She wasn’t born with the cup she carries. When she was in the spring of her life, a teen, an accident left her a quadriplegic. Who would think it – that such agony could be such fertile soil for beauty? …and yet you look at Joni’s life and you see it to be true.
She’s a very talented artist, speaker, writer, and leader known the world over. God has used Joni and her pain to reach millions – through special needs family retreats, “Wheels for the World,” radio and TV broadcasts, books, public speaking and SO much more. Her struggle has not ceased. Her pain keeps pounding “like a jackhammer” and yet she has joy as it all keeps driving her to Jesus. There is much to learn from the life and work of Joni!
Below is and excerpt from Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. This is a quote I need to hear often!
Now don’t be fooled—that was no isolated incident. I didn’t just leave my desperation back there in the hospital. No, desperation is part of a quadriplegic’s life each and every day. For me, suffering is still that jackhammer breaking apart my rocks of resistance every day. It’s still the chisel that God is using to chip away at my self-sufficiency and my self motivation and my self-consumption. Suffering is still that sheepdog snapping and barking at my heels, driving me down the road to Calvary where otherwise I do not want to go. My human nature, my flesh, does not want to endure hardship like a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:3) or follow Christ’s example (1 Pet. 2:21) or welcome a trial as friend. No, my flesh does not want to rejoice in suffering (Rom. 5:3) or be holy as he is holy (1 Pet. 1:15). But it is at Calvary, at the cross, where I meet suffering on God’s terms.
And it happens almost every morning. Please know that I am no expert at this wheelchair thing. I’m no professional at being a quadriplegic. There are so many mornings when I wake up and I can hear my girlfriend come to the front door to help me get out of bed and get ready for the day. She goes to the kitchen, turns on the water, and starts brewing coffee. I know that in a few moments she’s going to come gliding into the bedroom, where she’ll greet me with a happy, “Good morning!” And I am lying there with my eyes closed, thinking, “O God, I can’t do this. I am so tired. I don’t know how I’m going to make it to lunchtime. O God, I’m already thinking about how good it’s going to feel when I get back to bed tonight and put my head on this pillow.”
I’m sure you have felt that way at some point. Maybe you feel that way every morning. But Psalm 10:17 says, “O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear.” “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?”
And just as he promises, he hears the cry of the afflicted, and before even 7:30 in the morning he has sent joy straight from heaven. Then, when my girlfriend comes through the door with that steaming cup of coffee, I can greet her with a happy “Hello!” borrowed from God. To this you, too, were called.
To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you this kind of example that you should follow. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before him (Heb. 12:2). Should we expect to do less? So then, join me; boast in your afflictions. Delight in your infirmities. Glory in your weaknesses, for then you know that Christ’s power rests in you (2 Cor. 12:9). You might be handicapped on all sides, but you’re not crushed. You might be perplexed, but you’re not in despair. You might be knocked down, but you’re not knocked out. Because it says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 that every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that in turn we might experience the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours.
Do you know who the truly handicapped people are?
They are the ones—and many of them are Christians—who hear the alarm clock go off at 7:30 in the morning, throw back the covers, jump out of bed, take a quick shower, choke down breakfast, and zoom out the front door. They do all this on automatic pilot without stopping once to acknowledge their Creator, their great God who gives them life and strength each day. Christian, if you live that way, do you know that James 4:6 says God opposes you? “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
And who are the humble?
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. Resist the devil, who loves nothing more than to discourage you and corrode your joy. Resist him and he will flee you. Draw near to God in your affliction, and he will draw near to you (James 4:6-8). Take up your cross daily and follow the Lord Jesus (Luke 9:23).
I must qualify that last statement. Please know that when I take up my cross every day I am not talking about my wheelchair. My wheelchair is not my cross to bear. Neither is your cane or walker your cross. Neither is your dead-end job or your irksome in-laws. Your cross to bear is not your migraine headaches, not your sinus infection, not your stiff joints. That is not your cross to bear. My cross is not my wheelchair; it is my attitude. Your cross is your attitude about your dead-end job and your in-laws. It is your attitude about your aches and pains. Any complaints, any grumblings, any disputings or murmurings, any anxieties, any worries, any resentments or anything that hints of a raging torrent of bitterness— these are the things God calls me to die to daily. For when I do, I not only become like him in his death (that is, taking up my cross and dying to the sin that he died for on his cross), but the power of the resurrection puts to death any doubts, fears, grumblings, and disputings. And I get to become like him in his life. I get to experience the intimate fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, the sweetness and the preciousness of the Savior. I become holy as he is holy. O God, “you will make me full of gladness with your presence” (Acts 2:28).
And to be in God’s presence is to be holy. Not to be sinless, but to sin less. To let suffering sandblast you to the core, revealing the stuff of which you are made. And it’s never pretty—the sin we housebreak and domesticate and try to make our own—is it? No. Suffering sandblasts that stuff, leaving us bare and falling head over heels, down for the count and decimated.
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 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.