Joni Eareckson Tada: Suffering Helps Me See Heaven

“File this, Francie, and make copies of this letter, would you,” I said to my secretary without looking up from my desk. “And,” I sighed, “would you please pull out the sofa bed one more time?”

“Are you serious? Again?”

“Again,” I said.

For the fourth time that day, I needed to be lifted out of my wheelchair and laid down. Then I had to undress to readjust my corset. Shallow breathing, sweating, and a skyrocketing blood pressure signaled that something was pinching or bruising my paralyzed body. As my secretary tissued away my tears and unfolded my office sofa bed, I stared vacantly at the ceiling. “I want to quit this,” I mumbled.

Francie shook her head and grinned. As she gathered the pile of letters off my desk and got ready to leave, she paused and leaned against the door. “I bet you can’t wait for heaven. You know, like Paul said, ‘We groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling’” (2 Cor. 5:2).

My eyes dampened again, but this time they were tears of relief. “Yeah, it’ll be great.”

In that moment, I sat and dreamed what I’ve dreamed of a thousand times: the hope of heaven. I recited 1 Corinthians 15 (“The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable”), mentally rehearsed a flood of other promises, and fixed the eyes of my heart on future divine fulfillments. That was all I needed. I opened my eyes and said out loud, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

This experience often occurs two or three times a week. Physical affliction and emotional pain are, frankly, part of my daily routine. But these hardships are God’s way of helping me to get my mind on the hereafter. And I don’t mean the hereafter as a death wish, psychological crutch, or escape from reality—I mean it as the true reality.

Looking down on my problems from heaven’s perspective, trials looked extraordinarily different. When viewed from below, my paralysis seems like a huge, impassable wall, but when viewed from above, the wall appears as a thin line, something that can be overcome. It is, I’ve discovered with delight, the bird’s-eye view found in Isaiah 40:31: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Eagles overcome the lower law of gravity by the higher law of flight, and what is true for birds is true for the soul. If you want to see heaven’s horizons, all you need to do is stretch your wings. (Yes, you have wings, and you don’t need larger, better ones; you possess all that you need to gain a heavenly perspective on your trials.) Like the wall that becomes a thin line, you’re able to see the other side.

That’s what happened to me that day in my office. I was able to look beyond my “wall” to see where Jesus was taking me on my spiritual journey.

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Source: Christianity Today