If anyone understands suffering, it would be Joni Eareckson Tada. She is paralyzed from the chest down, due to a diving accident she suffered as a teenager. For the past 40+ years she has relied on her husband and others to help her with most of her daily tasks. Yet none of this has slowed down her world-wide ministry, nor has it dampened her trust in God.
I recently read her book Finding God In Hidden Places (you can read my book review by clicking here). These are some quotes about suffering that Joni has learned firsthand.
“Some refuse to believe it. Surely, if we hate suffering, God must hate it worse and could never have founded an institution as horrible as hell. But the same Jesus who gave heaven a five-star rating also described an otherworldly chamber of horrors. ‘[Hell] has long been prepared; it has been made ready… its fire pit has been made deep and wide… the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulphur, sets it ablaze’ (Isaiah 30:33). Stop and listen. Do you feel the rattling? The down-deep rumbling of something gone haywire? Had the Bible not told us otherwise, we might think this life was the only life there is. We’d continue to arrange our days as though rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We’d clink our brandy glasses and toast our fate, as though we were only facing a soul-sleep—a dull, gray existence without God, who, as a matter of fact, was a bit of a bore on earth anyway. Don’t misunderstand. God didn’t make hell for people. Jesus said it was ‘prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matthew 25:41). It’s unnatural for humans to be there—as unnatural as turning our backs on a Creator who loves us. As unseemly as shrugging off the Father’s kind arm while we caress Eden’s serpent, coiled around our hearts. No. God takes no joy in anyone heading for eternal misery. And His Son is the lifeboat—big enough and wide enough to rescue all of the perishing.”
“I was collapsing from a time of interior questioning. Suffering does this. It forces us to be utterly alone with ourselves. Once sequestered, suffering is what tests us most as persons. It examines us, sifting and asking, ‘Who are you, really?’ … Suffering, then, can be our friend. … Suffering goes below the surface, sandblasting us to the core. It brings us into a new relationship with ourselves. It also brings us into a new relationship with God. When pain and problems press us up against a holy God, guess what goes first? You’ve got it. The selfishness that pain unmasks. The pride and pettiness that problems reveal. … The beauty of being stripped down to the basics is that God can then fill us up with Himself. It’s not just that sin is removed; the saint is built up: ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27). Think of the Father’s joy when He sees Christ in you. Nothing pleases Him more. When the soul empties itself of pride and pettiness, Christ fills it up. It’s just another way of saying, ‘You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:3). Suffering doesn’t teach me about myself from a textbook; it teaches me from my heart.”
If you would like to check out some other quotes from this book, please click here.