I Know Hospitals

  • Sept. 16, 2015
  • #8708

The way to resist despair during extended seasons of suffering is to turn to God’s word for comfort, courage, and hope

I Know Hospitals

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and I know hospitals.

I wish I didn’t, but over the years I’ve become all too acquainted with their stale corridors and freezing-cold operating rooms. It began of course back in 1967 when a reckless dive into shallow water snapped my neck, leaving me a quadriplegic. When I was rushed to the hospital that hot, July afternoon, little did I realize I wouldn’t be released until April 1969. That was almost two years, all that time in one hospital, one state institution, and one rehab center.  That’s a long time.  

Early on during my stay in that first hospital, I remember one morning lying on a gurney in the hallway outside of the urology clinic. After two hours of waiting and counting ceiling tiles, a lab worker finally came through the doors to explain I’d be ‘first’ to be seen after lunch break. I moaned, I couldn’t believe it; my back was already hurting from lying flat on that gurney for so long. As the urology team headed to the hospital cafeteria, I watched them and my heart sank. No, rather, I panicked, I felt overwhelmed by fear and quadriplegia. I knew I’d have to lay there at least another hour until they got back.  

I could have cried, but there was no one around to wipe my tears. And so, I decided to comfort my soul by softly singing a hymn: “Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side; bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change He faithful will remain! Be still my soul, thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end!”

I was only 17 or maybe 18 years old, but that moment defined the way I would, from then on out, engage life in a hospital. My hospital stay would not be a jail sentence. Come heaven or hell, I purposed that hospitals would be, well… they’d be a gymnasium for my soul, a proving ground for my faith, and a missionary field in which I would see God do amazing things. Does that sound improbable for a teenager? It is, and looking back, it was. But I knew enough about following Jesus that I simply had to hold onto biblical hope, or else I would go crazy. Yes, I was still depressed, still struggling on how to actually live without use of my hands or legs – even after I was released from the hospital in 1969 – but I would not allow myself to sink into despair.

One of the ways I kept despair at bay was to ask Christian friends who came to visit me, I asked them to read to me from the Bible. Even after I got out of the hospital in 1969, I was still into the Bible, listing and memorizing comforting scriptures about God’s sovereignty. And although it has been decades since those early days when I was first injured, I still hang onto those precious insights, those wonderful Bible promises about God’s hand in my hardship. In fact, I wrote these insights and Bible promises down and I put them into a pamphlet that I would love to send to you, especially if you are struggling with a long rehab or hospital stay. Please, let me send it to you as a gift, just go to my radio page at joniandfriends.org and ask for God’s Hand in Hardship. And remember, if you are in a long rehabilitation, perhaps recuperating from surgery, you will get through it. Even if you have to be bedridden, this time of hardship and healing is not a jail sentence for you. God is moving, God is working, and his loving hand is right there in the middle of your hardship, upholding and sustaining you moment by moment.

Photo: Melanoma International Foundation

© Joni and Friends

 

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