“There is nothing more sweet than finding Jesus right with you in the middle of your splashes of hell.”
Joni Eareckson Tada is well acquainted with suffering. She has suffered 49 years with paraplegia. She has battled breast cancer. And recently, she has experienced unbearable chronic pain. Yet in her suffering she has learned that there is a sweetness to knowing Jesus in her suffering, a knowledge of which she would not trade for the world.
“Even with our pain we are still at the center of God’s purpose.” What are God’s purposes? God mysteriously uses suffering in our lives to draw us to himself, make us more aware of our own sin, and help us to see our need for him.
If suffering is like a splash of hell, what are splashes of heaven like? Are they the days when we feel no pain. Are the splashes of heaven the easy days when there are no medical bills to pay and everything in life goes easy? No! Joni explains that the splashes of heaven are the times she finds Jesus in her splash overs of hell. “There is nothing more sweet than finding Jesus right with you in the middle of your splashes of hell.” Through these experiences, Joni was able to see and know Jesus like never before.
In suffering we wrestling with God. We can experience life altering loss and not be undone. “O God, this is now my life.” We identity with Jesus in His suffering and have fresh adoration of our Savior. “It was like he was taking his hands and laying them upon my breast and letting me feel how his heart broke over the sin that caused the world suffering.”
Joni challenged us to remember that in order to suffer well, without dwelling on our own afflictions, we must dwell on the greater affliction of Christ Jesus. Our union with Jesus gives us grace to endure and share in his sufferings ().
For Joni, her suffering has produced special fruit. She has had a new disgust for her own sin. “In simple faith, I embrace my pain with thanks, trusting that God would make every particle of my suffering a death to self… How dare I cling to sins that put Jesus on the cross…. Jesus, I love you afresh and anew.”
Another fruit of her suffering is that she has been encouraged to reach out to others in a new way. Joni has felt a special calling to reach out to those with chronic pain. Joni reminded us that when you offer biblical truth to someone whose life is bleeding out of control, the body of Christ is called to do the more difficult and demanding thing, to walk with that person in their painful journey.
We infuse their hearts with truth that will bolster their spirit. We counsel with compassion and walk with them in their suffering. Our healing presence shows them that the Lord Jesus says, I will never leave you or forsake you. Then they may accept their experience as God’s will, when they experience a fresh glimpse of Jesus. When caring friends surround you and give you biblical truth, it helps us accept and own our weakness as part of God’s will. “Healing comes through relationships.” We demonstrate the gospel, when hurting people see what it means to be the body of Christ.
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (ESV)