When I was diagnosed with autism at the tender age of three, the doctor implied that I had no future.

Growing up, not being able to do simple tasks properly, manage my emotions and socialise effectively left me feeling unworthy, less-than and dysfunctional. My parents struggled in raising me as well, though they tried their best.

Such narratives may be resonating with some of you right now, especially if you had grown up neurodivergent or are a caregiver of a neurodivergent child.

I can truly empathise with how crushing it is. “Crushing” may even be an understatement.

Once, I was volunteering at an organisation working with individuals with disabilities.

I remember an elderly mother whose autistic teenage daughter constantly threw tantrums and became violent, resulting in her having to be restrained multiple times.

As I spoke with the mother, I could see her eyes were devoid of hope and she looked like she was about to tap out. I really admired her resilience in raising her child despite the temptation to give up.

Here, I want to take this chance to acknowledge the caregivers, therapists, teachers and anyone else who has poured their lives into caring and providing for neurodivergent individuals like me.

Thank you so, so much. It really is not easy. There may be times where you were at a loss or you had to endure the judgemental stares towards you and your child in public, but you soldiered on.

We may not have a proper answer regarding why some may be born neurodivergent, but we can find hope in Jesus.

Even when the doctor may have cast a sentence over an autistic child’s future, God’s Word says we have a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

Moreover, the struggles that neurodivergent individuals face help one to build character.

In the Bible, when God says all things work together for good (Romans 8:28), “good” in that context refers to being conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).

In other words, God wants us to grow in our character so that we become more like Christ. Scripture, through many different stories, tells of how God used suffering, tragedies and hardships to refine one’s heart.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

The sufferings that we go through in life help to instil hope! Hope is defined in the Bible as a confident expectation of good. We can believe today that this hope will not leave us disappointed, because God loves us. 

Even if you have walked through much sorrow amid many valleys, and had your heart broken time and time again, never forget how God loves you.

It can be very frustrating to trust in His love, when all around you you see and feel disappointment and failure — but God’s love is never wavered by your belief. And today, if you choose to cling to God’s love amidst your sufferings, you can be inspired to hope again.

The God of hope

In late 2022, I actually really wanted to leave the faith.

I started doubting God’s existence because I couldn’t reconcile the sufferings I was experiencing with God’s goodness. I knew that suffering in this world is inevitable, but I thought, “Surely it can’t be this bad?”

Doubt morphed into anger at God’s supposed injustice. I hurled curses and vulgarities at God. I said that even if there was a God, this wasn’t a God who I wanted to worship.

I believed God owed me something, and to not receive what I was supposedly owed left me angry.

Through the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19, God brought me back to Him.

Elijah felt depressed and distressed that he was alone in only worshipping the Lord, and how God’s people had turned to other idols and killed God’s prophets.

Yet, God responded that He had reserved for Himself a remnant in Israel who had not bowed to Baal.

It was as if God was reminding me that though there were many people who betrayed and hurt me, He had left a remnant of people who truly loved and cared for me.

Since then, I have not looked back.

But to be honest, I still face regrets regarding my past mistakes and how that affected the way people view me.

I feel burdened regarding how autistic people are perceived in this world. I want society to be less ableist and to view autistic individuals through a more respectful lens.

But while God can revamp our image, ultimately, He wants to reform our hearts.

Before the prophet Samuel anointed David King over Israel, the Lord told Samuel that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Kings 16:7).

Today, we live for an audience of One. How people view us does not matter as compared to the state of our hearts before God.

Furthermore, Jesus didn’t come to modify our behaviour to make us look more impressive — He came to transform our hearts.

Even though I still struggle in different areas, God has been doing a work of reformation in my heart. I’ve gained a deeper understanding of His nature, and have seen His hand powerfully at work in the last year.

It’s remembering the faithfulness and love of God that draws me to continually hope in Him.

You may be a neurodivergent individual who has faced rejection by the world, or a caregiver who is deeply uncertain over your child’s future.

Indeed, those emotions are valid, but let me declare this equally valid truth: our God is a big God who works miracles and can use all people to accomplish big things.

Allow me to conclude by sharing this vision I received a few months ago as I was heading to church: I saw a non-verbal autistic on stage typing out a prophetic word on a computer that was screened to everyone in attendance.

I was so amazed and touched by God’s heart to choose those whom the world sees as foolish for His work.

I have seen this in my own life: despite my brokenness, struggles and disabilities, God still used me for His Kingdom purposes. Despite my red flags and immaturity, I was marked as a vessel for His glory.

This Autism Awareness Day, let us also be profoundly aware of Jesus. For the same God who has resurrected me desires to impart resurrection life in your midst.

He loves you, and you can live to hope again!