Don’t look down, they said. If you do, you won’t want to jump, they said. Well, I’ll show them. I’m not afraid to… oh, that is a long way down. Now I’m committed. And I can’t back out. You know what—let’s add a dive to really let them know this girl ain’t scared.
Her next memory was of a news anchor droning on about something or other in Vietnam and a riot in Milwaukee. A beeping sound pulsed behind her head. Everything was so white. And smelled like Lysol. No, wait—like a hospital. That’s weird. Lake water shouldn’t smell that way. Now her eyes were coming fully open; she saw a nurse. How did she get here? And why can’t I feel my arms?
It was the summer of 1967 and Joni Eareckson was eighteen years old. Her dive into water too shallow for the height left her with a broken neck. The doctor confirmed that she probably would never recover regular movement in her body again.
Jeremiah 33:7 says, “I will restore the fortune of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first.” God promises to ‘restore’ and ‘rebuild’ Judah and Israel. They had rebelled against Him and rejected Him, and yet God said He still would take them back. It’s a powerful promise and a major theme of the Bible: God is in the business of restoring broken things.
Joni knew she had a long road ahead. For a while she really struggled with anger and depression, even questioning her faith and God’s goodness. Why would He allow something like this to happen? But there came a point when she decided to turn her attention to improving herself. She learned to hold a brush with her mouth and paint pictures.
She learned to write holding a pen in her mouth. She still had her singing voice and her outgoing personality. She decided to use these talents to focus on the needs of others, so she started a ministry to people with disabilities. And through this God began to use her to reach the world.
So far she’s written almost FIFTY books, recorded several music albums, created TV and radio programs, movies, and spoken to arenas full of people. She’s met with multiple presidents, served on numerous boards and ministry councils; Millions of people have been touched by all she’s created. Her ministry even delivered over 180,000 free wheelchairs around the world. All of this without full use of her arms or legs.
Her body was injured, but her soul was restored. Though she probably wouldn’t have chosen her injury, God was using her in ways she never could have imagined otherwise.
In what ways did God “restore” Joni?
God, we all face situations that are challenging or even life-changing. Sometimes those occur because of our own poor decisions, but sometimes those are out of our control. No matter the reason for our circumstances, help us to trust you to restore and rebuild us to a place where we can best be used by you.