Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel… (Philippians 1:12)
“I have found a way to serve you, Lord! All these questions and prayers that I’ve been asking throughout the years – so often I accused you of not answering or not listening at all. I should have known that you knew what you were doing! From the standpoint of eternity my body is just a flicker in the time span of forever. But there are eternal souls out there who need you- broken hearts in need of your healing. You have people you want me to reach, to touch, with this message of hope. I am here to serve you Lord. Send me where you will.” Joni Eareckson Tada
In a time when most people in our country are extremely self-centered, including many Christians, it is so wonderful to find unselfish love for God and others in a person.
What is so amazing about Joni Eareckson Tada is that she is quadriplegic and has more reason than 99% of all other people to feel sorry for her circumstances and just live a life of taking care of herself.
How often in our me-first world do we hear things like, “I worked hard all week and I deserve a weekend of fun and relaxation.” Or, “I can’t give any money to God this week. I have bills to pay.”
All too often today we also hear, “You’re number 1! Be good to yourself!” If any little thing goes wrong you will hear the complaint, “I don’t deserve this. I deserve better.”
The modern, healthy woman with two good arms and two good legs does more complaining than thanksgiving. Women today take too much for granted.
If you don’t know the story of Joni, I recommend that you pick up one of many biographies about her. You will be blessed.
Basically her story is:
Joni was born to John and Margaret Eareckson in 1949. She attended high school in Baltimore, Maryland. She had all of the dreams of any average high school girl. She had great friends; one special boy friend; a good home; and she was pretty and smart. She looked forward to prom and horseback riding and camping out with her three sisters.
At a swim party with friends in 1967, she injured herself in a diving accident. She lost all feeling except for her upper shoulders and head. She was left a wheelchair bound quadriplegic for the rest of her life.
Joni went through many of the struggles that you might expect. She prayed for healing and was disappointed when God did not heal her. She went through bouts of depression. She courageously released several boyfriends so that they could get on with their lives without her.
Having been gifted with an artistic ability, Joni was encouraged to take up painting again. How might she do that? With her mouth! Joni holds a paintbrush between her teeth and produces beautiful drawings and paintings that are now recognized the world over.
Joni’s life has been an encouragement to many. Rather than waste away feeling sorry for herself, she realizes that God had something very special planned for her and she puts all of her effort into helping others who are disabled.
Joni has written some best-selling books including an autobiography (Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression). There is even a full-length feature film, “Joni”, in which she has told her life story. It has been translated into 15 languages around the world.
Being recognized for her work with the disabled, Joni was granted an appointment on the president’s National Council on Disability for three and a half years. It was during this time that the Americans With Disabilities Act became law.
Joni founded Joni and Friends (JAF) in 1979. If you want to know more about Joni and some of the ministries she has started you can go to:
Here you will find among other things some of the ministries that Joni has founded, including Wheels for the World (which has given tens of thousands of wheelchairs to developing nations), Family Retreats, Radio Program, and Christian Institute on Disability. Consider joining or contributing to one of these ministries.
In 2009, Joni signed an ecumenical statement known as the “Manhattan Declaration” that calls for Evangelicals, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians to all work together to change the laws which go against a Christian’s conscience, especially those laws that permit abortion. I personally am very thankful that someone as high profile as Joni is encouraging Christians to forget less important theological differences and work together to defend the helpless.
Some of the awards that Joni has received are:
– The American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award;
– The Courage Award from the Courage Rehabilitation Center;
– The Award of Excellence from the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center;
– The Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital;
– The Golden Word Award from the International Bible Society.
Joni has been inducted into the Christian Booksellers’ Association’s Hall of Honor. In 2002, Joni received the William Ward Ayer Award for excellence from the National Religious Broadcasters’ Association.
The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association gave Joni the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. She was also named “Churchwoman of the Year” in 1993 by the Religious Heritage Foundation and was the first woman to be honored by the National Association of Evangelicals as their “Layperson of the Year.”
In 2010, she announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She emerged successfully from cancer surgery and as of this summer is hopeful of healing.
Joni is a woman who understands that she owes God everything. She is grateful in spite of being in a wheelchair. How should we respond to this story?
With so much going against her Joni has made Christ the center of her life and lives to serve Him and others. Should I not feel a little ashamed when I can’t seem to find time to pray for others? We owe our salvation to Christ alone as Joni does. God has given each of us here on earth different circumstances. I pray that we will not take our advantages for granted. May God give us hearts of love for Him and His other children like Joni’s.