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  • Shawn Thornton

A Woman Who Chooses Joy

Sunday - March 20th

Scripture to Read Today: James 1:2-8

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

James 1:2



Joni Eareckson Tada was just seventeen when a diving accident left her paralyzed from the neck down. Joni has used a wheelchair for more than 50 years. "Paralyzed" hardly describes a woman who, since her accident, has written nearly 40 books and received a presidential appointment to the National Council on Disability. She has spoken in more than 45 countries, established a worldwide disability ministry, and created beautiful paintings with a brush between her teeth.


Joni's best-selling biography, "Joni," chronicled her struggle to accept her paralysis as part of God's divine plan for her life. Translated into 40 languages, "Joni" was also made into a movie with Joni starring as herself. A full-time disability advocate, she founded Joni and Friends, a ministry organization dedicated to serving the worldwide community of the disabled and their families.


Joni and her husband, Ken, have traveled around the United States and around the world, sharing with others the hope found in Jesus Christ. Joni's story helps people of all walks of life see the good God wants to accomplish through life's hardships. As my mother struggled to live with the effects of a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) that radically changed her life forever, Joni's story inspired my mom. Just when we thought mom could not cope anymore or she was about to have a breakdown, she would say, "If Joni can do it, so can I." My mom was not the only one that found hope in Joni's life story.


Since arriving in California, I have gotten to know Joni and Ken reasonably well. They are the real deal. Neither is ashamed to speak of the difficulties they face. Yet, both point to the peace, strength, and hope they find in Jesus. I have the privilege of serving on the Joni & Friends Foundation Board. What a blessing to see God using so many people connected to Joni & Friends blessing those often marginalized around the world - people with special needs.


I have heard Joni speak in various settings in the last thirteen years. I am never disappointed when she shares God's Word and her heart with others. However, no topic Joni addresses grabs my attention more than the theme of joy. How does a quadriplegic find genuine joy in a world of pain, sorrow, and frustration? Joni would argue the same way any follower of Christ does - through a conscious choice to find joy in the Lord when circumstances scream that joy is unattainable.


Joni has taught me to choose to thank God for things that we usually complain about. Joni has taught me to sing a song of praise when a dark cloud of discouragement has settled into my heart and mind. She is the first to admit living a lifestyle of choosing joy is never easy. Everything about it is counterintuitive. She often quotes some of the earliest verses found in the New Testament Book of James.


In particular, Joni chooses to live out the challenging command given in James 1:2, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds." She genuinely seeks to "consider it pure joy" when she has a bad day or is in overwhelming pain. No one shares as authentically as Joni how choosing to find joy in trials brings genuine joy into your life. The key is the initial response to the hardship. The choice is simple, joy or frustration.


No matter what you are going through in life, choose joy. The alternative brings deeper darkness and greater frustration.

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