In a recent episode of Christ in Prophecy, we interviewed one of the living heroines of the Christian faith, Joni Eareckson Tada. She is the founder of the ministry Joni & Friends which brings the Gospel and care to those who are challenged with disabilities.
Joni’s life changed in an instant when she dove into the Chesapeake Bay and broke her neck. At the tender age of 17, she became a quadriplegic. Refusing to wallow in despair, she overcame unexpected adversity to serve as an example of how to live by faith through extreme suffering. In Part 1, Joni shared her testimony. In this third part, she will give some biblical advice to today’s youth who are drowning in despair.
Grounded in the Blessed Hope
Nathan Jones: Joni, your life radically changed when you were just 17 years old. The youth of today seem to be losing hope. During a student life conference you once held you said, “God has not redeemed us to make us happy and healthy, rather He has redeemed us to make us like Jesus.” How would you encourage youth to be grounded in the Blessed Hope?
Joni Eareckson Tada: I would say to young people today: “You can say you believe in God. You can even say that you follow Jesus. But, when suffering hits you hard next time, watch how you respond to it. Suffering will reveal the essence of everything you believe about the God of the Bible.”
Make no mistake, when we sign up in the army of Jesus Christ, there is no small print in the contract. We are going to go through suffering. The road to the cross of Jesus Christ is where we lay down our sins and where every day we experience something of the death of Jesus so that we might also know the power and the life of Jesus in our bodies, to quote from 2 Corinthians 4:12. The Christian life is hard, very hard, so don’t be disappointed by your afflictions.
Second Corinthians 4:8 warns that you are going to be hard-pressed on every side, but it says it will not crush you. Oh, friends, I think about that Bible verse almost every night when I wake up at 2:30 in the morning, 3:30 in the morning, 4 am, 5 am, in pain. I say to my pain, “You’re hard-pressing me on all sides, but the Bible says that my loving Father promises that you are not going to crush me. You are not going to crush me!”
So, I am going to believe my Jesus. My feelings think that He is giving me way too much, even more than I can handle, but I’m not going to believe my feelings, rather I’m going to believe Jesus and His Word. Though I am hard-pressed on all sides, even at 4 am with pain, I know for sure it is not going to crush me because I’ve got Christ who is with me. He is Immanuel — God with me — in my suffering.
Oh, that young people today would grasp and understand that! Then they’d make giant leaps forward in their walk with Christ.
Hand Frozen to the Sword
Tim Moore: We are trying through our “Jesus in the Old Testament” series to emphasize the power of the entirety of God’s Word, pointing out how the Old Testament grounds us in our faith by pointing to our coming Messiah, both in His first advent and His glorious second coming.
Joni, I see you wrote the forward to the New Living Translation’s One-Year Pray for Life Bible. Your words touched my heart. This is what you said regarding the eternal Word:
Your hand will fuse with the Sword of the Spirit. You will become one with the Word. It will be your mark of valor and distinction. Others may cower as the culture of death moves through the earth like a dark, poisonous cloud. Others may retreat from the frontlines. Some may collapse in fear before the Enemy, overcome by anxiety and overwhelmed by battle fatigue. But you will stand firm on the frontlines, holding fast to Scripture, and winning victories for the cause of life and for our King.
Joni Eareckson Tada: I’ll tell you where I got the inspiration for those comments. I got them from Eleazar, one of David’s mighty men. You can read about Eleazar in 2 Samuel 23:10. Here is what happened on the battlefield. The army of Israel was up against the Philistines and they were way overwhelmed. In fact, they retreated. They high-tailed it out of there! But, listen to this, “But Eleazar stood his ground and he struck down the Philistines until his hand was so tired that it literally froze to his sword, and the Lord brought about a great victory that day.”
Oh, friend, there might be others who run from the frontlines of suffering, but I want to stand my ground. I want my hands, although they may be paralyzed, to hold fast to the sword, that is the sword of the Spirit — the Word of God.
I’ve shared many passages and verses from the Bible which are my anchors. They are all for me part of my weaponry against discouragement, depression, complaining, doubt, and disbelief. So, I would encourage our friends to take all of these Bible passages from Lamentations and make them anchors for when you are feeling hard-pressed on all sides. Get your hand frozen to the sword of the Spirit, just like Eleazar.
In the fourth and last part of this special interview with Joni Eareckson Tada, she will identify some of the end times signs that point to the soon return of Jesus Christ.