By Courtney Crandell and Chelsea Rankin.
Patrick Henry College
Tada speaking at the October Newsmakers Interview Series
Joni Eareckson Tada dyed her hair bright blonde the night before she fractured her neck in a diving accident. If her hair hadn’t been blonde, Tada’s sister wouldn’t have seen her face down in the dark water, unable to move or breathe.
“These are the very choices God can use to control our destiny,” Tada said in an interview with Marvin Olasky on Thursday.
Over three hundred people crowded into the Barbara Hodel Center lobby and coffee shop for Thursday's Newsmakers Interview with Marvin Olasky, to hear Tada tell the inspiring story of God’s faithfulness in her life.
Tada, now a quadriplegic, suffered from severe depression and suicidal thoughts after her accident. She used to thrash her head back and forth in the hospital bed, hoping she would break her neck in a higher position and die.
“A person can only live with that kind of depression and despair for so long. But thankfully people were praying,” she said. God used prayers and the Bible to turn Tada from her depression.
One day in the hospital, she uttered what she believes is the most powerful thing she has ever prayed: “Oh, God, if I can’t die, then show me how to live.”
Almost immediately, her hope began to brighten.
Since the day of her accident 45 years ago, Tada has written over 40 books, founded the ministry Joni and Friends, and advocated for the disabled.
“Looking back now, 45 years later, I believe that what happened to me was an example of Hebrews 12 discipline,” Tada said. “God disciplines those He loves. Had I not broken my neck, I’d probably be on my second divorce, maxing out my husband’s credit card at Macy’s, and planning my next ski vacation. I would not be here to help a person smile, not in spite of the problems, but because of them.”
Even now, Tada must choose contentment. “I make myself be happy,” she said. “I make myself sing, because I have to. The alternative is too frightening.”
Tada wakes every day hating her quadriplegia, but she still chooses to walk by God’s strength. She knows the human inclination is not to go to the cross every morning, but her quadriplegia forces her to ask for daily strength from her Savior. “It’s a constant choice informed by the Holy Spirit and God’s word,” she said. “Admit that you can’t do…this thing called life, then cast yourself at the mercy of God.”
Tada said she now understands what the Apostle Paul meant when he said: “boast in your afflictions.”
“God permits things that He hates in order to accomplish something that He loves,” Tada said. Even though life may seem out of control, God controls all suffering by His sovereignty. “The Bible calls suffering a mystery for a reason,” she said. “We can’t see the big picture.”
Tada uses her own testimony to share the Gospel. She can’t pass by a hotel maid, waiter, or flight attendant knowing that their earthly sufferings are merely a precursor of something worse in eternity.
“How dare we not share this Good News with people who are facing their personal Holocaust!” she said “We must be concerned. We’ve got a life-changing message that can take people out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s son. We dare not keep it to ourselves. Evangelism should be at the front and center of everything we do.”