While most people would despise fifty years of pain, weakness, and suffering that a wheelchair might bring, Joni Earekson Tada praises the Lord for her life in a wheelchair.
This summer, I have served as a Cause4Life intern with Joni and Friends. Throughout my time serving in this role there are five critical lessons I’ve learned from Joni and her fifty years spent in a wheelchair:
- Purpose in the Pain: I think at some point in our Christian lives, we question why an all-powerful God doesn’t prevent pain and suffering. It wasn’t until I interned with Joni and Friends that I truly saw such clear purpose crafted from the painful pieces of life. Without her wheelchair, Joni would not have the platform she’s been given to reach the broken, lonely, and forgotten. From a wheelchair, Joni has touched so many lives, simply because she allowed God to craft purpose from her pain.
- Grace in Our Weaknesses: Through this internship, I have seen God work through my weaknesses, teaching me to trust Him more fully. Through her disability, Joni advocates that God’s grace is more fully revealed through weakness. The ministry that has grown from her humble obedience constantly reminds me that we simply need to answer the call that God places on our lives, and He will be faithful to fill in the gaps with His grace.
- Compassion = Love in Action: I have been amazed to see how Joni’s compassion for people only continues to grow as the years progress. Through her own disability, Joni has been able to extend a more powerful compassion to people who are rejected, forgotten, or cast aside.
- Saying Yes to Christ: Joni’s life revolves around one choice: saying yes to Christ. This decision has had a chain reaction, giving hope to the hopeless and comfort to the suffering. When Joni first began her disability journey, she couldn’t foresee the ministry opportunities that would follow—a feature on The Today Show, speaking at the Billy Graham crusades, or a motion picture portraying her life and a clear Gospel presentation. Joni’s life is a testimony to the great things God can accomplish when someone has the courage to deny uncertainty and simply say yes to Christ.
- God Calls Us from our Comfort Zones: Joni had the courage step out of her comfort zone. In her autobiography, Joni, she explains how she used to nervously present her testimony to small groups of women, and today she is known as an eloquent public speaker. I am challenged and inspired by how she answered God’s call, and through her life she has spoken to people in the deepest corners of the world.
On July 30, we didn’t celebrate a diving accident that placed a woman in a wheelchair; we celebrated, and continue to celebrate, how God has used Joni and her disability to share the hope of Christ with so many.
May we continue to be encouraged by her story and faithfulness for many years to come.
Grace Shaffer is currently serving as an intern with the Joni and Friends Cause4Life internship program. She is passionate about capturing people’s stories and is completing a writing degree at Pensacola Christian College while drinking copious amounts of coffee.