Suffering Is Plan A (Joni Eareckson Tada)

In our society, we avoid suffering—running away from it if we can or numbing its effects if we can’t. Even Christ-followers struggle with this. At the onset of a life-transforming injury or the birth of a child with disabilities, our faith is shaken to the core. Instinctively, we want the comfortable and convenient way. Unless our hearts are firmly anchored in God’s promises, or our faith has been proven and refined through earlier disappointments, we will easily collapse under life-altering troubles that foretell doom and gloom.

In the early years of my quadriplegia, I was horrified at the prospect of remaining paralyzed for the rest of my life. But once my heart became riveted to God’s promises, once my faith survived the initial refining, God’s design began to dawn. It was clear: heaven and hell had participated in my terrible accident, but for different reasons.

Perhaps hell hoped to shipwreck my faith, but heaven helped me take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, especially when my thoughts tended toward resentment. My paralysis pushed me into times of prayer, often when I did not want to pray. I became more patient with people, humbly admitting when I was demanding and unappreciative (I’ve got a long way to go before I’m entirely sanctified!). My wheelchair helped me to enlarge my eternal estate: my disability kept forcing me to choose things that increased my capacity for joy in heaven, not things that diminished it.

I was able to tell my friends, “God’s refusal to make my life easier has been my greatest blessing.” I became convinced that deep faith, strong character, heartfelt compassion, and a greater dependence on Christ were the best of blessings. I had the assurance that although my disability itself was grueling, the result would be God’s best for my life. Even a broken neck can be God’s plan A. How so? Let me explain with this little story.

My signature earrings are hammered gold, with crinkled edges that almost sparkle. They were once smooth polished squares, an unexpected gift from a dear friend after I admired them. I wore them constantly, but one day at work, one of the precious earrings slipped off my ear. As I wheeled to get help, I heard a sickening crunch: my treasured earring was impaled on my wheelchair tire.

I took the crushed earring to a local jeweler, who said it couldn’t be fixed; the damage was too great. He did, however, offer to alter the smooth one to match the other. I was hesitant to potentially ruin this beautiful set of gold earrings, but I decided to trust him. After all, he was the jeweler. He was the expert, and I wasn’t.

As I waited, I heard pounding and grinding from the back and wondered if the jeweler knew what he was doing. Soon he returned with a matching second gold earring. It was horribly marred and mangled, but strangely magnificent, resembling the work of a skilled artist. The hammering had produced something breathtakingly beautiful. Plus, the new set of earrings, crunched and crinkled, reflected the light more brilliantly—they were plan A earrings, not plan B or C. And the earrings became a metaphor for my life.

This is a fitting metaphor for your life, too, as you discover a deeper devotion to Jesus Christ through this season of hardship. God knows what he’s doing as he hammers, shapes, and bends us so that we can better reflect his glory. After all, God is the Master Jeweler, and we are not. He is the expert, and we’d do well to yield to him. He’s got a great plan A design in mind!

*Excerpted from When Disability Hits Home: How God Uses Our Weakness and Suffering

Print this entry