It is rare to think of pain and suffering as a gift of God’s grace. Instead, most of the time, we argue with God about our plight, we complain and become angry about the “unfairness” of our suffering, and we assume that our circumstances are inherently bad.
As a contrast, consider the testimony of Joni Eareckson Tada. She addressed the topic of pain and suffering in a recent interview with Tabletalk Magazine. A couple of excerpts from the article:
TT: Which passages of Scripture have given you encouragement during your struggles with disability and cancer?
JT: Psalm 79:8 says, “May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need” (NIV). Basically, I wake up almost every morning in desperate need of Jesus — from those early days when I first got out of the hospital, to over four decades in a wheelchair, it’s still the same. The morning dawns and I realize: “Lord, I don’t have the strength to go on. I have no resources. I can’t ‘do’ another day of quadriplegia, but I can do all things through You who strengthen me. So please give me Your smile for the day; I need You urgently.” This, I have found, is the secret to my joy and contentment. Every morning, my disability — and, most recently, my battle with cancer — forces me to come to the Lord Jesus in empty-handed spiritual poverty. But that’s a good place to be because Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, NIV).
TT: Your most recent book is A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’ s Sovereignty. Can you tell us why you wrote this book?
JT: For more than ten years I have dealt with chronic pain (very unusual for a quadriplegic like me). Piled on top of my quadriplegia, at times it seemed too much to bear. So I went back and reexamined my original views on divine healing to see what more I could learn. What I discovered was that God still reserves the right to heal or not to heal as He sees fit.
And rather than try to frantically escape the pain, I relearned the timeless lesson of allowing my suffering to push me deeper into the arms of Jesus. I like to think of my pain as a sheepdog that keeps snapping at my heels to drive me down the road to Calvary, where, otherwise, I would not be naturally inclined to go.
Read the rest of the article, “A Purpose in the Pain: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada.”
This article appears in an issue entitled, “Dealing with Death and Disease,” and it seems like there are many other useful articles in this issue. Among them:
- Death, Disease & the Gospel (by Burk Parsons)
- Death Does Not Have the Last Word
- That the Scriptures Might Be Fulfilled (by John Piper)
- A Future So Bright (by R.C. Sproul Jr.)
HT: The Works of God (a very fine blog that addresses issues relating to suffering in general and disabilities in particular).