The following post was first posted on September 2, 2020. I am republishing now because there has been a significant development in the life of the author. Lamar has been diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. He is taking an indefinite sabbatical to pursue treatment. This will no doubt change his life in many ways, but he is facing it with the same courage for which he is known.
Lamar has been posting prayers for strength to rally his “fight club” as he faces this battle. This one is from yesterday —
Good morning fight club. It’s another great day to fight! Pray this with me
“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NLT
“As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good.”
2 Thessalonians 3:13 NLT
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;”
Romans 5:3 NKJV
“But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”
Romans 8:25 NKJV
“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.”
1 Peter 1:6 NLT
“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
James 1:12 NLT
Gracious and eternal God I thank you today for the opportunity to spend this moment with you communicating my needs to you as well as hearing your wisdom and direction for my life. Today I pray that you guide me and guard me. Give me the wisdom that will guard my heart and protect it from unexpected and unnecessary pain. Help me to maneuver around the pitfalls, temptations, and traps set for me by the enemy. Order my steps and lead me into victory today. Lord today I pray for your people. Guide them with your wisdom. Protect them from unexpected and unnecessary pain. Lord, where pain is necessary and unavoidable I pray that you use it to build perseverance.
God I pray that you will use my situation for your glory. Don’t let this moment be wasted with worry but allow it to be filled with worship. Help me to count it all joy when facing trouble because the trouble that you have allowed at this time will serve as a teacher and as my future testimony of your goodness. God I pray today for the gift of perseverance. Help me to not to become tired of doing the right thing but to take up my shield of faith and to push forward as I face this cancer head on using my faith to protect me and shield me from the temptation to quit. God today I stand on your word that we may be pressed, perplexed, and hunted down but we are NEVER crushed, NEVER struck down, and NEVER abandoned by you.
Father your word says that while we may be fragile like clay jays we have inside of us the treasure of your glorious presence and that through our trials, troubles, and tests your glory will shine through our cracks and it will be the light that leads others to you. God I thank you that your word says that you WILL BLESS those who patiently endure trials and that we will see the joy ahead if we learn how to persevere.
God I pray today for those who are also in the middle of a painful process that you shower them with your grace, your mercy, and your loving kindness. Help them to remember your word that declares we are overcomers in Christ. Give them the power to push and to persevere knowing that the testing of their faith produces endurance. Satan I stand against your devices and attacks against God’s people. I stand on God’s word that all trouble and all pain is neither all bad or all powerful and that our God reigns and is aware of our trials and is able to use our trials for His glory. Satan you are defeated and God’s will is powerful enough to produce faith out of pain and a testimony out of a test. Satan I declare today that neither you or our pain is in control of our lives or our faith, but that God is the author and finisher of our faith and that God is faithful to finish whatever he starts.
Lord today we surrender to your skillful ability to take our suffering and transform ashes into beauty and exchange our spirit of heaviness for a garment of praise. You are Lord of ALL. You kingdom is coming and your will is being done in our lives at this very moment. Help us to search for it and help us to see it. We will not be shaken even in the midst of our suffering but we will count it all joy because when we realize that you are all we have then we will realize that you God are all we truly need. Bless your people today. Give them endurance for the days ahead and faith for the future.
In Jesus Name.
Now, here is the post:
Lamar Hardwick (DMin, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is the lead pastor at Tri-Cities Church in East Point, Georgia. He is the author of Epic Church and the best-selling I am Strong: The Life and Journey of an Autistic Pastor. His new book Disability and the Church is set to release in February 2021 with InterVarsity Press.
In 2014, after years of silently struggling with social anxiety and sensory processing disorder, and a host of other significant issues, Hardwick was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of thirty-six. He now provides workshops, seminars, and consults with local churches and faith-based organizations on creating environments for people with autism. He also provides mentoring services for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum. His writing has been published by various autism and disability websites such as The Mighty, The Huffington Post, Key Ministry, and The Autistic Self Advocacy Network.
He lives in Newnan, Georgia, with his wife, Isabella, and their three children.
When I was younger, I dreamed of becoming many things. I can recall wanting to become everything from a professional athlete to a teacher or firefighter. The thing I most remember about my hopes and dreams as a child was not just what I wanted to become but who I wanted to become. I wanted to become an artist.
Becoming an artist is the dream of nearly every child. If you asked a room full of kindergartners which of them believed that they could become a great artist many of them would believe that they already were great artists.
Children have such an enormous advantage when it comes to living lives full of faith, hope, love, and creativity. It’s almost as though the younger we are the more excited and hopeful we are about who we can become.
If you know my story, I wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until I was 36 years old. As a child I struggled greatly with socialization, sensory processing, anxiety, and a host of other challenges but until few years ago I had no idea that there was a reason for my struggles.
Those who noticed my challenges as a child weren’t always positive or affirming. In fact, there were many children and teachers who took my obvious struggles as a sign that my options of what I wanted to become would be very limited.
I am often asked if I believed having an autism diagnosis at an early age would have helped me. It’s hard to say. I’m sure some knowledge of where my challenges stemmed from would have been helpful. At the end of the day most people ask that question as a way of assessing whether I believed that being ignorant of my autism for decades has held me back in any way.
Perhaps early intervention would have played a role in setting me up for a different path but what I have determined to be true no matter what might have happened in the past is that even with all of the challenges I have had the one thing that autism has not stopped me from becoming is a better person.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible helped me to learn an incredible truth about my life, about disability, and about how to become the best version of me.
“So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.” 2 Corinthians 12:7 NLT
Paul is one of my biblical heroes. Until this time period of his life and ministry we really don’t know much about his personal life. And then Paul lets us in on a secret. He has a disability. While we don’t know for certain what his disability was, Paul makes mention that it is something that causes him physical discomfort and that it was a tremendous struggle that he describes as “torment.”
Whenever a disability is diagnosed or discovered our first and most natural response is to wonder and worry about all of the things that we will possibly never become. Sometimes staring into the face of life with a disability can cause us to lose our sense of faith, hope, love, and creativity.
Except Paul points to a startling revelation about faith and disability. While he doesn’t deny that he struggles greatly during seasons in his life he does openly express that the one thing that his disability cannot keep him from becoming is the best version of himself.
I won’t pretend to understand all that Paul had to endure and I won’t pretend to know what it feels like to be you or your loved one. What I am suggesting is that Paul seems to believe that his disability didn’t stop him from becoming the best version of himself, in fact he believed that it actually stopped him from becoming the worst version of himself.
“To keep me from becoming proud…”
Through his own personal torment comes a testimony of faith that teaches us all a great lesson. There is a reality that my struggle may influence many things but one thing my autism cannot make me become is the worst version of me.
With God there is no need for a 2nd edition of me. Autism won’t keep me from becoming a better husband or father or pastor. Autism and all the struggles that come with it may at times keep me from loud rooms and long meetings, but it won’t keep me from my best because I am exactly who I am supposed to be. I was born with all of the potential to become the most courageous and creative version of me that God always intended me.
“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”