For me, at that point, to see the Gospel in that lens, and for me to not keep score of God's grace towards me on my terms, but on His.
Man, that changed everything. That's Daniel Ritchie, and he's our guest today on Focus on the Family, sharing how he's found hope in the midst of intense physical challenges. We do hope you'll stay with us for this conversation as we hear powerful truths to ground you in difficult circumstances. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us.
I'm John Fuller. John, one of the most famous verses in the Bible in the New Testament book of Philippians is, I can do all things through him who strengthens me, and it's right there in Philippians 4.13. It's often used as that motivational mantra to make you climb the mountain or do better, whatever it might be. But when the Apostle Paul wrote that, I can do all things, he was really meaning it for the difficult things. You know, the content, if you look at it, is about suffering.
So even in suffering, as Paul was expressing, was his singular goal to honor the Lord in that suffering and to glorify God. And I don't know about you, but that's not always my initial reaction. I'd rather say, yeah, Lord, help me to attain this mountain or to do better on Friday Night Football, right?
I remember in high school praying that. But I wonder what each of you, listeners and viewers on YouTube, what you would respond to that. How does that passage speak to your heart?
Is it one to attain a higher level or to get through a really difficult situation? And our guest today has dealt with adversity. I'm so looking forward to this discussion with Daniel Ritchie and his expression. And he has lived an amazing life, and you'll learn more in a moment.
Yeah. Born without arms, Daniel and his wife, Heather, and their two children live in North Carolina. He's a writer and a speaker, and we'll be covering some of the content in his book, My Affliction for His Glory. And we do have copies of that here at the ministry. Stop by the episode notes and you'll find all the details.
Or call 800, the letter A in the word family. Daniel, welcome to Focus on the Family. Hey, guys, thanks so much for having me. I'm so looking forward to it, really.
Just reading through the book and the prep that was done. Man, what a life story you have. And, you know, you're used to sharing it as a speaker. I'm going to try to help the listener and just lead through this amazing story.
And I know our listeners are going to resonate with your heart. First, I guess, tell us what it's like to navigate every day with no arms. Yeah, I mean, it's certainly complicated.
You know, the world we live in is made by people with arms, for people with arms. And so there's a lot of things. I mean, opening a door is like a multi-step process for me, you know, using a cell phone.
You know, it's like there's ways around it, but it's just it's a little bit more complicated. Right. But you know what's amazing? Just watching you as we started getting going here, you use your feet amazingly well.
Almost as a person would use their hands. Yeah. Yeah. And that is I mean, right there is a triumph for you, right? Oh, yeah. I mean, at this point for it to, I mean, literally be second nature. And it's like even even for me to get up some mornings and it's like I'll look in the mirror when I'm waking up and be like, oh, yeah, I don't have arms.
You know, it's like I think one of the most apparent things about me sometimes I just forget because this is just this is all I've ever known. Let's take everybody back to your birthday, literally your birth day. Yeah. And what took place in the delivery room? Your mom, dad, doctors there, the nurses, they're expecting a, you know, a fully healthy child, right? There was no pre-diagnosis. No, no. I mean, my disability wasn't on their radar at all, even though, you know, mom had two ultrasounds, healthy pregnancy. They just didn't catch it.
No, not at all. And so no, nobody knew until the doctors holding me in the delivery room. And then in that moment, not only am I born without arms, but I was born not breathing or moving. And so the doctor just very quickly showed me to my dad so dad could see I didn't have arms. And then he asked my dad, do you just want us to let him go? And so I think it's like the double the double edge shock of the moment that it's like, OK, we have a boy that that is literally born dead and he's born without arms. And so I mean, I'm sure for my parents is such an overwhelming moment.
Yeah. Before we get to your dad's response, which is awesome. And I want to make sure people hear that. That's not an uncommon story. I have many friends that have had children born with spina bifida, Down syndrome, whatever it might be. And these doctors do exactly that.
It's kind of like what they're learning to say in med school. Would you like to let your child die? A hundred percent.
I mean, not every parent is saying no. Yeah. Yeah. But what did your dad say? No, my dad just looked at the doctor and he said, that's my son. And you need to do whatever it is that you can do to try to bring him back.
That's awesome. I know, man. I mean, and it's like without pause, without hesitation.
I mean, it was just it was just the response that I think just came out of his core. You face some frustrating moments learning how to do the everyday tasks that we're watching you right here in the studio do with your feet. What was that like as a child growing up just to function as best as possible without arms? Yeah, I think I think the hardest part for me is, you know, just just for us as humans, we're visual learners.
