Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

  • By: Doug Mazza
  • June 12, 2017

Doug and Ryan

If you are the Dad of a special needs son or daughter, you are most likely on an unplanned journey where many times you feel that you are the one with the special needs.

A colleague of mine in special needs ministry had a coffee cup he would bring to meetings that said, “Leadership is what you do with plan B”. There’s truth in that. It takes little talent to manage plan “A”. As a special needs Dad, I sometimes feel, forget plan “B”…I’m on my third lap through the alphabet!

My story is your story; fill in your different numbers and some circumstances, but if we were face to face we would be nodding up and down as we each told our stories. In my case, his name is Ryan, born with horrendous skull and facial deformities, respiratory problems, twisted digits and more. His first of 13 brain and skull surgeries was at two weeks old followed by another dozen attempts to arrest the uncontrollable and erratic bone growth leading to blindness, cerebral palsy and severe developmental issues that robbed all intellect. He’s never spoken a word and yes, he’s my partner and mentor. Really.

As a guy on the fast track in business, I was taught the more I could control the more successful I would be. But Disability doesn’t know that rule; it’s not within your control. If you are a special needs Dad, plan “A” is long gone. You need a new approach.

At the point of despair, I cried out to a God I had very little relationship with and pleaded for him to save my son’s life, and he saved me. I asked him to show me the purpose for Ryan’s life, and he showed me the purpose for mine. I owe Ryan and his suffering everything. Ryan walked me up Calvary, a place I would not have had the courage to go on my own, and introduced me to the one in whose image Ryan is made, the Lord of the universe. What a relief to no longer be in charge of Ryan, but rather to trust that God is in charge, and I am his servant who has been given responsibility as the father of my son.

Being a special needs Dad too often triggers the fight or flight instinct. Without something bigger than us to rely on it can produce a kind of fear the world has not instructed us to deal with. We need to find another kind of courage that will return our confidence and contentment. So, where do we go to find the kind of courage we need to be the leader God wants us to be?

Courage cannot be mandated, but it can be developed. It begins with the four C’s:

1. Christ Trust that Christ is who he says he is. If you don’t have a personal, life altering relationship with Jesus Christ, one that guarantees your eternal salvation, it’s time to consider accepting God’s gift. Christ’s suffering was more than you and I could ever bear. He understands our suffering and defeated it. In fact, he defeated death itself! Break free from the burdens you’ve been carrying alone right now and pray this prayer:

Jesus, I want you to come into my life and to know the peace found in the knowledge of your promise of eternal life. I ask forgiveness of my sins and seek your direction, trusting that you will guide me and be with me no matter what comes.”

If you prayed that prayer with me, congratulations on the best decision of your life!

2. Contentment – Having dedicated your life to Christ, life changes. Not because of what you did, but because of what Christ does. Paul said in his letter to the Philippians (Phil 4:12-13), I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Contentment is more than just fleeting joy; contentment through Christ is a way of life – a destination!

3. ConfidenceContentment brings confidence. Notice I said nothing about liking your circumstances. Having a child with special needs was probably not on your bucket list. Yet consider the assets that can build your confidence. You have a relationship with Christ, an eternal home in heaven, and you know you are where God wants you. The God of the universe has stepped in at your side; he will never leave you nor forsake you. These truths taken by faith produce tremendous confidence.

4. Courage – Paul was a courageous leader. Period! One stoning and frankly, I’d be done! Yet after Paul was taken to the edge of town and left for dead, he got up, dusted himself off and said something like, “Well, that went pretty well!” He then walked to the next town and started preaching all over again, saying these words, “So take heart! Stand firm in your faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 13-14)

Join me as a fellow father of a child with special needs. Trust Paul’s Jesus – or better yet, trust your Jesus.

The four C’s can help you find a level of courage you couldn’t have imagined. Yes, Jesus is that good!

Happy Father’s Day, Brother.

Doug Mazza
President and COO, Joni and Friends

Order Another Kind of Courage  


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Thank you, Doug and Ryan, for leading with integrity and grit. Praying for you both. “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
  • June 16, 2017
  • 7:13 p.m.
  • Rachel
Thank you Doug for sharing your story. I am a mother of an autistic 3 year old that me and my husband adopted. Your 4 c's will be read this father's day. God bless you. I have faith that our Lord gave us this baby for His glory. Amen
  • June 15, 2017
  • 7:15 a.m.
  • Debra Slepicoff
This is excellent and is well articulated. Thanks for sharing! Exactly!!
  • June 12, 2017
  • 9:16 a.m.
  • Charles Schoen