The Word on the Week

Joni’s Joy

Many of you will know the story of Joni Eareckson Tada. She was involved in a diving accident when she was 17 which left her as a quadriplegic. That was 43 years ago. Over the last decade she has suffered from chronic pain and in June this year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her advice to female readers is, “Go get a mammogram!” Joni has written 35 books and in the latest “A Place of Healing” she gives us an outline of her “Theology of Suffering”. Some of us will be familiar with the Romanian, Josef Ton, who wrote of his experiences of suffering at the hands of the KGB. His “Theology of Suffering” which later formed his doctrinal thesis, was the more usual experience of someone being threatened with martyrdom for his faith. In Joni we have the more difficult to handle experience of an accident, with no apparent sense to ease the pain of the “WHY” question. Because Joni is a Christian she followed the instructions of God’s Word and after her accident had a special prayer service where she confessed her sins, was anointed with oil and had hands laid on her in prayer. God answered, not by healing her body but by drawing her more closely to Himself and showing her how she could glorify Him through her disabilities. In a recent interview she gave this answer to the question of how her relationship with God was deepening. In John 14 verse 12, Jesus says, “Anyone who has faith in me will do … even greater things than these.” We tend to think Jesus was talking about miracles, as if Jesus were saying, “Hey guys, look at these miracles! One day, you’ll do many more miracles than me!” The thing that Jesus was doing wasn’t necessarily the miracles. He was giving the gospel; he was advancing his kingdom; he was reclaiming the earth as rightfully his. When Jesus gave that promise, he was saying, “I’m giving you a job to do, my Father and I want the gospel to go forth, and I promise you’ll have everything you need to get that job done, and you’ll do an even better job than me.” Jesus ministered for three years, and at the end, he had a handful of disciples who half-believed in him. After Jesus went to heaven and the Holy Spirit came down—my goodness, Peter preaches one sermon and thousands believe. That’s the greater thing that God wants us to do. That’s what I have been seeing this past month. Every x-ray technician, every nurse, every doctor’s secretary, every clinician, every person I meet in nuclear medicine and at the MRI—it’s amazing how many opportunities I’ve been given to see people hungry and thirsty for Christ. I knew that was true before, but there seems to be something special that is accompanying this diagnosis. I’m just so amazed by people asking me, “How can you approach this breast cancer with such confidence in a God who allows it?” And I’m being given the chance to answer. The greater thing is not the miracle; it’s the advancement of the gospel. In this Joni shares the joy of Jesus – “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12 : 2)