One thing I love about listening to Joni Eareckson Tada is that she’s genuine. She’s no armchair theologian philosophizing about pain and suffering: she has lived it, having broken her neck as a teenager and living in a wheelchair for 45 years. And through it all she acknowledges God’s purposes and perfect plan for her life. “I’d rather be in a wheelchair and know Him that be walking without Him.”
But in this video she pulls back the curtain a little bit to reveal the “low middle years” with her husband, his depression and feeling trapped, her own dissolving in tears over learning she had breast cancer and feeling, “I can’t do this.” I can remember hearing about her breast cancer diagnosis and thinking that that was too much on top of a broken neck and chronic pain (either of which would be “too much” for many people.) Sometimes when we have a major life crisis, we might think, “OK, I’ve had my trial and tribulation, so I’m done: the rest of life will be smooth sailing.” Probably not.
She shares ways God has used her disabilities and suffering, one of which was revealing her sin to her. When I am provoked, I tend to think, “I reacted wrongly because of the provocation,” and then I pray for its removal and think everything will be all right then, But she offers the thought that God allows provocation in order to reveal our sinful reactions to our own hearts, so that we can seek Him for forgiveness and grace to overcome. We can’t say, “That’s not me”…because it is. And we need to learn how to react as Christ did, which we can do only by His grace.
She calls suffering “a splash of hell” but maintains that a “splash of heaven” can be found through intimacy with Christ in the midst of it. And she can say so because she has found it to be true.
This is well worth 42 minutes of your time: