Overcoming through Christ despite circumstances

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 10, 2019

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Fifty-two years ago last week, Joni Eareckson Tada 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 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.”

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 with disabilities and their families.  Through her ministry, Joni & Friends, some 10,000 wheelchairs are collected every year and distributed in over 86 countries.

In 2010, Joni was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer and began taking chemo. In 2018, doctors found a small cancerous tumor.  Surgery was followed by treatments again. Joni wrote, “What good is it if we only trust the Lord when we understand His ways.  That only guarantees a life filled with doubts.”  She recalls finding 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!”

On the eve of the recent anniversary of her accident, Joni experienced terrible pain, …”for the rest of the night, I laid in the dark, rehearsing all the many wonderful blessings God has given me through 52 years in my wheelchair (one of the biggest blessings is the work we do at Joni and Friends reaching so many disabled people with the love of Jesus). I also quietly hummed a few hymns, and whispered as many scriptures as I could recall.”

Joni also 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.”

Total dependence on God comes from a heart of gratitude, in spite of the circumstances of life.

Jan White is a national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at jan@janwhitewriter.com