Last night we were nearly home when an oncoming vehicle suddenly swerved in front of us. As my husband turned our vehicle to the left, the truck seemed to accelerate. We watched it pass to the right, speeding into a high bank of snow and stopping when it hit a signpost. This happened so fast that there was no time for fear, only a deep sense afterward of how close we came to having our lives changed forever.
This morning Joni Eareckson Tada came to mind. At 17, she had a diving accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down. After living 43 years in a wheelchair, she learned in 2010 that she had breast cancer. Her response was an assurance, “I am genuinely content to receive from God whatever He deems fit for me even if it is from His left hand — because better something from His left hand than no hand at all, right?"
Today’s devotional takes me to a passage that Tada probably has memorized…
But now thus says the Lord, he who created you… “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1–3)
The devotional writer says something similar to Tada: “God’s presence in the trial is much better than exemption from the trial. The sympathy of His heart with us is sweeter far than the power of His hand for us.”
We met Joni once. She attended a church that we also attended and we happened to be in the parking lot at the same time. She has an amazing attitude, a result of her deep faith in God. Someone who knows her well said that when he sees her expressing optimism and total trust in God even in suffering, she's not putting up a front.
"What you hear from Joni is truly Joni. This is a woman of great faith who has spent (much of her life) in a wheelchair. This is not a woman who is going to pretend about things. You are seeing a woman who is truly communicating her very deep and personal thoughts and feelings and trust and faith in God, not to perform or not to display anything for people but it's because it's who she is."
He went on to say that God has molded her in her years of suffering as she surrendered to His will and call on her life. She views trials and suffering with a biblical worldview, understanding that God is involved with the suffering that we encounter. His intention is to work it out for the good of ourselves and for the good of those around us (Romans 8:28). (Note, at this time, she is cancer-free.)
God’s "good" is not always total health or freedom from pain. Romans 8:29 says His goal is to make His people more like Jesus. While we don’t completely understand the process, reading about the life of Christ shows me what He is like. Jesus always has an attitude of surrender based on total trust in the character and goodness of His Father. He should know more about His nature because He was in the beginning with God and also is God (John 1:1–2).
Being a redeemed person means that no matter what happens, He walks with me, either to rescue me from danger or walk with me when I experience it. Isaiah’s quote promises protection from harm, but I know that even if harm happens, God is in charge. He does not make mistakes and nothing is an accident.