At the age of 17, Joni was a bright and active teenager. Then came the diving accident that left her a quadriplegic — yet in her loss and over the years, Joni has remained bright and active: the author of forty-seven books, the founder of Joni and Friends that is “dedicated to extending the love and message of Christ to people who are affected by disability whether it is the disabled person, a family member, or friend.”
In Beside Bethesda, Joni Eareckson Tada offers 31 days of reflection from her own life experience and encounter with Jesus. Subtitled “toward deeper healing,” this book describes both Joni’s struggles and her genuine faith, with practical, hope-filled wisdom for everyday living.
Day 28 on “Not Why but How” is my favourite, starting on page 153:
I learned to stop asking God why a long time ago. But I frequently ask Him how. How can I go forward? How can I endure this? How can I stay positive and productive as I battle chronic pain?
. . . .
My friend Dr. Michael Easley, who suffers constant pain from degenerative disk disease, will often say, “Just do the next thing.” It’s what I tell myself when pain intrudes, elbowing and clawing its way into my day. I will say, “Joni, just do the next thing.” It’s overwhelming at times and I tire of the journey, but God remains faithful and kind to us in the midst of our suffering.
. . . .
So, friend, if you are dealing with pain today, or depression or grief or paralyzing anxiety, I encourage you to “just do the next thing.” It may mean simply getting out of bed or up off the couch. Or getting out of the house. Or doing the laundry or washing those dishes that have been sitting in the sink. And as you do it, ask Him to give you joy in some small but noticeable way.
Press on as best you can, and lean into His embrace. And take heart. One of these days you will hear those wonderful words from your Savior, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” all because you got up and did the next thing.
I’m encouraged by Joni’s words, but I wonder about their effect on someone actually dealing with “paralyzing anxiety.” Would her approach work? Or would this seem like one more impossible burden? What about those who do not receive joy even in “some small but noticeable way”?
This last Sunday, I preached on “The Holy and the Broken Hallelujah.” Sometimes we might say a holy Hallelujah – which literally means Praise the Lord! – as we celebrate all that God has done. But sometimes that Hallelujah catches in our throat. There’s injustice and terrible suffering in the world, and personal struggles in our own lives that may yield only a broken hallelujah. Sometimes we may just need to sit on the couch for a while. Sometimes we need to be gentle with ourselves even as we lean into God’s embrace and take heart, as Joni says.
What do you think? Is “how” a better question than “why”? When is it appropriate to make yourself “just do the next thing,” and when is it ok to cut yourself some slack?
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Beside Bethesda: 31 days toward deeper healing from Tyndale House Publishers. As in all my reviews, the opinions here are my own.
Over the next few days and into the new year, I’ll be updating my website with a new look and tag line. My site’s main title and address will remain the same, so you’ll still find me at aprilyamasaki.com, but the layout and colour scheme will be changing. If you subscribe by email, your next email from me will also look different. I hope you’ll stick with me during this time of transition, and as always, I welcome your feedback.