TURNING UP THE HEAT…………We need to pay extra attention to the heat and the way in which our bodies respond. As I am writing this email, I see that record high temperature are expected. Make sure to drink extra water. If you do need to cool down, check out the attachment I am sending you for available “cooling places” in Linn and Benton counties.
What Joni Eareckson Tada Learned from Fifty Years as a Paraplegic
In the News
Last week, Joni Eareckson Tada observed the 50th anniversary of the diving accident that left her a quadriplegic at the age of 17. After the healing for which she longed so desperately didn’t happen, Joni contemplated suicide. But over time, she began to discover new meaning for her life and purpose even for the adversity she has experienced.
Joni stated that the five decades since her accident seem like only “a little while,” a reference to 1 Peter 5:10 [ESV], where Peter says, “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace … will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”
“Maybe God … erases all the horror, all the despair, all the depression of the past when we learn how to trust God,” Joni pondered. “He pushes into the background all the terrible times of anguish, and he brings forward the highlights — the moments of hope, peace and growth. As I look back over 50 years, I just see God at work.”
To get past anger, self-pity and resentment, Joni searched the scriptures for a theology of suffering. She came to understand that “Jesus hung on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to suffer hell, but not so that we wouldn’t have to suffer here on earth.” Rather than seeking to avoid suffering, she sought to discover what God intended to accomplish through it.
She discovered that her disability helped her see how prone to sin she really was. “At times, my pain feels like a lemon that God ‘squeezes,’ revealing my sour attitude, peevish spirit and tendency to complain or grumble,” Joni said. She calls suffering “the textbook that teaches me who I really am, because I’m not the paragon of virtue I’d like to think I am. Suffering keeps knocking me off my pedestal of pride.”
“God cares most not about making us comfortable, but about teaching us to hate our transgressions and to grow up spiritually to love him,” Joni declared.
Suffering also helped Joni focus on what really matters in life. “I began to see there are more important things in life than walking and having use of your hands,” she said. “I really would rather be in this wheelchair knowing Jesus as I do than be on my feet without him.”
Now a best-selling Christian author of some 45 books, Joni has launched various ministries to share the love of God around the world and improve the lives of the disabled. She probably never would have developed those ministries, she realizes now, if she had not had her diving accident.
Joni also learned that when she was weak, she leaned on Jesus more. “The weaker you are, the stronger you will discover your Lord and Savior to be.”
Suffering not only deepened her intimacy with God, it also strengthened her empathy for others who suffer. By embracing “the God who is found in suffering … the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief … the Lord who was impaled on a cross … we can gain compassion,” Joni said. “Christian compassion means suffering with the sufferings of Christ. … journeying alongside that person who is despairing and ascribing positive meaning to their pain.”
By learning to turn to Christ in her suffering, Joni said she discovered God’s “grace in tiny moments, like breathing in and out, like stepping stones leading … from one experience to the next. … [grace that] eclipses the suffering until one July morning, you look back and see five decades of God working in a mighty way.”
More on this story can be found at these links:
After 50 Years in a Wheelchair, I Still Walk With Jesus. Christianity Today
Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident. The Gospel Coalition
The Beyond Suffering Bible: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada. Bible Gateway
Your Problems Have Purpose. Proverbs 31 Ministries
The Battle of My Life by Joni Eareckson Tada. The Arc
The Big Questions
1. If God is really sovereign, why doesn’t he prevent bad things from happening? Why does God allow pain and suffering in the life of the Christian?
2. What have you learned about yourself in times of suffering? What has adversity taught you about God?
3. What Bible passages have you found particularly helpful when you experience a period of suffering?
4. How do we accept God’s love while, at the same time, we might be angry over a situation that cannot be changed?
5. What are some effective ways to come alongside others when they suffer?