I will yet praise God
If ever I suffer terribly, I hope I will emulate Joni Eareckson Tada in her devotion to God.
I have admired Tada ever since reading her first book Joni about her diving accident at the age of 16 which left her a quadriplegic for life. That book is a testament of faith in God that has touched millions around the world and given hope to multitudes of disabled people.
I admire Tada even more now as I read her book A Place of Healing which, paradoxically, is about a new bed of suffering thrust upon her in recent years.
For several years now, she has been struggling with excruciating pain from a fracture in her sacrum, a large triangular bone at the base of her spine.
Amazingly, pain shoots through limbs which have been without feeling for decades from her swimming accident. It is unrelenting pain – night and day.
Tada has been unable to care for herself without help since the fateful day she dove into Chesapeake Bay as a teenager. She depends entirely on her husband Ken and a group of dedicated friends and fellow workers at the foundation she has founded to help the disabled.
Now, she fears she is wearing them out with her new affliction.
“Some days I do attempt to sit up for as long as I am able, trying to complete as much work as I possibly can before pain drives me back to bed,” she writes.
She asks herself – very honestly: “Is my life beginning to unravel? Have I reached a limit in what I can endure?”
But she is a determined woman – tried through trials.
Like the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6, she believes that her greatest enemy is Satan who tries to distract her from following Christ.
“I believe he (Satan) views disabilities as his last great stronghold to defame the good character of God.”
So, she is turning to Jesus – the warrior Jesus – to fight her battle for her. She is not looking for the children’s picture book Jesus, surrounded by fluffy sheep.
“You want mighty,” she says of people struggling like her. “You want the strong arm and unshakable grip of God who will not let you go – no matter what.”
To build her spiritual strength, she considers the resurrection of Jesus, the greatest triumph over evil in history.
She tells of a gathering of Christian friends, including her pastor and elders, who came to anoint her with oil and pray over her. Her darkness of spirit lifted as her pastor read Psalm 57:2-3 which declares that God “sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me”.
Tada declares: “I know that it (her pain) drives me to a nearer more intimate place of fellowship with Jesus, and so I take pain as though I were taking the left hand of God.”
“Yes, I pray that my pain might be removed, that it might cease,” she says. “But more so, I pray for the strength to bear it, the grace to benefit from it, and the devotion to offer it up to God as a sacrifice of praise.”
Yes, Joni is praising the Lord in the midst of her pain.