In last Sunday’s sermon from Psalm 139, we learned that God shapes each of us into the person He wants us to be (vv.13 & 15) in order to carry out the purpose He has planned for our lives (v.16). Most Christians do not question such teaching when life is going well. But when life is hard, questions often arise about God’s goodness or fairness. John Blanchard addresses such questions in his booklet, Where Is God When Things Go Wrong? One of the most helpful answers to that question is a quote from Joni Erickson Tada. In 1967, at age 17, Joni became a quadriplegic as a result of a diving accident. She has spent the past 50 years in active Christian ministry, speaking all over the world and writing many books and articles – from a wheelchair and without the use of her hands. I think she is well-qualified to respond to questions about why God allows suffering and hardship in people’s lives:
“My accident was not a punishment for my wrongdoing – whether or not I deserved it. Only God knows why I was paralyzed. . . . If I were still on my feet, it’s hard to say how things might have gone. I probably would have drifted through life . . . dissatisfied and disillusioned. . . . I’m really thankful he did something to get my attention and change me.
“Today, as I look back, I am convinced that the whole ordeal of my paralysis was inspired by God’s love. I wasn’t the brunt of some cruel divine joke. God had reasons behind my suffering, and learning some of them has made all the difference in the world.
“When we learn to lean back on God’s sovereignty, fixing and setting our thoughts on that unshakable, unmovable reality, we can experience great inner peace. Our troubles may not change. Our pain may not diminish. Our loss may not be restored. Our problems may not fade with the new dawn. But the power of those things to harm us is broken as we rest in the fact that God is in control.”