Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Why Is Life So Hard?

Special prayer request for Joni: Last month Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer. She successfully underwent surgery on June 28. Pray for her recuperation from surgery and in the next months as she will be undergoing chemotherapy. You can read her complete updates on JoniAndFriends.org.

Leslie Basham: Here’s Joni Eareckson Tada.

Joni Eareckson Tada: Life is supposed to be hard. God intended that it be hard. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33, paraphrased), so don’t let it surprise you, this fiery ordeal that’s about to try your faith.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, July 7.

Those signed up for the True Woman Conference this September in Indianapolis are in for a real treat. One of the speakers has encouraged generations through her incredible example of longsuffering. You can join them. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com for details on the True Woman conferences in Indy and Ft. Worth this fall.

Nancy?

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re continuing today our conversation with my friend Joni Eareckson Tada, and as I mentioned earlier in the week, this has been a long-time dream and desire of mine, to be able to have a conversation together that our Revive Our Hearts' listeners could participate in. It’s fun just sitting across the table and hearing you share your heart.

I’ve always appreciated, Joni, how transparent and vulnerable you’re willing to be about your own journey, and that has let me know that it’s okay as a public person to be real and genuine.

Thank you just for opening your heart and your life to so many who share. It’s this kind of this thing of being broken bread and poured out wine, and you’ve been willing to do that. Thank you so much.

Joni: Well, thanks for having me back, Nancy. To be with you on Revive Our Hearts—that to me is a dream come true, as well.

Your tapes, your testimony, your books, and especially your writings on holiness have revived my heart on many an occasion when I needed a fresh touch, a fresh insight from God’s Word. So thanks for the ministry that you have not only to all our women friends who are listening, but to me, too! Thank you for that!

Nancy: Oh, thank you. That reminds me, I think one of the keys that I’ve seen in your life as to how you deal with limitations and disability and suffering is that you have developed a Christ-centered and an others-centered perspective.

I’m sitting here thinking about the notes you have jotted me on a few occasions over the years. You’ll never know how timely some of those words of encouragement have been when you take the time to say, “The Lord used you to minister to me. Thank you so much.”

You have demonstrated a grateful spirit and a heart for encouraging others, and don’t you think that one of the keys to living a life that doesn’t get immersed in self or doesn’t give in to self-pity is having a thankful heart, reaching out and touching others’ lives?

Joni: Oh my goodness, yes. I remember once being in an autograph party line thing, you know, in the bookstore. There were about 75 or 100 people, and I’m doing this with my mouth. I’m signing my name with the pen in my mouth, and there was this woman in line who said, “Honey, I have something to refresh you. May I please have your pen?”

And she reached out and took my pen and took Binaca and sprayed the end of it and put it back in my mouth. It was so cute. It was just what I needed—a little bit of a pick me up.

But in that same line, there was another woman who was near the end of the line. I was so tired. I was so weary. She slipped me a note and wedged it between my leg and the side of my wheelchair. She said, “Just read this when you get back to the hotel.”

And so that night, it was late, after I was almost ready to go to bed, I saw that little note down there on the side of my leg. “Oh, oh, open that! Let’s see what it says.” And my girlfriend opened it and read just one simple Bible verse.

It was from 2 Corinthians 9:12, and it said simply, “This service that you performed is overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (paraphrased). And I started crying because I was so tired, so weary, and that woman took time to write down that Word and encourage me.

What a gift encouragement is from woman to woman. Just writing that special note, making that call, remembering that friend in prayer, checking up on that neighbor who’s gone through a tough time. We’ll never know how the gospel seeds we sow, the little bit of light we shine, the refreshment of encouragement that we offer, lifts the spirit, right?

Nancy: And what it does for us as we give encouragement to others, it lifts us up out of our sometimes miry clay to reach out and think of someone other than ourselves at that point.

Joni: I have by my telephone a list of about 12 quadriplegic. Either men or women who have broken their necks in the last year or two and who are really struggling.

When I have a free minute in between projects, I'll dial them up on the phone. I'll give them a call. I'll let them know that, "I'm praying for you today, don't lose heart."

Nancy: And what it does for us, as God gives us the grace and we exercise faith to look out beyond ourselves, looking up and outward, I find that God often does minister encouragement to my own heart as I do pick up the phone or jot the note and think of someone else.

The body of Christ—that’s a great gift that the Lord has given to us as His children. You said that no one should have to suffer alone, and you’ve seen the body of Christ really come together and around you from the earliest days after your accident and over all these 40 years. You’ve experienced the blessing it is to have the body of Christ around you.

