“For me—it’s personal.”
That’s how Joni Eareckson Tada’s message began last night. If you’re familiar with her testimony, you know that as a teenager, she took a reckless dive, which changed her forever. When doctors told her she would always be paralyzed, she no longer saw the point in living.
Because I couldn’t hold razors or push pills down my throat, I knew I couldn’t end my life physically, so I was tempted to end my life emotionally, mentally, spiritually. I wanted to just lie in bed, tell my mother to turn off the lights and shut the door.
Finally, in the dark behind that closed door, I cried out, “God, if I can’t die, then show me how to live!”
And He did.
Heaven Rules in Our Deep Pain
For Joni, Heaven rules isn't a book title. Heaven rules isn't a trite phrase or a marketing strategy. For Joni, Heaven rules represents the truth of God's goodness and sovereignty as it has met her time and time again: in the hopelessness of a dark bedroom, over decades of quadriplegia, and in countless days of chronic pain.
For Joni, Heaven rules is personal, and the stakes are high. Joni knows firsthand what it's like for pain to consume her, just as the flames threatened to consume Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in that fiery furnace in the book of Daniel. That's why the room quieted when she came on screen at True Woman ’22, and that's why we lean closer whenever she shares how we can trust God's promises in the deepest pain—because it's personal for us too.
You may be reading these words from a season that makes you also want to close your bedroom door and say to your pain, "I just can't do this. I'm so tired of this. I can't live like this." But Joni shows us another way to respond:
I’ve trained myself never to talk that way, and you should do the same. It’s the way the devil would want you to talk. Such words are filled with worry and fear and anxiety, and fear only makes things worse. Instead, I calmly bring before God’s throne a Bible promise.
It could be 2 Corinthians 4:8: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed” (NIV). That is a powerful promise, because pain can press you hard on all sides, tempting you to think that you’re about to be crushed, like the apostle Paul said about his troubles. In 2 Corinthians he said he was under great pressure, far beyond his ability to endure.
I’m sure you’ve felt that way, but . . . Jesus died so that pain might never damage my soul, and that’s why I can bring that nasty pain before the throne, asking Jesus to meet me in it, to not let it crush me.
The Son of God never fails to meet me, just as He met Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in that hot furnace of fire. What does Jesus say to me in that agonizing place? He says, “Joni . . . When you walk through the fire, you’re not going to be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze; for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Sweetheart, I made you, and I will carry you. I will sustain you, and I will rescue you.”
Those are His exact words from Isaiah 43 and 46. Those are the words of the one who took the bullet for my sins, so why wouldn’t I trust Him in my worst pain? There’s nothing more heavenly than finding Jesus Christ in the middle of my hell. I might not get delivered from my pain, but in it I always find my Deliverer. I might not get healed, but I always find sweet fellowship with my Healer. My pain may not go away, but I have His courage, and I come out of that fiery furnace better for the experience, for I am the happy recipient of His glorious exchange.
Doesn't Joni's life remind you of Hebrews 13:7? That passage commands us: "Remember your leaders who have spoken God’s word to you. As you carefully observe the outcome of their lives, imitate their faith" (NIV).
Joni and others like her don't just know intellectually how hard life can be, they are living proof that "afflictions can provide a glorious pathway to genuine joy, deep contentment, and a sweeter, more intimate friendship with the Savior than you ever dreamed possible."
Heaven Rules Over the Future
Colleen Chao is another precious example of this truth. You may have seen her testimony video last year at Revive 21. As she lives with terminal cancer, she continues to point us to hope that can only be found in Christ.
Last night, the Lord in His kindness made a way for her to return to the Indianapolis Convention Center. For a few minutes, she took the stage and shared how God continues to sustain her in the midst of Stage 4 cancer. For Colleen, Heaven rules is personal.
“Heaven rules” means that this suffering matters, it infinitely matters, because this is where I find more of Jesus. This is where I go to greater depths of His love, and that gives me something to pour out to others. It also means that this suffering doesn’t have the final word. God does. He gets the final word in this. And He is transforming every pain, every grief, every loss, long night, sleepless night—He’s transforming that into beauty.
He is infinitely better than a long life.
He is infinitely better than a beautiful, healthy body.
He is infinitely better than being alive to watch my son, my joy, grow up.
He is infinitely better than getting to live a long life and grow old with my husband.
These are things that are so precious to us here, but He’s so much better—and I’m living in the reality of that.
Are you living in this reality? What's true for Joni and Colleen can be true for you as well. Today, may you experience the unshakable hope of God's sovereignty and goodness—right in this season of your pain. May this be the place where you discover He is infinitely better, and that Heaven rules.