Enough. Have you ever said that to God? Enough suffering, Lord. I’ve had more than my fair share of trouble. When is it going to stop?
Remember the trials and tribulations of Job? His near-perfect life was disrupted by trouble. Lots and lots of trouble. He lost his children, his wealth, and his health in a swift series of events that seemingly defied explanation.
Many of us know someone like Job. Someone who has experienced extraordinary suffering. I have a friend who lost his father, brother, and wife, in separate circumstances all within five months. Another friend and her husband have been unemployed for several years and are more recently suffering from several debilitating illnesses. Still another friend has breast cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy in the hope that surgery will be a later option. (Right about now you may be wondering if it’s safe to be my friend!)
I recently learned of another person who received bad news. Joni Eareckson Tada has breast cancer.
What did you think when you read those words? Did the word enough spring to mind? After all, Joni has been a quadriplegic for more than forty years. Instead of hiding in a corner or throwing herself a life-long pity party, she became an author, speaker, and founder of Joni and Friends, an international disability center. She is an advocate for those with disabilities and the author of forty-eight books and numerous magazine articles. She is also an artist, having learned to paint with a brush between her teeth. Joni does all this and more from her wheelchair. Now she has breast cancer.
Why breast cancer? Why now? Rather than asking these kinds of questions, Joni views her cancer through a different lens. She has often said that “our afflictions come from the hand of our all-wise and sovereign God.” This new diagnosis is no different. In a video clip on her website, Joni noted with her characteristic sense of humor, “Although cancer is something new, I am content to receive from God whatever He deems fit for me – even if it is from His left hand (better from His left hand, than no hand at all, right?!).”
Joni is not asking why because she is already sure of the answer. She goes on to say, “Yes, it’s alarming, but rest assured that Ken and I are utterly convinced that God is going to use this to stretch our faith, brighten our hope, and strengthen our witness to others…”
She adds, “For years I have hoped that my quadriplegia might encourage people struggling with cancer… now I have a chance to truly empathize and journey alongside, affirming that God’s grace is always sufficient for whatever the disease or disability.”
It’s easy for us to quote Scripture when life is pleasant. But when we’re confronted with the diagnosis, or the death of a loved one, or a financial loss, can we say with Joni, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6)?
When confronted with suffering, often our first inclination is to ask, Why? Perhaps a better question to ask is, Why not? We live in a sin-sick world. God never promised us a life free from trouble. However, we can choose how we will respond to the uncertainties and difficulties of life. We can teach our children how to choose. We can teach our students the basis for our choices. We can create characters in our books who will make choices dependent on faith that rests on God alone, regardless of the circumstances.
I love how Joni puts it: “Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step.”
What next step is God calling you to take today in faith?