A Thankful Heart in a World of Uncertainty
with Joni Eareckson Tada
“It’s easy to forget that life is supposed to be hard. God wired the world this way,” says Joni Eareckson Tada. She should know. A diving accident left her quadriplegic and bound to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. We want life to be easy, predictable, and comfortable. When it strays from our preconceived idea of how life is supposed to be, we are thrown off track in confusion and disorientation.
There are no easy answers to life’s uncertainties. Adequate words betray us and a sense of helplessness floods in. It may be at a funeral when we come face-to-face with the bereaved. It may happen when we hear about a friend with a terminal diagnosis. As followers of Christ, it is easy to slip into “automatic mode” of “All things work together for good” or “God never gives us more than we can bear.” But sometimes even Scriptures don’t soothe our pain. We know our circumstances don’t make God’s Word any less true but we struggle to find our emotional and spiritual equilibrium in times of distress.
Joni says, “Life is meant to be difficult. For some, it is downright crushing and they’ve convinced themselves that unhappiness is here to stay.” In spite of our losses, the uncertainty about the future, or the onslaught of challenges we face God wants us to have a thankful heart in a world of hurt says Joni. “You will open the way for gratitude when you subdue your heart to match your circumstances.”
The author of twelve new pamphlets by Rose Publishing, Eareckson Tada provides hope, encouragement and a perspective grounded in decades of learning through her own trials. “Christians may not be able to rule their life situations,” she says, “but they can rule their hearts.” A Thankful Heart in a World of Hurt explores the value of gratitude while her pamphlet God’s Hand in Our Hardships examines the tough questions served up through suffering.
If there is a silver lining in hardship it comes through gaining a clearer understanding of God and his providence in our lives. Among some of the benefits is how suffering cultivates a proper reverence and respect for God, increases our empathy toward others and teaches us what is hidden in our own hearts. If we cultivate a heart of gratitude, it becomes part of our spiritual DNA, secreting God’s strength in the midst of our weakness.
When hardship hits, Joni cautions readers not to become bitter at God or blame Him. Another tendency she says is to obsess about the problem that caused the suffering in the first place. Instead, she encourages us to reorient our focus toward God’s mercies, friends and family, our health, His provision, and simple things like the beauty of nature or music. By altering our perspective and recognizing God’s blessings we begin to nurture a heart of gratitude which reverses a process that leads to blaming or developing a sense of entitlement.
“Humans are so inclined toward ingratitude,” says Joni “we compare our lot in life with others and either admire them from a distance or burn with envy.” She suggests that we challenge ourselves to give thanks for small and great things every day, recognizing that every good and perfect gift is ultimately from God’s hand anyway.
In a world with plenty of teaching about how God’s wants us to be happy and prosperous, Joni reminds us that God is less interested in piling on comforts and more interested in seeing us transformed through our experiences to become more like Christ. To become Christ-like often means taking up His cross and enduring similar difficulties. In spite of life’s heartaches and headaches, following Christ means doing our best to relieve the suffering we see around us, just as He did. As we learn to endure our own, we find ourselves far better equipped to make a difference in a world where encouragement comes in the form of human empathy and compassion.