And so I didn't have I didn't have a model. You know, I didn't have someone like I could see and repeat. And so a lot of a lot of my formative years just learning how to either ride or eat or, you know, just do daily task. It was like I would watch my parents and see the end result. And then I would try just through trial and error to find my my path toward that final destination. And so there was a lot of failure.
Yeah, I can. Moving forward through your childhood where the innocence is there and you're trying to learn how to do things. And you got the protective covering of your parents. I'm sure there were some things in elementary school that made it tough. But like everybody, you get to junior high. I mean, I can't imagine what you went through.
Describe some of that for us. Yeah, I mean, it ran the range from, you know, I think what we think of as stereotypical middle school bullying, you know, name calling, you know, roughhousing, stuff like that. But then I think, too, as I got into middle school, I started to become aware, I think, of just the greater public, because it was like for me everywhere I go, like my two empty sleeves, it just draws attention. And so so going out in public, it's lots of stares. It's rude comments.
It's, you know, even as a kid, I mean, there were multiple times where we were like tossed out of restaurants because I'm sitting there eating with my feet, you know. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I mean, my goodness. I think it's just because, you know, other people are complaining like, oh, that's gross. You know, can you, you know, get rid of that?
Get rid of that kid. And I mean, that was they would do it. Yeah. Oh, 100 percent.
I wish I were in that restaurant. I mean, there was I think in middle school, that was the realization for me that it was like I was different, but it was like a bad different for sure. And how did you process that? I mean, again, just the way people treated you, the evil nature of it. I mean, it's really the same nature of our flesh for people to do that, to be ugly towards you because you have this handicap. Yeah. I mean, my goodness, it's totally out of your control.
It's not like you choose this. I mean, especially in my teens, early teens, it really I mean, it was a downward spiral for sure. I think just insecurity with myself.
I started to hate other people, you know, because meeting new people for me was just, all right, another person who's going to judge me or, you know, I can't imagine. Yeah. And then too, it's like I think very comparatively, even though I was raised in church, I was I was keeping score of God's love and grace towards me on my terms. And so what I started to do, I think, was, all right, God, God loves you guys. Like, you know, he gave you ten fingers, two arms.
Because you are normal. Right. Right.
And so why doesn't God love me like he loves you? And so even in that, like I really started to question like the love and grace of God towards me just because of my circumstances. What a journey.
I mean, when we talk about that Philippians verse of, you know, I can do all things except tie my shoe. Yeah. Yeah. How did you process that?
Yeah. I mean, before I trusted in Christ, like I came to Christ at 15. Before I trusted in Christ, it was just kind of like there wasn't any sort of foundation of hope or strength or anything.
But I think in those days and months, you know, after trusting in Christ is my everything, I mean, that verse took a full, I think, just full colored life in what I was doing. I've got to get off the soapbox here because that sermonizing is coming through. So I apologize to people. Don't write.
Don't send us an email. Get it. This is a passion. I'm going to lower the flame now.
No, bring it on. Let's get to that point where, OK, now you're going, OK, Lord, I'm going to give you a chance. Help me to what? Fill in the blank.
Help me to love people more. What was the trigger for you to say, all right, I'm going to trust God? Yeah. Yeah, I think it was. So a buddy of mine in school, he invites me to a youth group dodgeball.
Always those buddies. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And so this is the overnight lock. Oh, man. Yeah.
And armless people are garbage at dodgeball. And so it's like I get, you know, I get beaten to death for the first four hours of the night. And then the youth pastor gets up, talks about God's love. Quick little devotion. Night keeps going. Guys keep playing dodgeball. I sit out.
I'm done. And this youth pastor comes over and he starts to talk to me. And I think he very quickly picked up, I think, just on my insecurity, my hurt.
Oh, my goodness. And and as he starts to talk to me, I'm sitting here going, you know, man, you just talked to me about the love of God. And I don't see any of that love and grace in my life at all. And then he just very faithfully for probably the next hour, like walks me through just the biblical picture of God's grace towards me. Not only in like that, he very purposefully made me in my mother's womb like I am. I wasn't a mutation.
I wasn't an accident. But then for him to walk me through the gospel to that, like what what God does is that even though I question his love for me, that he sends his son to live the perfect life I couldn't live, to die the death that I should die. God raises him to life to show his power over both sin and death and to those who trust in him.
