Tada delivers a moving call to action at Chapel
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
The pain. Joni Eareckson Tada kept talking about the pain, the overwhelming pain, both physical and mental. It is a wonder she even gets out of bed every morning — always needing assistance just to do that.
“After 50 years in a wheelchair, you’d think I’d be used to this, you’d think I’d be a veteran at this,” she told the Chapel audience Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena. “I’m not. Every morning, I wake up facing quadriplegia and chronic pain and I think, ‘Oh, God, put me back to sleep. I can’t face this day, I’m so overwhelmed.’”
But her caregivers are doing more than just lifting her up physically. It is as if they are Christ’s arms and strength.
“Christians are the agents of comfort and mercy,” said Tada, whose Joni and Friends ministry goes around the world to help the disabled, “and when you reach down and help the least and the last of the brethren, you not only give them the Gospel of friends, you’re becoming the Gospel to them.”
In a talk bookended by standing ovations from the crowd of more than 6,000, Tada recounted how she became paralyzed in July 1967 when she dove into shallow water.
She told of how she couldn’t imagine going from an active, busy childhood to a life without use of her arms and legs.
She said she wanted to die.
She talked about the Bible verses she heard then: from James 1 (welcome this trial as a friend), Romans 5 (rejoice in suffering), Philippians 1 (it has been given to you to suffer on His behalf) and Romans 8:28 (it somehow would fit into a pattern for good).
“It was just too much for me. I had so many questions, I felt like gagging on those verses,” she said. “(There were) big questions that I had, and I was near to throwing in the spiritual towel.”
A visit from her high school friend Jackie was the spiritual turning point. Jackie snuck into her hospital ward in the middle of the night and curled up next to her in bed, holding her tight, and sang this verse from “Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
“Man of sorrows!” What a name.
For the son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!
It was exactly what Tada needed.
“That night, something changed. Something she did touched me like nothing else,” Tada said. “And it’s odd because that night I did not get answers. But suddenly the questions weren’t that urgent.
“You see, God’s got His reasons for allowing so much pain and heartache and suffering, and those reasons are good and right and true. But I will be the first to tell you that when your heart is being rung out like a sponge, an orderly list of the 16 good biblical reasons as to why this is happening, it can sting like salt in the wound. You don’t stop the bleeding with the answers.
“Oh yes, there comes a time when people stop asking ‘Why?’ with a clenched fist and start asking ‘Why?’ with a searching heart. And that’s a great time for the Bible’s answers. But when the suffering is fresh, answers don’t always reach the problem where it hurts, and that’s in the gut and in the heart.”
Tada’s ministry seeks more people to do what Jackie did, and she was quick to note that “God’s not looking for experts. He’s just looking for people to meet a need.” God is in the middle of our suffering, but we need people — God’s change agents — to help with it, too.
She has seen how easy it is – too easy – for people to just keep the disabled at arm’s length, even when offering a kind word or generous donation.
“God has a different way,” she said. “He wants us to hook our veins up to that hurting person who is hemorrhaging human strength and pour into them as if giving a spiritual transfusion – warm, personal, the life-giving love of Jesus Christ.”
Tada is a renowned speaker, and it took two years to get her on the Chapel schedule. Monday, it was easy to see why. The crowd broke into applause when she said:
“I can’t do quadriplegia, but I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me, so help me, Jesus. Let me tell you something: For those of you who are dealing with disappointment and hurt in your life, that is the biblical way to wake up in the morning. That is the Christian way to wake up in the morning – desperately needing Jesus. And you can help people like me desperately need Jesus.”
Anyone who wants to help can go to wheelsfortheworld.org or bit.ly/donate-az. There are millions of people who need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, even if it means another day of pain and suffering.
● For a replay of Chapel, including the music performed by the Worship Team, click here.
● Next week’s speaker will be Mia Koehne of Mia Koehne Music.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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