Reading about Jabez in Charles Swindoll’s study guide, Old Testament Characters, really got my attention. He titled this chapter, Jabez: Disabled But Not Disqualified. My first thought: “Was Jabez disabled?” Of course, I was looking at the physical. He wasn’t born blind or deaf. He could walk, run, even leap. He didn’t have a withered hand and yes, he was in his right mind. Where was his disability?
The author began with the physical as well. He compared Olympic athletes. Each prepared for their specific area of ability. Swimming. Running. Gymnastics. Not one disability.
So, what was Jabez’ disability? I read those two verses that tell us all we know about Jabez:
“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10 NKJV).
I still didn’t get it. I saw that his mother “bore him in pain.” I thought about it. Maybe his gestation was arduous or his delivery painful. Maybe he was another mouth to feed in a poor, already full house. So, was he small? Hungry? Mistreated? Turn the page:
His name, Jabez, meant “pain.” Whatever caused his mother to name him “Pain,” he lived every day with a reminder that he was a distress. He asked God to keep him from evil so he wouldn’t cause pain.
Next, Jabez’ reputation: verse 9 begins: “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers ....” More honorable. He rose above the name that seemed should tear him down and God was able to use him in his specific calling.
Dr. Swindoll then quoted Charles Spurgeon:
‘“It will sometimes happen that where there is the most sorrow in the antecedents, there will be the most pleasure in the sequel. As the furious storm gives place to the clear sunshine, so the night of weeping precedes the morning of joy. Sorrow the harbinger; gladness the prince it ushers in .... More honourable than his brethren was the child whom his mother bore with sorrow .... The honour [Jabez] enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and equitably won.’”
That’s where the author got me! My entire study time focused on “Where is his disability?” My self-righteous indignation as a person with a disability had clouded my perspective! I had quietly known it was there. I would think things like, “I shouldn’t always look for disabilities when a car parks in a disabled space, but ....”
My faith rose through the cloud as I faced my prejudice: I’m not special because I’m disabled. I’m special because I’m a child of the living God. Forgiven and set free. And God has been able to use me in His specific calling on my life.
“‘The honour [Jabez] enjoyed would not have been worth having if it had not been vigorously contested and equitably won.’”
He called me to be a person who would boldly proclaim what He does for me.
In Christ Alone,
Charles R. Swindoll, Old Testament Characters Bible Study Guide (1986 pgs. 51-52)
Charles H. Sturgeon, The Treasury of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI,: Zondervan Publishing House, 1968), vol. 2, p. 1.