My wife Nanci and I love Joni Eareckson Tada. With her warm-hearted exaltation of God’s sovereign love, she has profoundly impacted our own lives and ministry, along with countless others. We were deeply touched by this recent update from Joni, who not long ago was in serious jeopardy with COVID due to her quadriplegia and its effects on her lungs:
Joni quotes G.D. Watson: “…when the suffering soul reaches a calm, sweet carelessness, when it can inwardly smile at its own suffering, and does not even ask God to deliver it from the suffering, then it has wrought its blessed ministry; then patience has its perfect work; then the crucifixion begins to weave itself into a crown.”
She is a living example of this. A great crown/eternal reward awaits her for sure.
Several years ago Joni wrote this, which I shared in my book If God Is Good:
“O God,” I often pray in the morning, “God, I cannot do this. I cannot do this thing called quadriplegia. I have no resources for this. I have no strength for this—but you do. You’ve got resources. You’ve got strength. I can’t do quadriplegia, but I can do all things through you as you strengthen me [Phil. 4:13]. I have no smile for this woman who’s going to walk into my bedroom in a moment. She could be having coffee with another friend, but she’s chosen to come here to help me get up. O God, please may I borrow your smile?”
Joni then speaks of the humble and afflicted:
They are people who are humiliated by their weaknesses. Catheterized people whose leg bags spring leaks on somebody else’s brand-new carpet. Immobilized people who must be fed, cleansed, dressed, and taken care of like infants. Once-active people crippled by chronic aches and pains. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, so then submit yourselves to God.
It is when your soul has been blasted bare, when you feel raw and undone, that you can be better bonded to the Savior. And then you not only meet suffering on God’s terms, but you meet joy on God’s terms. And then God—as he does every morning at 7:30 when I cry out to him out of my affliction—happily shares his gladness, his joy flooding over heaven’s walls filling my heart in a waterfall of delight, which then in turn always streams out to others in a flood of encouragement, and then erupts back to God in an ecstatic fountain of praise. He gets your heart pumping for heaven. He injects his peace, power, and perspective into your spiritual being. He imparts a new way of looking at your hardships. He puts a song in your heart.
“You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Psalm 10:17).
“He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:3).
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
For more related to the subject of suffering, see Randy’s book If God Is Good, as well as the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness and book The Goodness of God. Also, the booklet If God Is Good, Why Do We Hurt? deals with the question and shares the gospel so that both unbelievers and believers can benefit.