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A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty
by Joni Eareckson Tada
Published by David C. Cook (2010)
I must confess to a certain curiosity when I first heard about her - a person in a wheelchair who painted beautiful pictures with a paintbrush in her mouth. She was interesting because of her disability and inspiring because of her faith. The young woman known to millions simply as Joni burst on the scene in 1976 with a best seller chronicling the story of her diving accident and resulting spinal cord injury. Her book was followed in 1979 with the movie Joni.
Joni played herself in the movie, and I remember being struck by her courage in re-living the agony for film audiences. I also remember walking out the of the theater with a profound sense of relief that I had never experienced such a terrible tragedy.
Eighteen years later, I would encounter Joni's name once again. This time, it would be in a desperate search for more information on spinal cord injury.
This time, it was my own son living the story.
Since Kevin became quadriplegic in 1997, Joni's ministry, Joni & Friends, has been a source of encouragement for me in our own long fight for faith and meaning to carry us through the daily battles. Though she has often addressed the subject of suffering, this book's title immediately caught my attention - particularly the subtitle: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty. Since I do a lot of wrestling with the mysteries, I just had to read it.
A Place of Healing was written by Joni in the midst of acute pain. The degenerative process associated with spinal cord injury has presented her with a new and unexpected challenge long after she made peace with her paralysis and lived many fruitful years in a wheelchair.
In this book Joni reports on her current physical status. She relates how the constant assault on her faith has brought her to a new place of despair and ignited a fresh search for answers. She brings the reader along as she asks such questions as "What benefit is there to my pain?" and "How do I regain my perspective?".
Most of Joni's books over the year radiate with the theme of victory over trial. In fact, Joni is much beloved for her testimony to the keeping power and grace of the Lord. But this time, Joni has chosen to chronicle her struggle before the experience has been emotionally and spiritually processed for perspective.
It's that very edge that gives this book power. As someone who has watched a dearly loved son suffer for fifteen years from the effects of a devastating spinal cord injury, I hunger for an honest search for God by someone else whose soul is still raw. I need to hear from another who's been there. She did not disappoint.
We all struggle with pain and loss on some level in our lives. We all ask the question "why?" when the unthinkable happens. Joni takes us on a refreshing and reverent trip through the possibilities, as discovered by a weary traveler who has walked far down that road.
The book is satisfying. There are no pat answers. Neither condescension nor condemnation is offered to those trying to make sense out of senseless tragedy. Instead, she shares the insights revealed to her as she seeks out her Deliverer through the hard places in her own life. Chapter Five (How Can I Go on Like This?) brought me to a place of revelation that was profound and answered a question that had hounded me since Kevin's accident in 1997. For me, the book was worth reading for this chapter alone.
Though Joni writes about her own struggle with pain, the journey is a relevant one for anyone suffering hardship or loss. The truth discovered and shared is universal. You may even find your own place of healing.