Joni Erickson Tada knows what it is to have a broken body. As a teenager she loved riding horses and swimming. A diving accident in 1967 changed all that. Diving into a shallow lake left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic in a wheelchair.
For the next two years, Joni made a determined but largely unsuccessful attempt at rehabilitation. And her battle was not just physical. Joni also struggled with suicidal despair. During this time, her faith was shipwrecked. She was unable to accept God’s design in her paralysis. Why didn’t God stop her accident from happening?
With the help of a friend, Joni gradually began to understand that God did not cause the diving accident, but He allowed it and had a purpose in it. God sees no indwelling goodness in a spinal cord injury – or in cerebral palsy, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or any other disease that leaves someone with a broken body. Instead, He uses situations like this for our good and His glory.
As it says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 ESV). These things in themselves are not good, but for His children they fit together into a pattern for our good. If we are His children, His purpose is to conform us into the image of His Son, Christ Jesus.
Looking back almost forty-nine years later, Joni says she can see many ways this accident has resulted in good. God used this injury to develop patience, endurance, tolerance, self-control, sensitivity, love and joy in her life.
Today, Joni is the leader of Joni and Friends International Disability Center, a ministry is dedicated to extending the love and message of Jesus Christ to people who are affected by disability around the world. She is also an internationally known mouth artist, a talented vocalist, a radio host, an author of 30 books for adults and 5 for children. She also writes on her blog Joni’s Corner, and is an advocate for disabled persons worldwide.
When I read Joni’s story, I see what a true journey of faith is like. And that’s how I want to live. Like Joni, I know what it is to have a broken body. Like Joni, I was in an accident, but my was in an automobile. My attempts at rehabilitation were more successful than Joni’s. But we also suffered the grief of losing our firstborn daughter in the accident.
We also have an adult son who has cerebral palsy and a long list of other diseases, that have left him completely bed bound and dependent upon others for all his needs. When I look at the Joni and Friends website, I see hundreds of children
So Joni’s story deeply touches my heart. From the place of total devastation, she has become an example for disabled people around the world. Through her writing, art, singing, and other ministries, numerous lives have been touched and changed. If you struggle with a disability or chronic illness that limits what you can do, learn from Joni’s story.
Reflecting on the life on Joni Eareckson Tada definitely makes me realize that I have no excuse for not fulfilling God’s purpose for my life. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by this story and will find joy in your journey of serving our Lord.