesn’t anyone notice me or help me or want to be my friend?” Subconsciously, I was always hoping that others would do this and that for me, just because I was deaf. When this did not happen, it brought me much unnecessary stress and heartache.
I remember the time when I started going to college in Malaysia and had to live apart from my family and friends for the first time in my life. I felt very depressed and struggled to adapt to the new environment. In spite of my prayers, the situation did not get any better. But it was then that God spoke to my heart. He said, “My child, surrender all your personal rights to me: the right to be considered, the right to be helped, the right to have a friend.”
I was really surprised by the Lord’s command, as it sounded strange. Initially, I struggled to respond to it. But as I remembered how God always provided the best solutions to problems and challenges I faced in my life, I finally decided to obey. I surrendered all my personal rights to God, even though I did not really understand what it meant at that point.
The next day, my heart was changed radically. I felt a deep sense of peace, and I finally understood what God meant. When I surrendered my personal rights, I no longer expected others to help me or give me special treatment because of my situation. Instead, I learned to trust that God would supply all my needs in His time.
4. Place my faith in God and His purposes
As a kid, I often asked my mother, “Why was I born deaf?” Her usual reply was, “Oh, because Mama was sick when Mama was pregnant with you.” However, her answer never truly satisfied me.
One day, I asked her the same question again. This time, instead of giving me her usual reply, she opened the Bible and got me to read John 9:1-3 with her. It said: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ ”
Many people think that disability is a punishment for sin—either the person’s sin or that of his parents. But Jesus clearly said here that God sometimes allows disabilities because He has a greater purpose to fulfil through that individual’s life.
When I read this, my heart was filled with a sense of reassurance. I realized that I was not a “defective product”, and that God had a plan for me, even in my disability. While I could not fully understand how God’s work could be expressed in and through my life, I wanted to do my best and live a life that was pleasing to God.
As time went on, I started to make more friends and was able to follow the lessons. I even managed to do well at school, and consistently topped my class throughout grade 7 to 11, save for two occasions. Eventually, I got the opportunity to study abroad, receive an award for the Best Product Design in one of my university courses, get a good job, and even start my own family.
Looking back, I can see how God showed His power and love through His work in my life.
If an “ordinary” person were to achieve something great, it might be said to be nothing out of the ordinary. But if someone who found it hard to communicate or understand what was being taught were to top his class, it would be seen as something that is not possible by that person’s own effort. I have seen, for example, a person who does not have hands paint more beautifully with his feet than the average person can with his hands.
I believe God uses the disabled and those deemed weak by the world to show the world that He is able to use the weak for His glory and purposes (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
This realization changed my attitude towards my condition and helped me to stop justifying my self-pity. I can trust God, because He can use the weaknesses of His people and any situation, including mine, to show His glory.
Check out the author’s website here.