He adopts you into the family of God and he sends you out on the mission of God. And I think for me to at that point to see the gospel in that lens and for me to not keep score of God's grace towards me on my terms, but on his. And that that changed everything. That was the night.
Yeah. Trusted and rested in Christ as my king. Daniel, I that's a an amazing statement that you're making and I don't want to go past it too quickly. When you talk about that obstacle in front of you to say, OK, I believe God made me exactly how he wanted to make me. I mean, again, I'm sitting thinking of people that hold on to resentment for something they blame God for, for that bad marriage, for that prodigal son who has walked away. I mean, how do you do that? How do you go, OK, Lord, I see this mountain in front of me, but I'm going to knock it down now and just walk over it because I know your purposes are bigger than my understanding.
And I think that was the you know, that was the path moving forward. You know, from that point, it's like even though I had the foundation of, OK, Jesus is my everything at age 15. Well, there's still the big honking question of, OK, God, why? Why?
Why no arms of all the things on the planet? And I know really I struggled in underneath the weight of that, I think, for the next probably four or five years. Yeah, which is normal.
Yeah, yeah. But but I think as as I got into my late teens, early 20s, the apostle Paul in Second Corinthians one, he says God comforts us in our affliction so we can grant that same comfort to others in their time of need. And what I started to realize for me is like I have this very visible affliction, this very visible trial. But I also have a very clear opportunity to talk about this is how God in the midst of my brokenness gave me comfort.
And this is how I can grant it to you. So it's like God God in my armlessness by his design has given me, I think, one of my single greatest, I think, gospel opportunity. Just just in everyday life.
That's the clarity I was talking about lining up those dots. It's very obvious. I mean, we all go, oh, wow. And then when you start sharing what God has done for you, we're scratching our heads. How does this guy smile? How does he have joy? Yeah.
Born with no arms. Yeah. John Chapter nine was another big verse. I think we can all see how that how you would feel relatable to that. Describe John nine. What is it talking about? How did it speak to your heart? So Jesus and the disciples, they're, you know, they're doing their ministry thing.
They're going town to town. And as they pass by, they see a guy that was born blind. And the disciples asked Jesus, Rabbi, who sinned?
Like who messed up? He walks over to this man and he says, listen, nobody sinned. He made him this way so that the works of God can be displayed in his life. And then he goes on to he spits on the ground. He makes mud, wipes it in the man's eyes.
He goes and washes in the pool and he can see. But I think I think very clearly to see it's like Jesus didn't misspeak when he said, not that I'm going to heal him to show the works of God, but he said, I made him blind. Like I formed and fashioned him for his glory with the disability to show the world more of me. And I think just that singularity to see, I mean, across the whole of scripture, to know that in his situation, in my situation, God didn't err. He fashioned me to show the world more of him. And then it's just like for me to faithfully walk in that, even if it's difficult. Wow.
This is so rich and so good. I'm going to get to some of the stories in the book because, again, they illustrate your life and what you have stood for and how God has worked in your life. There's a story in there about being at McDonald's, which I love. Describe what was going on, what were you there to do other than get a meal? Yeah. But and then how did people respond to you? Yeah.
I mean, it was it was one of those deals. I was a student pastor at the time, so I was prepping a sermon to preach at a friend's church about being on mission. And and so I'm walking in and I walk beside a there's a Greensboro at the time I was in Greensboro, North Carolina. And so there's a Greensboro City cop walking in with me. And I actually I opened the door for him and held it open for him.
Why? What's this armless guy doing? And so, you know, we so we both go up, we order. And and and as I was getting ready to pay, I keep my debit card in my shoe. And so I whipped my debit card out kind of quick out of my shoe and swiped it through the credit card reader. And he literally he he put his hand on his side arm, just, I think, out of reflex, like what's going on? And and he looks over at me and I was like, I'm unarmed.
Don't shoot. You know, and he's like, haha. You know, it's like we kind of we kind of had this like awkward moment, like, hey, you almost killed me.
But I'm OK with that. You know, I'm armed. And so I go outside and I started eating my biscuit, my hash browns, and he comes out to me. And so we start to talk and then come to find out he had a son with autism. And so he he wanted to know, he's like, how did you get to where you are with this sort of joy, with this sort of hope? And I get to share the gospel with this man, you know, right on the patio of McDonald's. But then it was wild.
