Loving God. Loving our neighbor.

Hardships That Hang On

Joni Eareckson Tada

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me… But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'”

2 Corinthians 12:8-9

I will never forget the day they moved me from “acute care” to “chronic care” in the hospital. As they wheeled my stretcher under the sign, I got a lump in my throat. It meant “the doctors don’t know what else to do, and I won’t regain use of my body.” My condition was chronic.

Why do some hardships never go away? You pray and plead until your knees are sore; yet the pinched nerve doesn’t heal, the multiple sclerosis doesn’t halt, the Alzheimer’s doesn’t regress, the marriage doesn’t get better, the job promotion never comes, and the engagement ring never arrives. After decades in a wheelchair, this is my conclusion:

The core of God’s plan is to rescue us from sin and self-centeredness. Suffering — especially the chronic kind — is God’s choicest tool to accomplish this. It is a long process. But it means I can accept my paralysis as a chronic condition. When I broke my neck, it wasn’t a jigsaw puzzle I had to solve fast, or a quick jolt to get me back on track. My paralyzing accident was the beginning of a lengthy process of becoming like Christ.

May I share with you one of my “chronic” Bible verses that won’t go away? James 1:2-4 says: “When all kinds of trials crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed.” (Phillips). When that finally happens, the only thing that will be chronic is joy!

Lord, help me to embrace the chronic conditions in my life. I want endurance to be fully developed in my life. Help me to hang on.