Greg Abbott: My Success Despite Paralysis Is a 'Testament' to the 'Glory of God'
Over the weekend, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) shared an inspiring video — a man in a wheelchair scaling a rock-climbing wall, with his wheelchair hanging below him! The video has personal meaning for Abbott, who was paralyzed from the waist down at age 26. Twitter users said they would rather die than lose the use of their legs, and one even told Abbott that God put him in a wheelchair. Abbott's responses were perhaps even more inspiring than the original video.
"So great to see but if I ever end up in a wheelchair I’m just ending it," one user wrote in response to the video. He would rather commit suicide than live without his legs.
"That’s what I thought before I ended up in a wheelchair," Abbott responded. "I’ve done more AFTER the accident that left me paralyzed than before that accident. With God all things are possible."
One particularly vile user tweeted, "God put you in a wheelchair Greg."
"God didn’t cause the accident that left me paralyzed, but He did help me persevere over that enormous challenge," the governor replied. "I’m a testament that the glory of God is revealed by a young man’s back being broken in half and still rising up to be Governor of Texas. With God all is possible."
It is indeed inspiring that Abbott became attorney general and then governor of Texas, despite his paralysis. On July 14, 1984, an oak tree fell on him while he was jogging after a storm. He had two steel rods implanted in his spine, underwent rehabilitation, and has used a wheelchair ever since. He sued the homeowner and a tree service company, resulting in an insurance settlement providing him lump sum payments every three years until 2022 along with monthly payments for life.
My grandfather had polio at age 5, and he lost the use of his legs for life. Like Abbott, he steeled himself to face the world, first on crutches, then in a wheelchair. My grandfather did not become governor of Texas, but he did win medals in wheelchair sports, publish books of puns, and travel across the country with a philharmonic orchestra.
Sometimes the adversity of a major injury — even paralysis — can make someone's story more inspiring.
In his tweets, Abbott quoted Jesus. Jesus had warned His disciples that "only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." When the disciples asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus responded, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:23-26).
If God can save even the rich — who in their pride are less likely to repent of their sin — He can certainly turn tragedy into triumph.
Christians have long struggled with theodicy, the problem of bad things happening to people who do not deserve them. Tragedy is inescapably real, even though a good God created the universe and will dispense ultimate justice. The Bible's answer to this problem is complicated. Jesus Himself took on human pain and despair, but redeemed them for ultimate joy.
When Jesus heals a man blind from birth, His disciples first ask, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answers, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him" (John 9:1-3).
God did not cause Abbott's injury, but He did bring good out of it. All things are indeed possible with God.
Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.