Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Review: Joni

Joni: An Unforgettable Story. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1976. 205 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The hot July sun was setting low in the west and gave the waters of Chesapeake Bay a warm red glow. The water was murky, and as my body broke the surface in a dive, its cold cleanness doused my skin. In a jumble of actions and feelings, many things happened simultaneously. I felt my head strike something hard and unyielding. At the same time, clumsily and crazily, my body sprawled out of control. I heard or felt a loud electric buzzing, an unexplainable inner sensation. It was something like an electrical shock, combined with a vibration—like a heavy metal spring being suddenly and sharply uncoiled, its “sprong” perhaps muffled by the water. Yet it wasn’t really a sound or even a feeling—just a sensation. I felt no pain. I heard the underwater sound of crunching, grinding sand. I was lying face down on the bottom. Where? How did I get here? Why are my arms tied to my chest? My thoughts screamed. Hey! I’m caught! I felt a small tidal undercurrent lift me slightly and let me settle once more on the bottom. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw light above me. Some of the confusion left. I remembered diving into the bay. Then what? Am I caught in a fishnet or something? I need to get out! I tried to kick. My feet must be tied or caught too! Panic seized me. With all my willpower and strength, I tried to break free. Nothing happened.

Premise/plot: In 1967, Joni Eareckson had a diving accident that left her paralyzed from the shoulders down. Her body may have been broken, but, her faith was not. But it was to be severely tempted, tested, and tried. This autobiography is honest and bold. It is an emotional roller coaster of a book. It is a spiritual autobiography just as much as it is a physical one. Readers learn not just about Joni, but, about God. There is also an opportunity to learn about yourself as well. Fear, depression, disappointment, anger. We've all dealt with these difficult emotions. So in some ways
we can all relate to Joni. Her story is authentic and inspiring. But above all else it makes you think.

My thoughts: I have been wanting to read this one for years. I am so glad I finally did. I have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED reading the Beyond Suffering Bible which is edited by Tada, which features devotions from her. This book is a must read, in my opinion.

Favorite quotes:
It seemed the further I opened my mind to these philosophies that denied God, the further I went away from Him. Finally, I became convinced there was little to be learned or understood from these confusing writings. My search had led me back to the Bible. I began to sense that God was real and that He was dealing with me. “My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways,” He reminded me from His Word. I needed to understand this—that I could not comprehend my own purpose or meaning without taking God’s deity into consideration. “What do you mean?” asked Diana when we were discussing this subject one day. “Well, I’ve been trying to have the world make sense by having things to relate to me. I want to see my life have meaning and purpose. But the Bible says our purpose is to glorify God. My life has meaning when I glorify God,” I explained. “Yes, I understand,” said Diana. “But how do you get that concept to work?” “I’m not sure. But I know until now I’ve been looking for a way to make the world revolve around me. Now I’m convinced that I need to plug in some other way.”
I told Diana of my thoughts. “Nothing is really making any sense yet, Diana. I don’t know what God is doing—but I believe He is real and that somehow He knows—and understands. There’s a positive aspect to my thoughts now. I’m still confused, but before, my confusion leaned toward doubt. Now it leans toward trust.” “Maybe it has something to do with your prayer before the accident,” Diana suggested. “What prayer?” “Remember? You told me that shortly before your accident, you prayed, ‘Lord, do something in my life to change me and turn me around.’ Maybe this is God’s way of answering that prayer.” “I’ve wondered about that myself. It could be. But it’s sure not what I expected. And He certainly has His own timetable!” I said, adding, “I don’t know His purpose in this. I probably won’t ever walk again. And I don’t see how I can ever be happy again. I guess that’s what really bothers me.” “Not being happy?” “Yeah. I mean, if there’s one thing I learned from those existentialist writers, it’s ‘man cannot live with despair.’ Do you think I can ever be happy, Diana?” “I don’t know, Joni—I don’t know.” My studies in the Scriptures began in earnest now, along with other Christian literature. Writings by Francis Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis seemed like a breath of fresh air compared with Marx, Hesse, and the non-Christian books I’d read. I began to sense a direct application of and appreciation for the Word of God in my life. For the first time, I saw meaning for me in the Bible. My own “fiery trials” were now a little easier to cope with as I saw how I fit in with God’s scheme of things, especially through reading the Psalms. “The Lord will sustain him (me) upon his (my) sickbed” (Ps. 41:3 NAS).
Before my accident, I didn’t “need” Christ. Now I needed Him desperately. When I had been on my feet, it never seemed important that He be part of my decision-making—what party to go to, whether to go to a friend’s house or a football game, etc. It didn’t seem that He would even be interested in such insignificant things. But, now that my life was reduced to the basic life routines, He was a part of it because He cared for me. He was, in fact, my only dependable reality. These new and reassuring concepts had a quieting effect on my spirit, and I think they were even helpful as I shared them with Jay during her personal troubles.
True spirituality is putting God’s Word into practice—making His truth valid by actually doing what He says and not just pointing to it as a nice standard.
What was God’s will for my life? To find out, I had to believe that all that had happened to me was an important part of that plan. I read, “In everything, give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.” God’s will was for me to be thankful in everything? Okay. I blindly trusted that this was truth. I thanked God for what He did and what He was going to do. As I concentrated on His positive instruction from the Bible, it was no longer necessary to retreat from reality.
It is important to remember that the promise “God causes all things to work together for good” only applies to those who love God, those who have been born into His family. However, due to our sin and rebellion we are alienated from God and subject to His judgment. Praise God, though, that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be judged on the cross—paying the death penalty for my sin and your sin! If we truly trust that our punishment was borne by Christ and obey Him as our Lord, we can be assured of eternal life and the promise of Romans 8:28. It is my hope that in the course of reading this book, the Holy Spirit has enlightened your heart and mind to these truths. Jesus is alive and His power is available to you…He proves Himself daily in my life, and what more couldn’t He do in your life! Are you a part of God’s heavenly family? For indeed, I hope one day we shall meet in glory.
We aren’t always responsible for the circumstances in which we find ourselves. However, we are responsible for the way we respond to them. We can give up in depression and suicidal despair. Or, we can look to a sovereign God who has everything under control, who can use the experiences for our ultimate good by transforming us to the image of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18).
“We always lose when we evaluate ourselves according to someone else’s ideas or standards. And there are as many standards as there are people. A jock measures you by your athletic ability; a student by your brains; a steady by your looks. It’s a losing battle,” he said, striking a sour piano chord for added emphasis. “We have to forget about what people say or think, and recognize that God’s values are the only important ones.”
I believed that if God took something away from me, He would always replace it with something better. My experience had taught me this as I relied on the sovereignty of God. “Delight thyself in God,” the psalmist said, “trust in His way.” As I did so, it became easier to express true gratitude for what He brought into my life—good as well as suffering.
Only God is capable of telling us what our rights and needs are. You have to surrender that right to Him. 
The only thing we can take to heaven with us is our character. Our character is all we have to determine what kind of a being we will be for all eternity. It’s what we are that will be tested by fire. Only the qualities of Christ in our character will remain.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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