Donna is Jewish, in her mid-30s, single and paralyzed from the waist down. I met Donna when a friend of hers asked me to visit her at the nursing home where she lived.
It was not long before Donna was willing to tell me how she had become paralyzed. Tears came to her eyes as she readily recounted the events that had led to the accident that had caused her paralysis. Her tears continued to flow as she expressed the pain and frustration with which she had to deal every day. Her tragic story revealed many deep problems and hurts beyond her physical condition. Inside of her now malformed and broken body there suffered an even more broken spirit.
As Donna talked, she expressed to me her great desire to walk again and to be free from her almost constant pain. She spoke of her longing to be able to care for herself and to live on her own as a whole person. She felt that her present life was worthless. She expressed her wish to go to sleep one night and simply never wake up again.
After Donna had finished, it was my turn to speak. I told her about God’s love for her and about his ability to give her an abundant, worthwhile life here and now. Gently I explained the barrier of sin that keeps each of us from experiencing God’s love and power. I also explained how God had made a provision to remove that barrier through the person of his Son, Messiah Jesus.
Donna was not closed to my message nor to considering whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. Nevertheless, she was literally incapable just then of focusing on those primary issues because of all the hurt, both physical and emotional, that was gnawing inside her.
I wondered: How could I, male, married and healthy, truly empathize with this lonely, broken woman? How could I speak specifically to the deep needs she felt? I realized quickly that I could not. I could not really comfort her in certain areas because I had not myself been comforted in those ways. Then it came to me what I could do for her.
Do you read at all?” I asked Donna.
She confessed that she spent all her time every day watching television. I told her that I would lend her a book written by someone who had suffered many of the same things that she was experiencing if she promised to read it for at least one hour each day. Donna agreed.
The next time I came to visit Donna, I brought her a copy of Joni (Eareckson) Tada’s book Joni. During my visit I read the first chapter aloud to Donna. Then I left the book with her. When I returned the following week, I expected that I would have to reprimand Donna for not reading the book as she had promised. Much to my surprise, however, Donna proudly announced that she had read the entire book in one day. Not only that, she had read several of her “favorite” sections a number of times.
In the weeks that followed, Donna and I began to focus on how Joni’s relationship to God had been what had made the difference in Joni’s life. Eventually, Donna began to recognize this connection and to show interest in seeing the same thing take effect in her own life.
Then while I was away for three weeks on deputation, I sent Donna a copy of Joni’s second book. When I returned to Chicago, I went again to visit Donna. She had devoured the second book just as she had the first. Donna kept mentioning the fact that Joni referred again and again to Romans 8:28. I seized the opportunity to explain to Donna how the truth of that verse could become effective in her life. After again explaining the way of salvation in Christ, I asked Donna if she wanted to pray the sinner’s prayer of repentance and commitment to Jesus as Savior and Lord. She said that she did, and together we prayed.
Donna is now born again, and the promise of Romans 8:28 now applies to her. She has a very long road ahead of her, not only to physical recovery—which may not come until the Lord returns—but also to mental and emotional recovery. This new sister in Christ needs our prayers for her growth and nurturing.
When I consider how God was able to use Joni’s story in Donna’s life, I am thankful for the truth of II Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them who are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God.”
I am also grateful to God that he has made each of us a part of his Body, because each of us is unique, and each of us is needed by the others, as Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12:12-25.