July 21, 2009

Life Is Hard But God Is Good – Joni Eareckson Tada, ParkStreet Church Boston 2009

Posted in Devotionals, Disability tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 12:50 am by Sarah Bosse

I was unable to attend Joni’s series (Life Is Hard But God Is Good) at ParkStreet Church in Boston this summer, but I was able, courtesy of a friend, to watch and listen to her speak almost in real-time! For a limited time, you can download the MP3 of her lecture for free at ParkStreet Church’s website. The MP3’s of her lecture are filed under July 12th 2009. I hope that, if either you or someone you know or love or wish to minister to has been affected by disability, suffering, or hardships in life, you will listen to Joni’s message.

The whole message was good, but there were a few points that really stood out to me. I’ll try to capture them in a nutshell here and allow you to discover the rest on your own by listening to her lecture for yourself! You can also find other lectures by Joni on my blog – just type her name into the search box on the right-hand side and you should find several references to other lectures she’s given in the past.

During her lecture, Joni pointed out that (in my own words)…
Even if God gave us answers, we wouldn’t be satisfied. His answers would be like pouring the ocean into a kiddie pail – we couldn’t begin to comprehend how, from the beginning of all time, God had ordained these things in our lives for His glory and how every day and second of our lives was planned by Him before one of them came to be. Instead of answers, we just really want Him to wrap His Fatherly arms around us and tell us, “I am here; it will be okay, and I will work this out for your good and My glory!”

What Joni said is a lot to process. As she made her point, I said in my mind, “Yes, that’s true. Even if I had answers to the suffering, I wouldn’t be satisfied. She’s right; I really do just want God’s arms around me and his whisper telling me He’s here and it will be okay.” How true!

In a Joni and Friends newsletter I received earlier this year, I read the following: “Rather than answers, I believe God wants you to see Jesus as the Answer. He’s the One who holds all the reasons in His hand. And having His hand to hold onto through this difficult time is enough!” – Joni Eareckson Tada. I pinned the letter to the cork board on my bedroom wall as a reminder. That thought has remained with me and lodged itself in my heart. He has all the answers. I don’t need the answers; I just need Him.

I hope you’re now interested in hearing what this wise woman, Joni, has to say. I watched her speak during the evening service via streaming videocam. She arrived late because of a medical issue caused by her spinal cord injury. And she looked pretty worn out, pale, and was having trouble breathing. During her lecture that evening, I saw something in Joni that I had not seen before. And it touched my heart. She had given this lecture and other similar messages many times before. This is nothing new for her. She is used to saying the same things about suffering over and over again, and she’s used to affirming God’s character repeatedly. But on this evening, there was a war being waged; a spiritual war against discouragement, fear, and the Enemy.

Joni has been suffering intensely with pain for more than a year now, resulting from decades of using her neck and the few muscles she CAN use to compensate for all the ones she cannot. Years of compensation wears down the joints, bones, ligaments and tendons because the body isn’t designed to use just one part – all parts are to work together for the benefit of the whole, as Christ designed His church and our individual bodies. The body cannot be healthy when its parts do not work together. Joni’s spirit is strong, but her body is worn out. Just breathing requires everything she has got as her working muscles go into “overdrive” to give her better breath support.

So the fight was on and Joni knew it. As she lectured, with a little less description and fewer words in this evening lecture than she had given in the morning lecture, due to breathlessness, the necessary message came out. Joni was cutting it down the the essentials. She was preaching to herself. She wasn’t lecturing to others alone; she was speaking the TRUTH to herself, reminding herself of God’s character and His plan in suffering, commanding her soul with the psalmist in Psalm 42 to “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” despite circumstances. She was in the midst of circumstances causing her very significant pain; that kind of chronic pain and suffering that can play with your mind, taunting you with, “Where is your God now? Why won’t He deliver you from this suffering? Do you really think He loves you now, after all of this? Perhaps you’re all wrong about God!” Like the psalmist, however, I watched as Joni fought back – she was fighting for hope (Psalm 42:5,11); she was fighting against her emotions and, with the witnesses and powers of all of heaven backing her up, she was fighting to praise God, affirm His sovereign love, seek Him in this place, and preach to her own soul.

While I was sorry to see her suffering, I was also encouraged. It’s unlikely that I was the only person encouraged as we watched Joni painfully struggle through her lecture and simultaneously fight, with God on her side, for “hope in God“. Joni’s suffering and godly response that night gave us just a small glimpse of the larger picture of suffering and how we praise God – by faithfully coming to Him again and again with empty cups waiting to be filled with more of Him. Sometimes it isn’t the “strong Christians” that encourage us, but the “weak ones,” who are strong only in the power of Christ. Joni was an example, that night, of one who is supernaturally strong in Christ alone. It’s easy to think of dear Joni as a woman who knows all about this suffering thing and is an “expert sufferer,” as if time makes the suffering something of a wimpy “casual spiritual battle”. But she will very quickly tell you that’s not true; suffering rocks us to our core continually. To be privileged to watch a Christian “suffer well” by fighting for hope in God can cause you to realize that you’re standing on holy ground and the spiritual battle is real; it is in the “here and now,” it is intense, it’s part of our daily lives, our thoughts, responses, prayers. It is the Lord’s battle, and He will ultimately win the victory, but we are His warriors and we must fight with God-given courage! We must continue, as Joni has done for so many years, to proclaim and claim the Promises of God. He is worthy of our devotion, trust, and praise.

To Joni and all the saints who have “suffered well” as examples of Children of God who put their Hope in God, I say “Thank You!” Please take some time to listen to Joni’s lecture, “Life Is Hard But God Is Good,” and to pray for Joni, her husband Ken, and Joni and Friends Ministries.

Sarah M. Bosse

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1 Comment »

  1. Thelma Sansome said,

    Hi Joni,
    Do you do poetry that can’t be shared to in memory pages on facebook with your permission?

    With many thanks,
    Thelma


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