Hi, I'm Joni Eareckson Tada and our suffering… has got a lot of purpose. In fact, you’ve often hear me say that I'm convinced that our hardships, our afflictions, and your everyday pains and problems have far more purpose than you realize. And it's true that when you know (and I mean, beyond a shadow of a doubt) when you know there is a purpose (a big purpose) behind your suffering, well… It really can boost your morale, right? It can get you through, it can energize your heart.
I remember a while ago when I was struggling with a lung infection. I don't know how I caught it, but it was a bad one (and, of course, you know that with my quadriplegia, a lung infection be dangerous; my chest muscles don't work and for me, the simple action of coughing is not easy; Ken or a friend has to get behind me and squeeze my abdomen real hard for me to dislodge all that icky stuff). Well, anyway, I had to be in bed, I missed work, I had to postpone an important trip; cancel appointments. My spirits were really flagging and I was feeling pretty low.
I kept rehearsing a favorite verse from Ephesians where it says that God "works everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." My mind kept playing on that word "purpose." Well, lying there in bed, I wanted to know what God's purpose was! "Reveal it to me, Lord. Give me some wisdom here; show me what you're up to. I want to know!" I never got any insights; I just a lot of "waiting on the Lord." But then, a couple of days later, I read this remarkable little quotation by Alan Redpath. He wrote, “There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. And if it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.”
Oh my goodness, I’ll tell you what, I felt so invigorated; I felt strengthened, it bolstered in my spirit. Because here's the thing: if that lung infection was first given the go-ahead by my heavenly Father, and then the thumbs up from the Lord Jesus, all before it reached me – wow, the Lord's purpose must be great. I realized I didn't even need to know what that purpose was; I didn't need to understand it. It was just enough to know that before the infection touched me, it had to first gotten past God… And if that weren't enough, it had to also get past Christ. Wow, it means it comes with great purpose; perhaps a heavenly purpose that I can't even understand this side of eternity. But whatever it is, it's great! For God doesn't do things willy-nilly; he doesn't do things off-the-cuff or on the fly. He's the God of specific intention and everything he does is infused with great purpose. Even that lung infection, which incidentally…
I decided that one way I could play out God's purpose in my life lying in bed was to exercise my lungs – I might not be able to cough, but I could still sing. And so, I laid in bed and sang all of my favorite hymns and did that help clear up my lungs. So what was God's purpose in it all? I still think I'll have to wait for the other side of eternity to understand; but all that singing of hymns certainly pointed the unseen world looking on; it pointed them to God. And I invite you to join me in singing. I recorded a special little CD of my favorites and I'd love to send it to you. Just click on my radio page at joniandfriends.org and remember, “There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to you. And if it has come that far, it’s come with great purpose.”
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