"Pain is a strange, dark companion, but a companion- if only because it has passed through God's inspecting hand.
It's an unwelcome guest, but still a guest. I know that it drives me to a nearer, more intimate place of fellowship with Jesus,
and so I take pain as though I were taking the left hand of God...."
~Joni Tada, chapter one in A Place of Healing.
In this book, written in 2010, Joni Tada shares how her life and ministry took a new turn.
After forty years in a wheelchair, Joni lived each day by clinging to Jesus, sharing His joy and courage and gentleness through her singing, speaking, writing and artwork.
Despite the very real hardships of quadriplegia, Joni will say that life was good.
And then pain arrived.
Chronic, agonizing pain.
And as far as they could tell, there was no clear cause and no easy solution.
Joni says that it was a time of wrestling and praying that resembled the dark days after her injury, that had never been repeated in the last forty years.
Pain came over her, and it brought urgency to all of her longings, all of her thoughts of healing and relief.
And Joni chose to write from the battlefield, "while the shells were falling," describing her struggle and outlining her hopes.
Reading something by Joni is like eating a nourishing meal, and that's because she always serves the Bread of Life as the main course.
The rich theology of the hymns, fine thoughts gathered from across the ages, prayers and poems- she includes them all.
And this book is much needed.
When somebody we love is in pain, we want to know what God is doing.
There seem to be two attitudes about healing.
One says, in resignation, "Healing doesn't happen today. It would be nice, but God doesn't do that anymore. Don't even expect it."
This attitude, Joni explains, reduces all the New Testament miracles to mere audiovisual aids that confirmed the power of Jesus at the time.
And that's a dim view of miracles. They were signs, yes, signs born out of Christ's compassion, and because His character is changeless, He cared then and cares today.
The other attitude says that healing is a right and privilege for every child of God, and your lack of faith is all that keeps you from it.
The logical conclusion in this camp, when an earthly healing is withheld, is that you stood in your own way.
And believing that will crush the faith that you had.
Joni cuts through these less-than-redemptive views of suffering and healing, and helps us look up at God.
He is, she reminds us, the One who is moved by our tears, who sees our afflictions.
He is the One who can heal, and yet the One who may let the thorn remain for His purposes.
The following chapters are head-clearing and soul-strengthening.
"How can I go on like this?"
Joni distills her wisdom down into four personal answers.
I Can Go On Because....
1. God moves through time with me. He is eternal, yet He knows what time means to us as it grinds along.
2. God can use broken instruments to make incomparable music. The music we make in the midst of our difficulties is music no one else can make.
3. Jesus is my Consolation. Joni quotes Spurgeon- "Jesus cheers us." She expounds on the beautiful ministry of the Holy Spirit: cheering and comforting.
4. Because Right Now Counts Forever. Each moment you live, you participate in the work of God.
"How Do I Regain my Perspective?"
Here Joni speaks about fighting the vortex of fear that blooms around pain and disease, pointing us instead to faith, hope, and love.
She gives some practical advice that encouraged her, shared by a friend battling cancer: For every sentence you speak about your trial, speak ten about God's grace.
Joni also points to the spirit-refreshing benefits of singing- "making melody in your heart to the Lord."
"How can I bring Him Glory?"
1. Breathe in His Presence.
2. Don't despise the discipline of the Lord.
3. Stay supercharged.
4. Keep a humble heart.
5. Maintain childlike wonder.
6. Serve wholeheartedly.
7. Pour out your all.
8. Don't hold back on life.
Our God touched lepers, took the hands of blind men and lead them to sight, opened the ears of the deaf with a whisper to heaven, and lifted the lame up onto suddenly strong legs.
That God still lives.
We know Him, we worship Him, He cradles us, He carries us.
This book was written through the smoke and fire of chronic pain, and so it will be a particular comfort to fellow travelers on the road of suffering.
Because Joni steeps her soul in Scripture and song and stories of God's goodness, this is an excellent read for everyone, to help you meditate on Christ's mercy and majesty.
I thank David C Cook for providing me with a copy of this book, for review.