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Joni Eareckson Tada Explains How God ‘Had a Purpose’ for Her Paralysis

Photo from Joni and Friends on Instagram

Joni Eareckson Tada Explains How God ‘Had a Purpose’ for Her Paralysis

By Movieguide® Contributor

Joni Eareckson Tada explained how one decision changed her life and how becoming paralyzed helped her see the Lord and live out a mission for His glory.

During a trip in the summer before heading off to college, Tada was swimming with friends when an accident changed her life. She was diving into the ocean when she dove into a shallow area and snapped her fourth vertebrae. The doctors told her she would be paralyzed for life, unable to use her arms or her legs.

“I was heading off the college. This couldn’t be happening. No, this isn’t happening,” Tada recalled thinking. “When the doctor’s words slowly sank in, I became numb with disbelief. And with that, bitterness began to take root.”

“I hissed at heaven, saying, ‘God, I can’t live like this. I will not live like this,’” she continued. “Now, I knew that I could not take my life physically and so I was tempted to end it emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I told my mother to pull my bedroom drapes, turn off the lights and shut the door. And there in the darkness I laid in bed for weeks.”

Thankfully for Tada, God is gracious, and all it takes for Him to move is faith the size of a mustard seed.

“Behind that closed door, my self-pity literally became suffocating. I mean, the dark, morbid thoughts were worse than my paralysis. And so somewhere along the line, into the dark, I whimpered, ‘God, if I cannot die, then please show me how to live,’” she said. “I was the most feeble, fainthearted prayer I had ever offered up, but it’s all it took.”

“Immediately, God put Christian friends into my life who opened the Bible to help me, you know, show me how to live. In its pages, I discovered precious insights and powerful promises,” Tada continued. “God had not abandoned me. The Lord had a purpose. The paralysis would not last forever, and so many more promises…I found contentment in Jesus—the only answer that seemed to satisfy all my longings.”

While it was still extremely difficult to become paralyzed as Tada was entering the prime years of her life, she found that the accident pointed her to Jesus in a way that nothing else could have. It also revealed God’s heart in a way she would have otherwise missed.

“It was around this time that a friend of mine, Steve Estes, shared 10 little words that literally changed my life, ‘God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.’ Yeah, that’s right,” Tada said. “God permits all sorts of things He does not approve of, like how about the cross of His own dear Son Jesus? He hated what happened that day on Mount Calvary, but He permitted it to accomplish something He loved.

“[What] He loved was salvation for a world of sinners like you and me,” she continued. “And so, I learned to look at my spinal cord injury the exact same way. For God took no delight in my broken neck. He hates suffering, but through it, He accomplished the lovely quote, something that he was after, ‘Christ in me, the hope of glory.’”

Having lived with her paralysis for decades now, Tada has made it her mission to help others with a similar story know the love of Jesus. Through her foundation, Joni and Friends, she ministers to those often overlooked to give them hope that their disabilities are not forever and that through Christ, they will find freedom from them.

“My wheelchair would be the vehicle that would carry the hope of Jesus to families like mine,” she said of the moment she decided to create her foundation.

The foundation aims “to glorify God as we communicate the Gospel and mobilize the global church to evangelize, disciple, and serve people living with disability.”

“Our teams will keep giving the hope-filled news that through Jesus Christ, the weak and the vulnerable can have a hope in heaven, escape from hell, a purpose for living, and the power to be more than a conqueror,” Tada said. “Yes, there are more important things in life than walking. There are more important things in life than having use of your hands. The most important thing in life is knowing that God has removed your heart of stone and given you a new heart in his salvation.”

Movieguide® previously reported:

Joni Eareckson Tada recently shared the remarkable story of how God radically intervened in her life, rescuing her from a path of sin in an extraordinary way.

“I was quite the athlete, and as such, I guess I was the least likely candidate to become a quadriplegic. But as far as my relationship with the Lord goes, Jesus was kind of tucked away in my back hip pocket, and I pulled him out on Sundays and holidays and Easter and Christmas,” Tada saidon TAKEAWAYS WITH KIRK CAMERON.

“But when I was a senior in high school, I was frustrated with my shallow life in Christ, and to be honest, Kirk, I had a boyfriend back then, and we were doing some stuff on Friday nights that was pretty embarrassing,” she confessed. “It laded me with guilt [on] Sunday mornings. I’d confess my sins, ‘Oh God I’ll never do that again,’ but then the following Friday night in the backseat of my boyfriend’s car, there we’d be fooling around again.”

Tada felt overwrought with sin and guilt. She finally asked God if he would drastically change her life to set her on the right path.


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