Joni: There were a small group of high school girlfriends of mine who, when I was first injured, got together with our church youth leader. Every Thursday morning before school, they would get together and pray for an hour for me over orange juice and donuts.

I know that I am still feeling the repercussions of those prayers. We forget that our intercessions are what God enjoys using through which to move His will forward in the life of another.

No matter how faint-hearted or feeble our prayers, if we would but bring each other before the throne of God, I think only heaven is going to reveal how God used our encouragements, our words of uplift, our intercessions to really strengthen people around us in a way we never dreamed God would use us. We never would have dreamed that it was possible He would use our faint little prayers or notes or well wishes—but He does!

Nancy: I can’t say what it does for me when I hear, as I often do, someone I’ve never met before, coming and saying, “I pray for you,” and some who say, “I pray for you every day.”

These are people I’ve never met, and I think, “Oh Lord, thank You. What is there in my life? How are You holding me up and sustaining me as a result of somebody else’s prayers? Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Your people.”

Joni: Exactly. And you said earlier, no one should suffer alone. No one, and I have been blessed so much. I am reminded of what God said to Abraham. He blessed Abraham that Abraham might in turn be a blessing to the nations.

If we have received any grace from God, any gift, any resource, any financial gain, any comfort, any luxury, if we have received anything, we are to pass that on to others, and that’s what I enjoy doing all the time. That’s why I think it’s important just to keep passing on the blessing.

Nancy: And God has used you in your ministry, Joni and Friends, to minister encouragement and grace to those with disabilities in some very practical ways. It reminds me that it’s not just our prayers, it’s not just our words, but as the body of Christ, we need to be attuned and sensitive to practical needs we can meet in serving those not only with physical disabilities, but who are in any point of need.

You’ve seen God use people in your life. We’re sitting here with your friend Rainey, who is serving you as others have over the years in very practical ways. Where would you be without those who have a heart to serve?

Joni: I’d still be in bed! Just on a personal note, I’ve got about seven, eight, or nine different Raineys, different girlfriends, who on any different morning will come to my home and get me ready for the day. And I tell you, what a ministry these girls have in my life.

But I know I have a ministry in their lives, as well. Every morning, before we all head out the door, after about an hour and half or two hour process to get me up, we take time to pray.

We take time to sit by the bay window seat in my bedroom and look out on the day and open up a hymnal and sing and bless and praise our Creator and lift each other up in prayer. I often tell my girlfriends that they will receive many, many jewels in their crowns for having served the least of the brethren.

Nancy: And the least of the brethren in the case of one of our listeners may be a mom who’s got four preschoolers and just needs a helping hand. That becomes, in a sense, her wheelchair. She’s feeling homebound and like she can’t get out.

It may be just giving some practical encouragement, some practical help, some meals, some babysitting time, lots of ways that we can be an encouragement to those in a place of need.

Joni: You know, that’s one of the reasons I still work at Joni and Friends. People say to me, “Well, you’re in a wheelchair, sure. But you’ve got a husband, and he’s nice, and you’ve got a good marriage. You’ve got a mission to accomplish, and you’re in good health. You live comfortably, Joni. You’re different.”

Well, maybe I do live comfortably. Maybe I do have a great husband. Sure, I do have a job, but the bonus is then all the more for me to pass on the blessing, which means at Joni and Friends, we reach out to families across the nation with disabilities.

We hold retreats for moms and dads of disabled children, husbands and wives who might have a disability in their midst. It is five days of Bible study, times of prayer, arts and crafts, wheelchair rock climbing, wheelchair zip lining. We do it all, and all to help people see that when you’re in the body of Christ, there is support, there is nourishment, there is help.

I often tell people who feel depressed and discouraged, “There is somebody else in your town, somebody else in your neighborhood who’s hurting worse off than you are. You need to find out who that person is and connect with them and pray for them. Send them notes. Call on them. Visit them.” It might be a nursing home. It might be a residential facility. There are all kinds of ways for the depression to lift when you look out for the needs of others.

Nancy: And let me say, by the way, to our listeners, if you’ll go to our website ReviveOurHearts.com, we have a link there to Joni and Friends, Joni’s ministry, and you can learn there how you can perhaps have a part in ministering in practical ways to those with disabilities.

So Joni, I hope you’ll have a lot more friends to be a part of Joni and Friends as a result of the broadcast this week.

Joni: Yes! Good!

