by Joni Eareckson Tada, from the Beyond Suffering Bible
When life takes one negative turn after another, we feel helpless. When loved ones suffer, we are often tempted to ask: Where is God? Why is he letting this happen? In these times, I draw a lot of inspiration from the story of Joseph. Although he was never paralyzed, a lot of things happened to him that could be construed as accidents. He was tossed into a pit by his envious brothers and almost left to die; later he was put in prison in a foreign land—Joseph could have become bitter. But years later, he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He [God] brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (50:20, emphasis added).
I like that word intended. God is full of intention—he has a purpose, a target, a goal, and a plan. God was a giant step ahead of Joseph’s brothers, aborting their evil intentions to suit his own purposes. Joseph’s problems did not catch God off guard. From the beginning, God planned for Joseph to experience those things. Why? Not only for his own growth in godly character, but for the salvation of others.
God is not a sweep-up boy who follows you with a dustpan and brush, second-guessing how everything will fit into a divine pattern for good. He does not put on a hazmat suit so that an evil situation doesn’t contaminate his holy reputation.
Think of the disappointing or bad things that have happened to you. God’s hands stay on the wheel of your life from start to finish so that everything follows his plan. This means your trials have more meaning—much more than you realize. Your problems have more purpose than you can imagine. Not because God merely uses bad things, but because God intends them so that others might be introduced to Jesus through your example.
Joni is one of the world’s leading international advocates for people affected by disability. A diving accident in 1967 left her, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. She founded Joni and Friends in 1979, which quickly grew to provide Christ-centered programs to special needs families, churches, and communities. Joni survived stage III breast cancer in 2010, and still keeps a very active ministry schedule. Learn more about her ministry at Joni & Friends.