A Painful Flight

  • Dec. 27, 2016
  • #9042

Deep pain has a way of focusing our attention on ourselves. But if we look to Christ’s suffering on the cross; we have the power to stay near Jesus.

A Painful Flight

Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada and welcome to "Joni and Friends."

We’ve all experienced horrendous airplane trips; flights that you would really rather forget, right? Well, for me the most dreadful one I ever experienced is a flight that I don’t want to forget. It was years ago and my husband Ken and I were flying with our friend Careen back from Bangkok, Thailand to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, over 18 grueling hours over the Indian Ocean. I sat in my airline seat in desperate pain, unable to get up, twist or move. Over the long flight Ken and Careen tried everything to get me comfortable: they must have gotten up 20 times out of their seats to reposition me in mine, stuff pillows, and loosen my corset, but nothing helped. Unable to get up and walk around, I sat there in such pain, feeling so anxious about facing more hours of it.

When you have a disability, there comes a time when nothing anyone does seems to help. And after a while I could not ask Ken and Careen to get up and help me one more time; it was late, it was dark, they were tired and they needed their sleep, too. And so, I turned my head toward the window, fought back tears, and prayed that Jesus would be my comfort; that He would be my pillow; that He would be my corset. Basically, I repositioned myself in Him. In the middle of that hellish flight, I reached out to Him as my only hope. And within a short time, a strange deep peace washed over me all because Jesus became the heaven in my hell.

That flight was an epiphany. Although years earlier when I was learning to accept my quadriplegia, I had experienced something similar, this was not a repeat. In the early days of my injury, I had always been comforted by Hebrews chapter 4, verse 15 where it says that, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.” Back many years ago, it helped to know that I had a Savior who was wounded with my miseries so that he could be my merciful High Priest. He identified with me. He was looking out for me. He was with me.

But now, seeing Jesus precious in what was for me, hell, was a divine invitation to identify with Him. Not so much Him with me; but me with Him; to see Him suffering on the cross. To grieve over the sins that caused Him such pain. Seeing Jesus like that, it was like nothing I had experienced thus far in my walk with Christ. On that flight I felt such a strong sense of His nearness and the presence of God, as though He were sitting in the airline seat next to me. He was taking my hands and laying them upon His breast, letting me feel how His heart beat, how His heart broke over the sin that caused the world’s suffering! And you know what? After about an hour or so I fell asleep. I couldn’t believe it, I actually went to sleep.

You know as well as I do that pain, I mean deep pain, whether it be emotional or physical, has a tendency to focus your attention solely on yourself: your agony; your anguish; your disappointment. Well, Thomas Merton once wrote, “In order to suffer without dwelling on our own affliction, we must think about a greater affliction, and turn to Christ on the cross. This is not a matter of ascetic technique but of simple faith.” So friend, may I encourage you to do that today? In simple faith look to Christ on His cross. Second Corinthians chapter 13, verse 4 is your guide where it says, “We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but [but] we have God's power.” The power to stay near the cross to stay near Jesus.

© Joni and Friends

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