Nancy: You mentioned somebody slipping you a note that had a Scripture verse on it that God used in a timely way to be a word in due season to minister encouragement to your heart. I know that the Word of God has been a huge means of grace and strength and growth and encouragement. It’s been a lifeline for you over these years, hasn’t it?

Joni: Oh my goodness, yes. In fact, before we started recording today, you read from 2 Corinthians chapter 4, and I love that portion of Scripture. The seventh verse, in fact, where it says:

Though we are handicapped on all sides, we are not crushed. Though we are perplexed, we’re not in despair. Though we are knocked down, we are not knocked out. For every day we’re supposed to experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:8–10, paraphrased).

In other words, life is supposed to be hard. God intended that it be hard. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33, paraphrased), so don’t let it surprise you, this fiery ordeal that’s about to try your faith.

If I didn’t have that perspective, I would be so blindsided by the media messages in this world that tell me to look beautiful and to try this new Oil of Olay product and to lose weight this way and to drive that car and to vacation down in the Caribbean here at this location.

I would be so confused by the messages that bombard my sensibilities, but the Word of God is like a gyroscope, and a gyroscope keeps things that moves steady, like a ship in tumultuous seas. A gyroscope keeps moving things steady.

We’re moving through this life, and our only gyroscope to keep the emotional balance is the Word of God, the gyroscope of God’s Word that keeps us on course.

Nancy: You and Ken have both been memorizing Scripture for years. I remember the last time I saw him he was quoting, I think maybe it was the Sermon on the Mount. I forget what it was he was memorizing at the time.

What have you been memorizing recently?

Joni: Well, he’s been memorizing Romans chapter 12, and my friend Rainey over there (my Wednesday get-up crew), she and I have been memorizing Psalm 63:

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary because thy [love] is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. (Psalm 63:1–3).

That’s a good verse to quote to the Lord. Again, for me, when I’m in bed, I’m looking for God’s language here that I can use to echo back to Him. Those psalms that I memorize (some with my Wednesday morning get-up girl crew, another bunch of girls and I are memorizing from another portion of Scripture), it’s a way of ministering to them—not just my heart being enriched, but to minister to them.

Nancy: And I know you love to sing hymns.

Joni: I do that.

Nancy: Why are hymns so precious to you?

Joni: Well, the old hymns are filled with great doctrine. Not that modern contemporary Scripture choruses aren’t. There are some great wonderful praise songs which are coming out of Great Britain right now which are rich and wealthy in doctrine.

Some of these beautiful old hymns:

And can it be that I should gain
  An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
  For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
  That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
  That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

There’s a verse in that particular hymn,

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
  Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—

Isn’t that great? It was from God—His Spirit quickened my heart.

  I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
  I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
(And Can It Be by Charles Wesley)

I can sing that even though I’m sitting in a wheelchair. “I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.” That’s a wonderful hymn to sing on the 101 freeway when the traffic is stalled.

Nancy: I’ve often said out of my own pilgrimage that when I am being pulled down into that muck and mire of discouragement or self-pity, the two things that do more to lift my heart than anything else are memorizing Scripture that I can then quote to the Lord in those times of need, and singing to the Lord.

I often ask women when they’re battling depression or discouragement, “Are you memorizing Scripture, and are you singing?” And you know, it comes back to haunt me.

A friend said to me recently when I was struggling in a dark and difficult time, “Have you been singing recently?” And I needed to hear that. I needed to be asked that question.

I think that those two things do as much as anything. There’s something that Satan doesn’t like about us singing praise to the Lord and quoting Scripture to the Lord. I think there are times when he, in his attempts to attack us and discourage us, is just repulsed and has to back off when we praise.

Joni: I’m so grateful that you mentioned this. It makes me think of that encouragement in Ephesians chapter 3, verse 10, when it says, “It is now God’s intent that through us,” the Church, “he should make known to the powers and principalities His manifold wisdom” (paraphrased).

Now, to paraphrase that, basically God is saying, “Look, you’re my blackboard upon which I’m going to chalk My marvelous lessons about Myself for the benefit of the millions and millions and millions and millions of unseen beings, powers, principalities, dark rulers, and Satan and his hoards.”

All the unseen beings are standing on tiptoe with great interest to see how in the world this woman is going to respond to this situation. How great her God must be to inspire this kind of loyalty!

I move through life singing (and thank you for mentioning that Nancy) or quoting Scripture or hugging a friend and praying with her if she’s going through a tough time, just in the mall—anywhere, outside, in the lobby of a restaurant, just stopping to pray.

