If you aren’t familiar with Joni Eareckson Tada’s life story, you should remedy that. Talk about someone making the most out of her disability to the glory of God and the good of millions of people worldwide. A diving accident in 1967 left Joni paralyzed from the neck down for the past 43 years. Since then she has become an internationally known mouth artist, accomplished vocalist, hosts her own radio show, and started Joni & Friends, an organization which provides wheelchairs to handicapped persons in third world countries.
Joni has grown to appreciate her disability over the years and see God work in miraculous ways through it. Because of this, she is able to whole-heartedly thank God for making her a quadriplegic, an incredible healing in itself. As she writes this book, however, Joni is faced with arguably an even more ominous foe: chronic, debilitating, unrelenting pain. The pain relievers she is on barely dull it and her husband is forced to come in numerous times a night to help her roll over, providing a fleeting moment of comfort.
Every once in a while I like to listen to an audio book on my commute to and from work, and I am thrilled that I decided to choose this one to listen to. Most people going through situations like this will write about it years after the event, allowing them to properly reflect on the difficult time. But Joni decided to write it during her battle with chronic pain, and even record the audio book herself. What a blessing this was to the listener. She was only able to do portions at a time before the pain became too great, and you could hear it at times in her voice. This made the points she was driving home on the sufficiency of God in suffering all the more believable, as there was not a hint of hypocrisy in her voice. She also quotes many hymns in her book and sings them for you in her beautiful voice on the book–another treat!
I often find myself wondering how my faith would sustain me if I were to face something like Joni. Would I be able to stand through it and see God’s hand in it all or would I falter. Hearing Joni’s story makes me all the more confident in my God and helps me appreciate the biblical doctrine of suffering and the hope found there-in. One day all those in a wheelchair who love Jesus will receive new, glorified bodies free of any ailment or handicap. I’m guessing that they will have a greater appreciation for these bodies than I will… and I pray that helps sustain them in the present.
As I write this, Joni, has now been diagnosed with breast cancer on top of everything else. Here is an interview with her from Christianity Today that helps drive home her perspective and the big idea of her book: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/october/12.30.html