Like over the next two hours, it was like I go back in to refill my iced coffee. I get talking to a mother and a daughter whose same deal. They're watching me do stuff with my feet. And they're like, well, why are you so happy? And I get to share the gospel with them.
And then there's, you know, landscapers like working on the flower beds out there at McDonald's and much the same. They're watching me eat a biscuit with my toes and they want to know the story. They want to know the hope.
There's there's three friends that end up like sitting out on the patio. They want to know the same, you know, and it's just like in the next two hours, it's like as I'm prepping for a sermon to be on mission. God's letting me know, like for us as believers, our mission doesn't necessarily have to happen under the roof of a church. Our mission happens in a McDonald's.
It happens on our community ball fields. It happens when we just when we interact with so many people in our lives. And I think for for me to realize in that moment, my opportunity to speak to hope more often than not, it comes away from a stage. It comes when I just get to look a person in the eyes and tell people about how Jesus has taken what the world thinks is a broken life.
And he's using it for his glory. Without a doubt, when you said that, I mean, I think most of the mission effort should be outside the walls of the church. We go there to be filled up so we could take him to the community, ideally. Yeah. Let me ask you, because you sound and really are buoyant in the spirit and I can see it.
We both are seeing your smile and all. But I've got to think at times there's still some discouragement that would make you normal and human. And I think people that are going, wow, I just don't know that I could live like Daniel, even with my little thing, whatever it might be.
Fill in the blank. How do you how do you face discouragement, maybe with Heather, your wife? How do you get through those moments where, you know, you are pulled down a little bit? Yeah, I mean, you know, because, again, it's like even though I have my identity and purpose in Christ, like you're saying, I mean, there's still some days where it's like I wish it was different.
You know, I wish my my kids didn't have to have an armless dad with a with a fishbowl life like, you know. But I think, too, it's just like, you know, you see Paul over and over like he he just preaches grace, I think, both to himself and to the church. You know, it's like, was it First Corinthians 15? He says it's the gospel in which we're saved, but it's the gospel in which we stand. I think as much as our hurts and our afflictions and our insecurities become the most apparent part of our life at times when we're walking through that, I think it's to be faithful to preach the grace of God, like even even if it's like in the picture of the gospel, in the picture of how he's made us. And I think to preach that grace to ourselves is that, you know what, by God's grace, I've woken up this morning. By God's grace, like I get to enjoy, you know, whatever relationships that I have or just I get to enjoy a pretty sunrise, sunset. I mean, just just for us to as tangibly as we can to look at the grace of God in our life and to celebrate it. I so appreciate that because I think we do complicate our lives and we don't notice those little blessings every day.
And if you're in a place of depression or anxiety, just start with small steps, thanking the Lord for those things you can hang on to. There was a story that you had about being at a Starbucks and a business guy. Again, I think retails your action, man. Apparently. I mean, I need a sermon prep with coffee more, I think. No kidding. So here you are at the Starbucks.
What happened with this business guy? Yeah, so I mean, same deal. I'm sermon prepping, got my headphones on because, you know, Starbucks can be a little noisy. And and I'm always aware people stare at me a lot in public. And so I clear this guy right beside me.
He's staring at me a lot like his eyes keep cutting over and he's intrigued. Yeah. And so, you know, for me, it's like I understand you don't exactly see armless people don't grow on trees, you know, like.
And so I understand. And and as he gets ready to leave, like he gets up and it's like he sets down. It was like a Starbucks like cardboard coffee sleeve he just put on my table and he walked out. And at first I was like, what a jerk. I don't want to throw away your trash.
I'm glad for that normal response. And so I'm like, I'm kind of in a huff and I go to pick it up. And he had like split the coffee sleeve open and he wrote a note on the inside of the coffee sleeve. And he was just like, brother, I'm I'm having a really hard time in my life. He was in a bad family situation with his brother. But he was like, just watching you today encouraged me and thank you for being willing to just be you.
And I mean, it's like I didn't even talk to this dude. But, you know, just to be just to be present in some way, God used, I think, to encourage this guy. You know, again, and what's so profound about that, I don't want us to miss it. Is the Lord using you in a profound way without words?
Because it's so obvious. Yeah. Yeah. You have overcome this and it ministers to people's hearts because we're in a pity party about something that is so much less significant than when we see you and what you've got to overcome. That's powerful. You mentioned in the book that God had and obviously is laying out this amazing plan for your life.
