Ankerberg: Joni, let’s continue this story.
As you came to grips with what you were facing, you also had to think about God and why He
had let these things happen. And there were questions that you’ve written about. First
of all, does God even exist? And if He does, you know, if “all things work together for
good,” how in the world does this paralysis work for my good? And you said you didn’t
know. Take me through your thinking, because a lot of folks in our audience right now are
saying “You know, I’ve got this,” whatever they’ve got, and they’re saying, “I
wasn’t expecting this one,” and you know, “so, I feel like God’s let me down. I’m
disappointed with God.” Did you feel that way?
Tada: Well, I described for you in the other segment how I was on a Stryker frame, you
know, three hours lying face up; strap on another piece of canvas, flip me over; three
hours face down. And during that face down time I, with a mouth stick, was able to flip
pages of the Bible. And went from Job and started perusing the New Testament. But I
tell you what, it seemed to,… I mean, I’d read these verses like in James 1:2, “Welcome
this, as a friend, consider it pure joy when you encounter trials of all kinds.” Yikes!
You flip someplace else, Romans 5:3, “Rejoice in your suffering.” And then in Philippians,
oh my goodness! I’m to consider this as a gift: “It has been granted unto you to
suffer for His sake.” It’s like these Scriptures seem to blithely ignore the pain
that I was facing. It just ricocheted off my heart, all of this.
Shortly after those operations, when I began to heal—and eventually they took me out
of the Stryker frame and put me in a six-bed ward with five other girls, in an actual hospital
bed—I was fighting God one night; two a.m., when all my roommates were asleep. Wanting
so desperately to cry, but I dare not, because there was nobody around to wipe my nose or
dry my eyes. And it’s bad enough being paralyzed without being messy and paralyzed.
And I remember one night, I turned my head on the pillow, and there, standing in the
doorframe of this six-bed ward, was this silhouetted figure. I could see this person against the
lights of the nurse’s station. All the nurses were on break; nobody was in the hallways.
This figure gets down on its hands and knees and starts to crawl into our ward and past
my sleeping roommates toward my side of the room. And I’m looking, scared to death.
Who is this? And this individual comes close up by the side of my hospital bed, peers through
the guard rail, and, oh my goodness, it’s my high school girlfriend, Jackie. She’s
the girl with whom I shared boyfriends and milkshakes and hockey sticks. And she peers
through the guardrail, and I said, “Jackie, if they catch you here, they’re going to
kick you out. What are you doing here?” “Shhh” she said. And she gently stood
up, and with a clunk, clunk lowered the guard rail to my hospital bed. And then, as high
school girls will do at pajama sleepovers, she just kind of snuggled into bed next to
me, just lying right next to me, and grabbed my arm, my hand. I could not feel this, but
in the dark she held it up so I could see it silhouetted, my arm entwined with hers,
raised up. And then she turned on the pillow, and with
her lips just an inch from my ear, began whispering “Man of sorrows, what a name, for the Son
of God who came….” I can’t repeat it. It was 44 years ago, and the memory still
hits me in the gut and in the heart. “Ruined sinners to reclaim, hallelujah, what a Savior.”
And there was something about that, something that made Jesus very real. It was as if all
those times the bullets of God’s word that ricocheted off my heart suddenly hit home;
because she, in some way, embodied Christ’s love for me. And it was so profound that all
my questions, even though they didn’t get answered that night, they just didn’t seem
as urgent. They didn’t seem as insistent. And so, when she left that night, this unbelievable
peace that really passed all my human understanding seemed to safeguard my heart. And I think,
looking back, I think what happened that night is that I experienced what we all experience
when we ask why, or, God, how could You? Or, I don’t understand. We don’t want answers,
because I’m not so sure if God answered us it would satisfy us. For me, had God answered
me back then, it would have been like pouring million gallon truths into my one ounce pea
brain. I just don’t think I could have understood it all. I think, when we’re hurting, all
we want is assurance, just this fatherly, daddy-like assurance that, “There, there,
sweetheart,” pat you on the back, “Daddy’s here; it’s okay, honey. Everything’s okay.
Everything’s okay.” Ankerberg: How did you come to grips with
the question of what was the meaning and purpose of your life; because you thought, what am
I going to do? Tada: You know, after that night, in some
strange way, the meaning and purpose weren’t even as urgent or insistent. I think I experienced
what we all, when we are suffering, must eventually come to grips with, and that is just, it’s
okay. God is not some meditating mystic on some far off mountain top, twiddling His thumbs,
contemplating His navel. No, He’s up close. He’s real. He’s personal. He’s not at
arm’s length distance from your pain. For Christ’s sake He is in the middle of it
with you. And then, eventually, the purpose and the meaning, that’ll come.