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............."Oh, the gallant fisher's life, It is the best of any 'Tis full of pleasure, void of strife, And 'tis beloved of many." ..........[Piscator's Song, "The Compleat Angler" by Izaak Walton] "The fishers also shall mourn,and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish." [Isaiah XIX:8]

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Blessing from God

What follows is a revision and update of an article that appeared in the June-July 1985 issue of Priorities (Vol. 2 No. 5, pp. 1ff.), the newsletter of the then-existent Protestants for Life in Pittsburgh. The original occasion was the birth of the author’s and his wife’s fourth child in January 1985. Now there is more good news.

"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord;
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
When they speak with their enemies in the gate" (Psalm 127:3-5).

Do we believe these words of Psalm 127? Do we really see children as a blessing from the Lord? Or have we been deceived by the spirit of this age which counts any form of responsibility, including the rearing of children, as part of the curse? After all, was not the apostle Paul culture-bound when he wrote, “But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (I Tim. 2:15)?

On January 18, 1985, we had a “blessed event” in our household in which we received our fourth child from the Lord. Rachel was (and still is to us) a special child in that she was born with spina bifida and, as we were to discover later, hypothyroidism. These two conditions resulted in serious leg deformities and renal complications, as well as an initial growth deficiency. Considering the severity of the problems, Rachel has done very well, for which we are very grateful. Enduring a multi-year process of surgery, leg-casting, medication, and rehabilitation, Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh became our homes away from home. Learning to walk with the assistance of braces and a child’s walker eventually gave way to splints and crutches and the continuing use of a wheel chair.

Prior to Rachel’s conception we had contemplated the thoughts of Psalm 127 quoted above. “Surely children are a gift.” And we casually pondered the prospects of having a fourth child, to make an even number, two boys and two girls. After all, we thought together, “Christians need not be ashamed of large families.” But no sooner had we discovered that a child was on the way, that we began to think, “Oh no, another mouth to feed, more diapers and just when we were about to get on with our lives. What would people think? What would they say? Perhaps these might be called “normal’ thoughts, but does this kind of thinking not express some doubt of God’s Word on the matter? Little did we know at the time how much further our faith would be tested.

Little by little, we got used to the idea of a new baby coming, and the pregnancy went quite routinely. Regular checkups made us think all seemed well—until the eighth month. At that point the doctors became concerned that perhaps the calculated due date was wrong for our child seemed unexpectedly small. A sonogram was ordered, which was not all routine in those days. The doctor’s comments stunned us when we were informed that there appeared to be a “deformity on the spine,” which might be only a cyst of no real consequence or perhaps it was an indication of spina bifida with the possibility of severe physical and mental handicaps.

Suddenly, all those “normal” doubts and fears, questioning God’s word on the matter, which we had experienced earlier, now burst forth with a passion. “Why would God allow this to happen!” Here we were, Bible-believing Christians who would never have an abortion, harboring angry thoughts toward one another and toward God.

In the days that followed her birth, we were astounded how much our contentment rested upon Rachel’s “quality of life” reports. We were quite anxious whether the initial thyroid deficiency would cause developmental problems for her. What would life look like, dealing with severe physical handicaps? The very things we ‘pro-lifers’ would reject as unacceptable, illegitimate reasons for justifying abortions (concerns about brain power, muscular control, appearance) were the things that caused our hopes to rise and fall. Suddenly, we were confronted with the challenge of the potential difficulties that lay ahead, and the arguments were not abstractions. Through it all, we came more and more to understand the Lord’s providential hand of discipline upon us. We were being called to love our child, and made more and more to understand that we needed God’s help to love as we ought to love. The Lord was making more and more clear that true godly love must not be a respecter of persons, but we must love another simply because that person is precious and created “in the image of God.” What was being exposed, however, in our culture and in our own hearts was that we tend to love only insofar as it does not interfere with our comfort, our freedom, or our autonomy to live as we want.

Not that we accept spina bifida and sin and death as normal—they are not. As the Scriptures teach, sickness and death are in the world because of sin’s entrance into the world. As such they ought to make us all the more to desire life and the restoration and perfections of heaven and of resurrection life in Christ. Meanwhile, in the world, we are being called to love one another and to bear with one another’s infirmities, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. We are reminded that Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us sinners when we were still weak and helpless, and He commands us to love others in the same way.

Several persons attempted to comfort us in those days after Rachel’s birth by suggesting to us that God gives special-needs children to special parents. We are convinced that that is not so. Instead, we are persuaded that such children are a gift of the Lord to us.

God is good. More than twenty-four years have now passed. Yesterday was a special day for my wife and me as our son-in-law called from Chattanooga to inform us that his wife, our Rachel, had given birth to their first child. As we think back we are amazed. Now we see that grandchildren, too, are a gift of the Lord, for which we give thanks. We invite you to rejoice with us.

R. Daniel Knox
Ambridge, PA
April 17, 2009


  1. Congratulations Dan on the birth of your grandchild and thank you for sharing your story of God's giving you Rachel as His gift.

  2. Wayne,

    I am grateful for your visit to the Web Log. Blessings to you.