Cure needed for deadly disease

Published 12:44 am Saturday, October 25, 2014

Joni Eareckson Tada celebrated her 65th birthday last week. Many people, like me, typed birthday greetings to her on her website –

Forty-seven years ago, Joni dove into the shallow water of Chesapeake Bay.

In seconds, her life changed from athletic to quadriplegic.

She was paralyzed from her shoulders down, due to a broken neck.

There’s no way 17-year-old Joni could have known that going swimming on that hot July day in 1967 would mean she’d spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

But in spite of her tragic circumstances, she has overcome bitterness, endured suffering, and still found meaning in life.

“Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised,” Joni Eareckson Tada has said. “The weaker I am, the harder I must lean on God’s grace; the harder I lean on him, the stronger I discover him to be, and the bolder my testimony to his grace,” she wrote in her book, God’s Hand in Our Hardship.

I enjoy reading Joni’s books and quotes. God “has chosen not to heal me, but to hold me.” “The more intense the pain, the closer His embrace.” “Deny your weakness, and you will never realize God’s strength in you.” “Maybe the truly handicapped people are the ones that don’t need God as much.”

You can see why words like “inspiring” and “exceptional” have been used to describe Joni. She has become a talented artist, painting beautiful drawings by holding a small brush in her mouth. Joni Eareckson Tada lives in California and leads a ministry for the people who are handicapped and their families. Through her ministry, Joni & Friends, some 10,000 wheelchairs are collected every year and distributed in over 86 countries. Week-long Family Retreats are held for those who live with disability.

In 2010, Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer and began taking chemo. She has called suffering a “splashover of hell.” “But, I think heaven’s best splashovers come in the midst of hell’s splashovers,” Joni writes, “…a splash of heaven is when you find Jesus in your hell.” She found that praying God’s Word helped her through her treatments.

“Jesus went without comfort so that you might have it. He postponed joy so that you might share in it. He willingly chose isolation so that you might never be alone in your hurt and sorrow. He had no real fellowship so that fellowship might be yours, this moment. This alone is enough cause for great gratitude!”

Joni notes that in Jeremiah 32:14 God says, “I will rejoice in doing them good … with all my heart and soul.” Then she goes on to say, “There’s no inherent goodness in my spinal cord injury; it is an awful thing, but a wonderful, miracle-making God can take something awful in a life and pronounce it good through the application of His grace.”

In January 2014, the song Joni recorded for a faith-based historical film was nominated for an Academy Award. “Alone, Yet Not Alone” reflects her life, “When my steps are lost.

And desperate for a guide, I can feel his touch, A soothing presence by my side.”