And he has a plan for every person. I think that's the point. You don't have to be armless to serve the Lord. It's funny even saying that.
Yeah. But what does the Bible reveal about God's plan for every believer? I mean, again, you know, for us to realize it's like God's made us to display him in his glory, you know, and that God did not make a mistake in how he made us. God did not make a mistake in redeeming us.
And so I think in view of that, it's like we can leverage what we have to show the world more of him. And it might not be you're not you might not preach a sermon. You might not lead on the worship team in your church.
You might not even be a small group leader. But it's like I mean, Jesus said it's like the mark of following me is that you love one another. That's how people know you are my disciples. And so I think it's it's incumbent on us to to very openly in this bombastic culture that we live in what I think one of the most world altering things that we can do is to love people well, even if they don't love us well. And that even in small steps like that, that's how we change the world in that as we love others, it affords us the opportunity to speak of the one of why we love. And so I think for us to just allow our lives to open the door to scatter the seeds of the gospel into people's lives. Yeah. And I you know, for me, when I look at you in the little time, we've got to know each other here.
I'm looking forward to hanging out more together. But the scripture that comes to my mind for you is in Nehemiah, where it says the joy of the Lord is your strength. And it is what ministers to people around you. I could see it. It's infectious and it's actually quite an admonition to the rest of us. If I can be joyful with what I'm carrying.
Why can't you? Yeah. And I mean, I would turn to the listeners and say that let that be a good challenge to all of us. You know, if Daniel can do this, if he can minister in a McDonald's and let's go through all the retail Starbucks and everything else.
What can we do? Right. How can we show the joy of the Lord so people are attracted to what we have? Isn't that the way it should be? Oh, absolutely. Can I ask you right at the end here, can you pray for us to have that? Yes. And pray for us in general to be less worldly and more spiritual and more embedded in God's truth. Absolutely.
Absolutely. Let's pray. God, we do thank you so incredibly much. I think both for your kindness in how you formed and fashioned us, both in your grace, in sending your son to be our redeeming sacrifice. And God, I pray in view of all of that, that Father, as we live out our days, that Father, we would be as Jesus implores us in John 15, that we would just simply abide, that we would just simply trust our lives into your hands, knowing that by that our joy, our hope, our strength, our everything, God flows from you.
And apart from you, we can do nothing. And so, God, I pray that maybe for some of us today, the most faithful thing we can do is to realize that, God, I don't have this, but you do. God, help us to trust when it hurts.
Help us to trust when we don't know what's next. God, help us to trust and celebrate you in times of grace and goodness. Father, I pray that whatever the case is, that we would find our everything in you, that we would be content, that we would live, that we would trust, all in view of just your kingship, of your grace, of your call on our lives.
Father, we love you and we thank you. It's in Jesus' name we pray. Amen. Amen. And for those that don't know it, amen means I'm in agreement. Yeah, that's right.
That's important. Daniel, this has been so good. Thank you for being with us and for showing us what it means to have the joy of the Lord. This is awesome. And I would just say to the listeners and to those watching on YouTube, man, if this speaks to your heart or you know somebody who's not doing well, especially for the believers who are struggling, man, get a copy of this.
We can get you the download, get the app for the smartphone, whatever you need to do and share it with someone in your life or more than one person that might need it. That's a good way to do ministry. You can also get a copy of Daniel's great book here at Focus on the Family, My Affliction for His Glory. Wow.
That's a statement and you've heard why. And I would encourage you to get a hold of us and get a copy. And if you can make a gift of any amount, especially if you can become a monthly pleasure to focus, be part of the ministry with us. Do ministry with us. We'll send you a copy of Daniel's book as our way of saying thank you for participating.
Give us a call to find out more about Daniel's book. And if you could donate, that'd be wonderful. Our number is 800, the letter A in the word family, or stop by the show notes for all the details. And let me remind you that Focus on the Family is here for you. If you're struggling in your marriage or you're facing a challenge in your parenting and you feel stuck, contact us. Our team of Christian counselors will listen to you.
They'll pray with you and they'll point you on the path toward healing. Again, we're just a phone call away and it's 800-232-6459 or click the link in the episode notes. Next time on Focus on the Family, the secret to feeling in love with your spouse again.
Just do it. Just wake up every day and think on whatever is good, right, honorable and praiseworthy about your spouse. And then asking the Lord, give me the love for him. Rekindle those things. Remind me of those things. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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