The God Who Sees
Although not a commonly-listed top 10 favorite Bible character, Barbara Weathers views Hagar as one of hers. In a situation of difficulty, Hagar showed great faith, calling God the “God that sees me.” Barbara would also need this assurance of the God who sees and comforts. While she had dreamed of being a mother, she never would have imagined that two of her children would be diagnosed with a genetic disorder, and the other diagnosed with autism.
Barbara married her husband, Chuck, in 1982. After a month of marriage, the two were excited to find out that Barbara was pregnant, both thrilled with anticipation of the growth of their family.
With a walking problem since birth—cerebral palsy—her husband was relieved to know that his hardship would not be passed to any children they had. However, after the birth of their first son it was revealed that Chuck actually had a rare neurological genetic disorder—Familial Spastic Diplegia— which causes the legs to have spasms, weakness, and poor balance. The couple was grateful that in their family’s case, symptoms would not worsen as the children became older, but it was still a devastating blow.
As a mother of three, Barbara shares her journey with JBU of the joys and challenges of raising children with special needs, and how her faith grew stronger as she experienced God as the “God who sees me.”
JBU: When did you first realize that Brian had Familial Spastic Diplegia?
BARBARA: When Brian was 13 months old, we were surprised to be expecting again. Exactly one week later, Brian began to walk. It was not the typical gait of a baby’s first steps. I will always remember the cold chill that racked my body in the months that followed as the doctors tried to understand what was going on. Our second son, Brad, would be born before they came up with a diagnosis—Familial Spastic Diplegia. Chuck was devastated to learn that he did not have cerebral palsy, but a genetic disorder that he had a 50 percent chance of passing on to each child.
JBU: What was life like after your daughter, Sharon, was born and was found to have the same disorder?
BARBARA: The round of doctors was in full swing. I have lost track of the number of operations. Therapy every day of the week, casts, wheelchairs, crutches, canes…we were in a new world. It is amazing the many ways you can decorate canes for school parties.
JBU: When did you realize that Brad was autistic?
BARBARA: There had always been a nagging feeling about our second son, Brad. He could walk just fine, but yet…? He didn’t want to be rocked or sung to. He didn’t make eye contact, and most disturbing to me, he never imitated, not even waving “bye, bye.” At three years old, Brad was finally labeled autistic. He needed constant supervision, so he didn’t run off, hurt himself, or destroy the house.
JBU: How did you handle having three children with special needs?
BARBARA: There were many nights of tears and grief. But mainly, when you’re in the midst of everything, you just keep moving forward. Time went on. The children faced challenges in school. Disappointments over things they couldn’t do, sometimes being teased by other kids. Triumphs and joys, too, all the sweeter because they were so hard won. I have learned so much about strength and perseverance from each one of them.
JBU: How did God prepare and comfort you during these challenges?
BARBARA: God never missed a step. I see how He was always preparing me. I grew up on a farm and was physically strong. After high school, I had trained to be a medical assistant. This helped so much in caring for the children and understanding the medical world and its jargon. When I talk to other people with difficulties, there is always a path of preparation and support when you look back.
JBU: How are Brian, Brad, and Sharon doing today?
BARBARA: Brian is a scientist and married. He and his wife Mary Ann have just adopted a brother and sister through foster care. The little girl has special needs.
Not so long ago Sharon graduated from a Bible college. She works in a Christian school. I have rarely seen the walking problem ever stop Brian or Sharon from something they were determined to do. I love their perseverance and compassion.
Brad will never be able to live on his own, though he has come further than we ever expected. About a year ago, we sensed it was time for Brad to become more independent, so we began looking for a group home nearby. This is usually a long process, but within a month we had found one, finished the paperwork, and he was moved in. This just doesn’t happen. His case manager called it a miracle. The timing of God is always a miracle, whether He acts quickly or requires us to wait and be faithful with no end in sight.
JBU: Was it a difficult time for you when Brad moved out of your home?
BARBARA: Sometimes I get nervous. I worry about the staff remembering everything he needs. His speech is so limited, will they understand him? Is he frightened when there is a thunderstorm? But God prepared me even for this. Brad loves “his apartment.” It is a wonderful place, with kind staff.
Two weeks before moving into the group home, Brad’s day program decided to take the group on a sailing adventure on Lake Michigan. I was a little nervous about the excursion, but have learned over the years to try not to hold my children back because of my fear.
The ship was a replica of a large, old sailing schooner. As they were trying to come back to shore, the wind and waves had picked up so badly that they kept getting pushed against the rocks. The coast guard was sent out to rescue them, and it wasn’t easy.
I was so worried about Brad, not only falling, but having a panic attack, which sometimes happens to him. That afternoon God spoke plainly to me, saying this was my test. If I could trust God to get Brad safely off this ship, I could trust Him to take care of Brad at the new group home. It came down to this: even when I’m not in control, God is. Did I really believe that? Without much choice, I made a choice to trust God.
A couple hours later, a news helicopter panned the coast guard boat. Even as high as they were, I could easily recognize Brad safely on board, sprawled against some cushions, looking happy as can be.
JBU: You have mentioned Hagar as one of your top 10 favorite Bible characters. How has her story influenced your faith journey?
BARBARA: Sarah, her mistress, used her to produce a son for her husband Abraham. Then despised and mistreated her. I don’t blame Hagar for running. God finds her crying in the wilderness, without help, without hope, without a future. In her desperation, God assures Hagar that He hears her cry, and that He has a plan for her and the son that will be born. Then He tells her to go back to Sarah and submit in this difficult situation.
Hagar shows great faith and goes back. Maybe for the first time she understood that God is a God who sees. A “God that sees me” is what she calls Him. And that made a difference. She was not “invisible” or “alone.”
Watching my children go through difficulties and pain has shown me the heart of our Heavenly Father. Though He must allow difficulties in our lives to shape us, His heart aches with the pain. He goes through the struggles with us. A parent’s heart is never far from the child. We have a “God who sees us” and loves us, just like He saw Hagar so very long ago.
- Favorite Scripture Passage: Philippians 2:3-11
- Favorite Book: Following Christ by Joseph Stowell
- Favorite Hobbies: Writing short articles and doing research on Ancestry.com
- One fun thing she likes to do with her husband: Traveling together and spending time with her new grandchildren
To contact Barbara:
- Email: email@example.com