Joni is Interviewed by TIME Magazine

  • By: Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Sept. 14, 2010
  • 46 Comments
  • In the Media

picture of joni eareckson tadaIn her new book, A Place of Healing, disability activist and Christian author Joni Eareckson Tada takes on a question that has vexed the faithful for centuries: If God can heal people, why doesn't he always do so? Tada has a strong personal interest in the answer. A quadriplegic since a diving accident four decades ago, she has suffered from crippling chronic pain in recent years and was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this summer. Tada spoke with TIME about finding peace through suffering and continuing to fight for acceptance 20 years after the landmark signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

How are you feeling?
Cancer and chronic pain on top of quadriplegia is a little challenging. Right now I'm tired from the chemotherapy and that, coupled with the pain, makes it difficult. At times I've thought, "Lord, this is an awful lot to bear. Are you sure you know what you're doing?" And yet, I know the answer.

Some people think there's another answer, though. At the beginning of your book, you describe an astounding encounter you had in a church parking lot.
Yes, this very earnest young man named David came up to me, knelt down by my wheelchair, and asked me, "Joni, are you sure there's no unconfessed sin in your life? I just know that God wants to heal you." He was basically saying my faith wasn't big enough or strong enough or righteous enough. I reminded him of the story in Luke where the four friends brought their paralyzed buddy to Jesus to be healed. But it was the faith of those friends — not the man's own faith — that Jesus used as a channel for healing. Well, there you go, David, the pressure's on you.

Why do you think people need to believe that you're to blame for your suffering?
If we can come up with a simple explanation, "You did something wrong," then it's something we think we can control. In the Christian faith, God really puts suffering front and center. He doesn't get squeamish about it. But our human inclination is to turn the other way, to assume that this person must have a bad track record with God. We just don't want to embrace the God who can be found in the midst of pain. We'd rather listen to Jesus preach sweet sermons about lilies.

So why doesn't God always heal people when they ask?
There is this verse in Matthew 18 where Jesus is delighted to heal people who come to him. But he says, if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. Now right there, it shows that Jesus has a different priority, and that is our spiritual healing. If I had been granted a miraculous physical healing back when I was 17, I know I wouldn't be in a ministry serving other people with disabilities around the world.

So when you work with people in great pain, do you encourage them to let go of the desire to be healed?
We can certainly ask to be healed. Even I ask for healing regarding this pain, regarding this cancer. Anyone who takes the Bible seriously agrees that God hates suffering. Jesus spent most of his time relieving it. But when being healed becomes the only goal — "I'm not letting go until I get what I want" — it's a problem. There comes a point at which if you don't start living, your whole life is spent jumping from one healing crusade to the next. And I believe I have been healed — just not in the way that others expect.

A lot of people would look at you and find that hard to believe.
I know. But I'm happy. And on that level, I have been healed. People who have been healed in the way I think I have been healed, we don't care about wealth, success, comfort. Having that peace makes up for any amount of walking that I have missed. One problem I have with faith-healing is that it tends to be focused only on the physical aspect of healing. But Jesus always backed away when people came to him only to get their physical needs met. My goodness, he was ready to have you lop off your hand! His real interest was in healing the soul.

You were involved with passing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has now been law for 20 years. What still needs to be done for people with disabilities?
On the day the ADA was signed into law, we all went back to the hotel for a reception and our national director Paul Hearne gave a toast. He said, "This civil rights legislation is great in that it will open up doors of opportunities in employment, it will put ramps into restaurants. And yet this law is not going to change the employer's heart, it's not going to change the heart of the maître d'." He lifted his glass and said, "Here's to changed hearts." Paul understood what makes our society value or not value people. It's a matter of that moral center. I think the advancements will only be accomplished when we make friends with people with disabilities, when we stop tiptoeing around that person with MS, when we make ourselves see the woman in the wheelchair. You can't legislate that.

