Category: What effects do conditions like autism, attachment disorder, ADHD, etc., have on the Christian life?

When Adam sinned, death entered the world. God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden as they had exchanged their life in paradise for a curse. They were cursed, their bodies were cursed, and the world was cursed. Their bodies, once perfect, died a little every day. Their souls, once in tune with God, were now predisposed to rebel against Him. Thousands of years and hundreds of generations later, we are the heirs of that curse. Our bodies, despite medical science, are even more susceptible to disease than Adam and Eve’s were. Our DNA, after generations of radiation and chemical exposure, is riddled with defects. And our society is so inundated with sin and our souls so easily trapped that our actions can alter our physiology in such a way that sin becomes even more natural.

God knows this. He knows that our sin and our physiology are sometimes connected. In Genesis 3:16, He explains the effect sin has on women: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Sin had an impact on women such that future sin would be more prevalent. And God knows that sin—whether original sin, our own sin, or the sin of others—can change us in such a way that following God’s standards becomes more difficult. The fallen state of the world has induced, directly or indirectly, many different conditions that weaken our understanding of God’s plan for us. Brain abnormalities, such as those associated with autism, can make it hard to empathize with others and show love. The sin of others can cause attachment disorder, which damages the fellowship God designed us to have with others. And in-born physiology can make healthy sexual relationships difficult.

The first thing to realize about these conditions is that they are nothing compared to the power, love, and grace of God. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Nothing in us or outside of us, nothing we do and nothing done to us, can keep God from forgiving us and accepting us as His children. He knows our physical state and our difficulties. He knows our mental and emotional capacities. But we are all pre-conditioned to sin.

The second thing to remember is rather a double-edged sword: God knows our limitations, and we are still expected to obey. God knows our starting point as damaged people. His promises of hope and healing are just as applicable to someone with autism or a mental disorder as they are to anyone else. But, while we cannot contribute to Christ’s work of salvation, we are expected to cooperate with God’s work of healing in us. The principles of sanctification and dying to flesh still apply. We are still expected to consider God’s plan for us above our own desires. That may mean continuing to take required medication, even if we don’t feel like it. Or being diligent with therapy. And “healing” will not look like what the world expects, but God never intended us to conform to the world—He wants us conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).

Everyone on this planet is predisposed to rebel against God and live a life of sin. Sometimes that predisposition has a name and medical significance, and sometimes it doesn’t. But in God’s eyes, there are only two types of people—those who have accepted Jesus as their savior, and those who haven’t. Our physical limitations and proclivities may determine the challenges we will face in our attempt to obey God, but they need never separate us from God’s love.

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity  Disorder) are terms which describe conditions associated with particular sets of  behaviors. There are generally both physical and spiritual implications  associated with those who have been diagnosed with either of these conditions.  Much of the research and debate on this issue centers around the physical cause  and potential cure or care for the conditions. However, in that the essence of  the conditions involves behavior that the Bible addresses, it is very important  for Christians to consider the spiritual impact on those diagnosed with ADD or  ADHD.

ADD tends to describe those individuals wrestling with  inattention. Inattention is described as possessing some or all of the  following: often makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work or other  activities; often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play  activities; often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly; often does  not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or  duties in the workplace; often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities;  often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require  sustained mental effort; often loses things necessary for tasks or activities;  is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli; is often forgetful in daily  activities.

ADHD tends to describe those individuals wrestling with  inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. The individual may have some of the  above characteristics along with some of the following: often fidgets with hands  or feet or squirms in seat; often leaves seat in classroom or in other  situations in which remaining seated is expected; often runs about or climbs  excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate; often has difficulty  playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly; is often “on the go” or often  acts as if “driven by a motor”; often talks excessively; often blurts out  answers before questions have been completed; often has difficulty awaiting  turn; often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or  games).

Undoubtedly, there are various reasons why individuals are  diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. However, in cases where the evidence rests primarily  on the behavior of the individual, the Supreme Authority should be consulted.  The Bible is not silent on many of the above behaviors.

The following  are biblical teachings concerning the issue of attentiveness:

1. God  recognizes that some tasks are hard, yet it is good for us to be faithful with  our tasks – Proverbs  6:6-8; Colossians  3:23.
2. God recognizes that it is hard to stay focused, yet there are  rewards for staying focused – Proverbs  12:11.
3. God recognizes that it is hard to develop priorities, yet  there are rewards for making good choices – Proverbs  24:27.
4. God recognizes that it is hard to listen to instruction, yet  there are rewards for listening to those who are teaching – Proverbs 7:24; James 1:19.
5. God recognizes that it is hard to  remember things; that is why He tells us to develop reminders – Proverbs 6:20-21; Deuteronomy 6:6-8; 2 Peter  1:12-15.

The following are biblical teachings concerning the issue  of self-control:

1. We typically do not exhibit self-control; it is a  fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians  5:23), as well as that which we add to our faith (2 Peter 1:6).
2. The  Apostle Paul described bringing his body under control as a battle (1 Corinthians  9:27).
3. The Bible even encourages controlling the use of our words (Proverbs 10:19; Matthew 12:36).
4. We  are encouraged that control of our lives begins with control over our minds (Proverbs 25:28; Philippians  4:8).

The following are biblical teachings concerning  impulsivity:

1. God states that there are consequences to being hasty  (Proverbs  21:5).
2. There is value in listening before speaking (James 1:19).
3. It is wise to listen to a matter  before answering (Proverbs  18:13).
4. Patience and longsuffering (holding back passion) are signs  of spiritual maturity (Galatians  5:22; James  1:2-4).

Typically, one focuses on the negative behavior without  realizing that there are positive traits behind those behaviors. The day-dreamer  or forgetful one tends to be quite imaginative. The impulsive one tends to have  a burden to get things done. The hyperactive person tends to have ample energy  that can be turned to benefit others. Therefore, it is important that such  individuals be considered for what part they play in the body of Christ (1  Corinthians 12:11-26).

The behaviors above are considered signs of  wisdom and maturity, or the lack thereof. Therefore, it is the role of the  church and parents to help redirect the attention and energy of individuals with  ADD and ADHD. Disciplining such individuals will involve the following:

1) Helping the individual develop a servant’s heart. Many of the behaviors  listed above reflect a rather selfish motive in life. Learning to serve others  helps individuals push through unpleasant tasks and to be more patient (Philippians 2:3-4).

2) Helping the individuals  control their own thinking. The Bible talks of renewing the mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians  4:23). God instructs us to focus on eight attributes in Philippians 4:8. Those  who wrestle with fantasy can be encouraged to think on those things that are  true.

3) Helping the individuals to renew their minds as to what God  teaches about their behaviors (note the above examples).

4) Helping the  individuals to establish structure. The Bible describes the Christian life as  being a “one another” experience. They met daily in the early church (Acts 2)  and we are encouraged to motivate and encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). Too  often we give people a “pass” on their behaviors when what they need is help in  changing them.

5) Helping the individuals by modeling proper behavior.  Paul modeled for Timothy (2 Timothy  3:10-11). Undoubtedly, many individuals learn better by seeing than by  hearing. It is extra work, but patiently helping such individuals turn the  corner will have dividends in the long run.

6) By embracing the special  place they fulfill in the body of Christ, we can tap into the gift they have to  offer.

There are certainly other things that can help those diagnosed  with ADD or ADHD. However, parents, pastors, and those who work with children  and adults with ADD and/or ADHD should not be discouraged from utilizing the  Word of God, which is profitable for teaching, reproving, correcting, and  instructing (2 Timothy  3:16).