As the result of a diving accident, Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed at the age of seventeen. Shortly after that, a friend sat by her bed and read the passage about the man Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda.
“It was the part about being an invalid for thirty-eight years that got me,” Joni remembers. “Please Lord, I can’t live without use of my hands or legs for three days, let alone thirty years. I’m not like that man by the pool at Bethesda. Be compassionate to me, like you were to him. Heal me!”
But Joni’s prayer for a miracle seemed to go unanswered. Thirty years later as she rounded a corner while touring Jerusalem with her husband, Ken, she came face-to-face with the ruins of that pool. Looking at her husband, the tears welling up, she said, “Jesus didn’t pass me by. He didn’t overlook me. He answered my prayer: He said, ‘No.’”
And then came the astonishing confession.
“And I’m glad,” she said. “A ‘no’ answer has purged sin from my life, strengthened my commitment to him, forced me to depend on grace, bound me with other believers, produced discernment, fostered sensitivity, disciplined my mind, taught me to spend my time wisely, stretched my hope, made me know Christ better, helped me long for truth, led me to repentance of sin, goaded me to give thanks in times of sorrow, increased my faith, and strengthened my character. Being in this wheelchair has meant knowing him better, feeling his strength every day.”
“Are you ok?” her husband asked.
“Yes,” she sniffed and laughed. “I can’t believe that I’m crying and laughing at the same time. There are more important things in life than walking.”1
Thank you, Joni, not only for telling us what peace is, but also for showing us what it looks like. Let’s take heart from the example of this remarkable woman, so that whether the answer is yes or no, we can experience the deep peace that comes from knowing God is faithful.
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “Please Heal Me!” in Stories of Comfort for a Healthy Soul, compiled by Christine M. Anderson (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 38–40.