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46 Comments

 
I'm still waiting for the heart of my employer to be changed.
  • July 6, 2012
  • 6:38 a.m.
  • karlakiefer
Joni has been an inspiration to me and my family for over 30 years. I doubt she could have helped so many people have stronger faith in God had she been healed. My brother has been quadriplegic for 20 years, raised a son on his own, and they are among the happiest and most real people I know.
  • Sept. 4, 2011
  • 4:54 p.m.
  • Jerolyn
s Excellent reading and intertview My daughter knws you well. This time I needed this for both of us. my prayers with you Joni. Thanks Joni
  • Jan. 13, 2011
  • 5:54 p.m.
  • Tod Griffith
Hi Joni & Friends. Happy New Year! I am a Christian and am currently working on a CD filled with healing scriptures. Then, I remembered you, mostly because I heard of your diagnosis of cancer. That made me sad. While doing this CD, I though of you and others who "fight the good fight of faith" in spite of disabilities. Still, I have experienced manifestation of the healing Jesus provided for us in my body a few times. I know that we don't have to earn our healing because, like salvation, it is a work of grace born out of the Love of God to us. Still, I don't have all the answers either. But I am thankful to our Heavenly Father for you and the many lives He has touched through yours. The eternal peace & joy you have has healed so many. It is my prayer that you are strengthened through this battle and that you experience the healing virtue of the Lord -- even through the hands of skilled and compassionate doctors. If you want, I can send you a copy of my Healing CD to hear. I'm sure it won't hurt. God bless & keep you Rev. Darlene
  • Jan. 4, 2011
  • 2:59 p.m.
  • Darlene Starks
I really enjoyed Joni's article and her comments concerning healing. Reminds me of when Jesus CURED the 10 peole who had leprosy but only the one who returned to thank Jesus was HEALED... We pray God continued healing for Joni that she may continue with her most precious and privileged ministry. Bob & Sandy
  • Jan. 1, 2011
  • 1:33 p.m.
  • Robert J Giers
Joni, I have lived a blessed life, one now filled with cancer and surgery and unending pain. But it's okay, because there are good days too. Like today when friends call, I can walk with little pain, the sun shines, I'm able to read and write, and someone told me that, though she called to help me, my words instead helped her. How cool is that!? Oh and I laughed, the best thing of all.
  • Dec. 15, 2010
  • 12:15 p.m.
  • Linda Richardson
JONI.. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR LOVE FOR THE LORD. FOR SPEAKING HONESTLY..WHEN OTHERS DOUBT. FOR TAKING TIME FOR ALL OF US--DISABLED WITH PAIN. FOR GOING ONWARD WHEN THE TOUGH IS GOING. MY PAIN BATTLE WITH MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS..AND A SEVERE SPINAL DEGENERATION..LEFT ME WITHOUT HOPE. YOU BROUGHT ME LIGHT FOR MY DARK LIFE PAIN CONTINUES..I WILL HANG TO JESUS..I KNOW WHO IS CARRYING ME. MAY OUR DEAR JESUS HOLD OUR QUESTIONS WITH OUT ANSWERS AS HE HOLD US THROUGH EVERYDAY IF JESUS GAVE ME A PRESENT TO GIVE HEALING....YOU WOULD HAVE IT..INSTEAD I AM HOLDING YOU IN MY PRAYERS IN MY HEART...UNTILL YOU ARE HEALED..HERE..OR IN HEAVEN. AS WE PRAISE OUR ''HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO JESUS.. I PRAY FOR YOU A BLESSED CHRISTMAS-AND A FEW SILENT NIGHTS. IN CHRISTIAN LOVE PATTIE
  • Dec. 5, 2010
  • 1:49 p.m.
  • PATRICIA HARRINGTON
Joni - Thank you for your courage to personally embrace God's Word. Jesus said that "we will know them by their fruit." You have surely been used to draw attention to Him. I was honored to hear you speak to young people when you visited the Indianapolis Training Center in the late 90's. I'm glad that the message you shared at that time - a message of faith in God and the need to see the value of everyone around us - is just as substantive today as ever. We are praying for you.
  • Dec. 2, 2010
  • 1:20 p.m.
  • Ed Leckenby
As you can imagine, after living 37 years with a disability that causes me to rely on a wheelchair, the issue of healing has come up many times. As a child it brought on disappointment and feelings of being unloved by God. As a young, naïve Christian, this issue has left me confused and, many times, embarrassed. I had to also deal with the reasons people gave to me as of, why God has not healed me yet. Some have said I do not have enough faith to be healed. Others have said my body is possessed with a demon and that I’m not healed. And let’s not forget my favorite one, there must be sin in my life. Healing for me is inevitable. In the meantime I have to take the opportunity to display Gods ability through my disability. If you’re dealing with a sickness or a disability and you’re praying that God will heal you, I want to encourage you not to get bogged down in the healing, but rather look for opportunities to glorify Him in the meantime. Use this season to focus on the Truth in God’s word and how that truth plays a role in glorifying Him through your adversities.
  • Dec. 1, 2010
  • 2:24 p.m.
  • christopher Coleman
Thanks so much for your encouraging faith. I am a grand mom of 78 years and just was told that I have about 2 years to live with, perhaps, much suffering facing me. What is so wonderful is that I have peace constantly that Jesus is holding me in his precious arms and all that happens to me is for his glory and what a blessing this has been for me. My desire is to please Him and follow Him in this new journey while He is leading me into Glory. Love in Jesus, Mary Speights
  • Nov. 19, 2010
  • 5:45 a.m.
  • mary speights
 
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