Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thoughts on "A Place of Healing" by Joni Eareckson Tada

A few months back I was genuinely struggling over the issue of suffering and the goodness/sovereignty of God.  I do not think this is a struggle that will ever cease in my mind aside from entering into eternity and my faith becoming sight, but I do feel that God used a book by Joni Eareckson Tada to minister to me in this time of struggle.  

A Place of Healing is Joni's look at suffering in light of God's sovereignty and goodness.  If you are unfamiliar with Joni, she is a quadriplegic who has been used by God to minister to many since her diving accident led to her paralysis.  As I was struggling with this issue I wanted to hear counsel from someone who had endured suffering.  That being said, I trust the Scriptures an infinite times more than I do someone's experience, so I wanted someone who would open the Word of God and deal with the issue with Scripture as the key focus. I was not disappointed with this book or with Mrs. Eareckson Tada's counsel.

Joni begins the book by giving a report of what is going on in her life at the time of writing.  Her paralysis persists, but not she is enduring chronic pain.  She deals with this to let the reader know where she is coming from, writing from the midst of a battle, but also to lead into the main question we face when we see suffering and worship a good God.  Why?  Not only the why question of suffering's existence, which can be easily seen from Scripture, but the why question of suffering in the life of a child of God who sincerely and faithfully seeks God's healing.  Joni recounts an experience she had on a televangelist's program in which she was blindsided with a critique of her faith and the fact that she remained unhealed because of sin in her life and a lack of faith.  This causes Joni pain, but coupled with a search of Scripture leads her to a realization that is important for us all to understand and accept, "(h)ere is what I believe: God reserves the right to heal or not … as He sees fit."

This is key!  Without this, we will struggle with this issue unnecessarily and in a manner that will not lead to growth in holiness and faith, but rather doubt and despair.  God is God and we are not and He will do what He chooses to do.

the fact is I only know so much, I only understand so much, I only see so much, and I only grasp so much of what I do see. With Paul, I sometimes have to cry out, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Rom. 11:33). Not long ago, the words of this old hymn drifted into my mind: I am not skilled to understand What God has willed, what God has planned; I only know at His right hand, Stands One who is my Savior!1 Ah, there are many things that God has revealed—things I do know and understand. But there are many more things that He has not chosen to reveal yet and may not reveal this side of heaven. And one of those things is why He sometimes chooses to step in and supernaturally heal one person and not another.
 We have to be ok with the truth that God is God.  We have to be ok with the fact that He works things how He sees fit and that He is all-wise, all-loving and the definition of good.  Will this convince an unbeliever while they wrestle with suffering in the world and the truth-claims of Christianity?  Probably not.  But really the only thing that will work in that situation is the regenerating power of God's Holy Spirit anyway.  What this does do is remind me, a born-again believer in Christ, that He is good.  And He is in control.  And I can rest in that.

Chapter 4 is entitled "What Benefit Is There to My Pain?".  This chapter is an amazing read.  Joni works through the benefits of suffering and how a good God uses suffering for the good of those who love Him and for His own glory.  She goes over multiple points including how suffering can turn us from a dangerous/deadly path, how suffering increases our desire for Christ, how suffering reminds us of our frailty and weakness and how God can use suffering to make us more fruitful.  Joni then gives a few detailed examples of how God has used her and the ministry He started with her called Joni and Friends to minister to, love on, reach out to and lead to the salvation of many who Joni would not have been able to reach without her paralysis.  It is an amazing reminder of how suffering exists in the life of a believer so that they may be ministers of hope, healing and grace.

Joni spends the remainder of the book speaking to those who suffer and encouraging them on how they can endure and how they can bring glory to God through all of it.  She also spends more time looking at some testimonials of how God has used her paralysis to bring glory to Himself and lost people to salvation.  This is a greatly encouraging, greatly challenging book and it was a pleasure to read.  I praise God for what He has done and continues to do through the life and work of His Son found in the life and work of Joni and her friends.