I did that the other night right at the Westfield Mall off to Topanga Canyon Boulevard. “Okay friends, let’s stop and pray before we part company.” And there in the middle of the mall, the five of us hold hands and pray.

That speaks not only to the folks walking by, but it speaks to the unseen beings who watch and who despise the fact that in such a public place, we might acknowledge Jesus. “How dare they?”

Isn’t it great to advance against the enemy and reclaim a little bit more of earth’s territory for the King by singing or by praising God or by praying together? It’s a service. It’s victory in Jesus.

Nancy: I know that another thing that has kept you going is a vision of heaven—what’s at the finish line and beyond. How has that inspired you?

Joni: Well, it’s the bottom line, isn’t it? I mean, we dare not get too comfortable on this planet, because it will always break its promises. It will never keep one of them, and only heaven will keep all its promises.

It just stands to reason that God would have us not get too acclimated to this world. He wants suffering to keep pushing and prodding our perspective, fixing it on heavenly glories above, where He personally will wipe away every tear.

Oh, Nancy, I just think it’s so amazing that one of these days when I finally get back use of my hands—new, glorified hands—and I’ll have the chance to wipe away my own tears, I won’t have to, because God will do it. It’s such a precious thought to me.

And again, and we shared this before, I know that every single little thing I do down here on earth has a direct bearing on my capacity for joy and service and worship in heaven. I just don’t want to waste my sufferings. I just don’t want to let an opportunity slip and slide by because of a complaining spirit.

Nancy: So, it’s not a matter of just hanging on for dear life until we can get out of this mess and get to heaven. What we’re going through right now really does have purpose and have some dots that can connect to what we will experience for all of eternity.

Joni: Exactly. I want to hold my Savior’s hand, and when I feel His nail scars and look up into His face and say, “Thank you, Jesus,” I know He’ll know I mean it because He will recognize me from having joined Him in the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.

He’ll see that I was the one who came to Him hemorrhaging human strength, and out of Him went power. He’ll have a special identification. Our sufferings here on this earth prepare us to meet Jesus and actually lay the foundation for us to enjoy eternity in an even greater capacity than we ever dreamed possible did we not suffer on earth.

Nancy: Joni Eareckson Tada, I know that your words today have ministered hope and grace and encouragement to many of our listeners. I want to say to our listeners, I hope you’ve heard something today that is a step you can take toward Christ, toward His purposes in your life.

It may be the need to pull out that Scripture that you just kept on your bedside table too long to get into Psalm 63 or 2 Corinthians 4 or one of the other passages we’ve talked about and let God refresh and minister to your spirit.

It may be that you need to just start singing, wherever you are. Maybe you need to turn off the radio and just sing to the Lord. It may be that you need to get out of yourself and pick up the phone and call somebody else who’s got a need.

Or maybe it’s a matter today of just fixing your eyes on Jesus, thinking of heaven and thinking of what it will be like when you see Jesus. All of earth’s sorrows and tears and heartaches are just a blip on the screen and they’re past, and you think, “What will I want to say to Jesus? What will I want Him to say to me?”

And God will strengthen and encourage your heart as you set your eyes on Him. We’ll be back with Joni Tada tomorrow. We want to talk about your husband!

Joni: All right!

Nancy: I know our listeners will want to get that glimpse into your life and your marriage. So many of our listeners are married and have real life issues, as you do, in marriage, and we want to hear how God is working in your life in those areas.

Joni: All right.

Nancy: Join us tomorrow again with Joni Tada on Revive Our Hearts.

Leslie: Why don’t you follow Joni’s example? If she can write encouraging notes using only her teeth, mind you, you can encourage someone, too.

Passionate faith. Would you describe Joni’s attitude that way? It can describe you, too, and Joni can help. Get a copy of her book, 31 Days Toward Passionate Faith.

We’ll send you a copy when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. That donation will allow us to keep doing what we do.  As one listener wrote,

I never knew I didn’t have the right to complain or the right to hold a grudge. Thank you, Nancy, for speaking truth in love. My husband says he has a new wife since I’ve started listening to your messages and reading your books.

That kind of life change is made possible by a group of listeners who choose to support Revive Our Hearts financially. If God has provided for you, would you make a donation and help make this program possible? When you donate any amount, we’ll say thanks by sending the book from Joni Earackson Tada, 31 Days Toward Passionate Faith.

Just donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Tomorrow, Joni will explain the most important thing a woman can do for her husband. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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