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Shedding Light on Suffering

Joni Eareckson's story is now well known to us both through her books and the movie about her paralysis as a teenager and her amazing fight back to a useful and productive life of ministry through her art. From the preface of Joni:

Isolated, by itself, what is a minute? Merely a measurement of time. There are sixty in an hour, 1,440 in a day. At seventeen, I had already ticked off more than 9 million of them in my life. Yet, in some cosmic plan, this single minute was isolated. Into these particular sixty seconds was compressed more significance than all the millions of minutes marking my life prior to this instant.

So many actions, sensations, thoughts, and feelings were crowded into that fragment of time. How can I describe them? How can I begin to catalog them?

I recall so clearly the details of those few dozen seconds–seconds destined to change my life forever. And there was no warning or premonition.

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What happened on July 30, 1967, was the beginning of an incredible adventure which I feel compelled to share because of what I have learned.

Oscar Wilde wrote: “In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” To rephrase his thought, I suggest there are likewise only two joys. One is having God answer all your prayers; the other is not receiving the answer to all your prayers. I believe this because I have found that God knows my needs infinitely better than I know them. And He is utterly dependable, no matter which direction our circumstances take us.

In the Psalms we're told that God does not deal with us according to our sins and iniquities. My accident was not a punishment for my wrongdoing–whether or not I deserved it. Only God knows why I was paralyzed. Maybe He knew I'd be ultimately happier serving Him. If I were still on my feet, it's hard to say how things might have gone. I probably would have drifted through life–marriage, maybe even divorce–dissatisfied and disillusioned. When I was in high school, I reacted to life selfishly and never built on any long lasting values. I lived simply for each day and the pleasure I wanted–and almost always at the expense of others.

–James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 13.