I just finished reading a book that I highly recommend you read. It’s written by Joni and Ken Eareckson Tada with Larry Libby, and is titled, Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story.
Not only is it a great read, it’s inspiring and has some surprising and candid parts to it too. I love how real and vulnerable Joni and Ken are in this book. They let you know the beautiful times, as well as the difficult and even stinky times. You’ll understand better about this when you read of their honeymoon and other events they open up about and reveal.
Joni and Ken
Dr James Dobson described this book well when he said,
“This really is a love story. It’s not just a story of a man and a woman who have gone through unbelievable trials and struggles together. It’s a story of your love and commitment and dedication to one another through it all.”
And it is. I have to say that I’ve been especially interested in knowing more about Joni and Ken after reading an article titled, In This Thing Together posted on the Today’s Christian Woman web site, written by Ken Tada. Joni, of course, is quadriplegic and often faces many challenges. But I love how her husband Ken stands by her with all of the trials that come their way, as a result of her paralysis.
In this article, Ken wrote the following:
“My wife and I aren’t marriage experts. We aren’t even experts at doing the disability thing. But we know this: suffering can either drive people apart in a marriage, or it can bind them together.
“And just as God reveals tender, intimate things when we patiently hold fast to him through our personal suffering, a marriage is tenderized when a couple patiently holds fast to God —and to each other —through hardships.
“I say this to any husband and wife going through tough times: God always reveals himself to us when we come together, needing him desperately. And when we cling to God out of need, one of the most satisfying fruits of the Holy Spirit —the fruit of patience —can’t help but take root in a marriage.”
Remembering the Inspiration
What an inspiration! I’m always looking for testimonies of those who stick it out in their marriages through the toughest of situations. This is not only to help other marriages, but because of the inspiration I gain. I try to remember them during the tough times in my own marriage. My husband Steve has been an insulin-dependent diabetic for most of our marriage. We’ve gone through some really, really difficult times. These are ones that would break up many other marital partnerships.
But thanks be unto God that we have and still are “holding fast” to God and to each other. Temptation grabs hold during those times when you just want to “move on” and not deal with the tough stuff that disabilities, diseases, and hardships bring into marriage.
I want to share with you a few quotes I’ve gleaned from the book, Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story. This is to give you a taste of what you can expect if you read the book.
One thing Joni wrote that I’ve found true is:
“We all dream dreams and know very well that they don’t always work out. Life is particularly hard on high expectations. Things hardly ever fall together the way we would have scripted them. The fact is, if we put our hope in a certain set of circumstances working out in a certain way at certain times, we’re bound to be disappointed because nothing in this life is certain.
“So what’s the solution? To give up on dreams? No, it is to realize that if we belong to God, there are even bigger dreams for our lives than our own. But in order to walk in those bigger dreams, we may face greater obstacles than we ever imagined. And we will find ourselves compelled to rely on a much more powerful and magnificent God than we ever knew before.”
Can you relate? I sure can… even more recently when a family situation hit us between the eyes. It’s something we didn’t see coming in any way, shape or form. How thankful I am that Steve and I have learned to draw closer to God. We have also learned to draw closer to each other during trying times like we face (and are facing). Life IS hard on expectations.
Another thing that was written in the book is that life, in all its rawness, can teach us many things. We learn even though we may not like the way these learning “opportunities” are presented. Joni writes:
“If there were any lessons to be learned from the years of pain and now cancer; if there were any insights to be learned, it was this: suffering had been —and would continue to be —the thing God would use in their lives to draw them closer to Jesus. To show them His power to sustain. And to shine most brightly through them. Brighter than ever before.”
In this book on the Life of Joni and Ken:
“Ken Tada thought back to the earlier days of their marriage, when ‘all he had to worry about’ was Joni’s paralysis. It reminded him of what the Lord had said to Jeremiah after the prophet had been complaining about some issues of injustice in his country. ‘So Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?‘ (Jeremiah 12:5 MSG)
“Good question! In other words, ‘If you can’t handle a few skirmishes with the enemy today, how are you going to get through all-out war?'”
That IS a good question. It’s one that we can apply to our marriages too. If we can’t handle little arguments that come up between us, if we can’t find a way to build communication bridges through “skirmishes” and minor irritations, how are you going to handle it in your marriage when the big stuff hits? I’m talking about things like the illness or death of a child or loved one. I’m talking about when a serious illness attacks one of you. Or it could be you face unemployment, loss of a home to a storm or a serious financial setback. Life happens. It’s best to work on your marriage through the lesser times so you’re better able to join together through the tough times, as well.
Using Trials that Joni and Ken Encounter
“Thirty years have passed since Ken and I began our journey together. And God has used every trial —every hurt and heartache —to entwine us far more intimately than we ever dreamed on the day we married.
“And the more devastating the trials, the more He has wrapped us both around Himself. God has used depression and chronic pain and cancer. He has used it far more than even quadriplegia —to bind us tighter than ever. To each other. To Him.
“That’s the ‘cord of three strands‘ the Bible speaks about (in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Husband, wife, and the Lord Himself. If the man and woman twine their lives around each other in marriage, that is good, and they’ll be stronger for it. But if both of them twine themselves around the living God, that’s best of all. It’s a union that will hold through anything that life —even hell —might throw at them.
“It’s a beautiful picture. But we know it isn’t true for everyone. It’s especially difficult for couples dealing with serious disability. So many of these marriages just don’t survive the test. The fact is, we live in a society that doesn’t know what to do with suffering. We do everything we can think of to escape it: we medicate it, mask it, surgically remove it, entertain or drug it, institutionalize it, divorce it, or even euthanize it –anything but live with it. Suffering, however isn’t about to go away. And marriage only magnifies it.”
She goes on to write:
“It’s trials that really press you into the breast of your Savior. It’s the cord of three strands. Realize that your enemy is not your spouse or even the disability or the bankruptcy or the disagreement or whatever it is that is troubling you. The enemy is Satan himself.
“He hates marriage, and he has hated it since the very first union in a fragrant, misty garden called Eden. This fierce adversary will do everything in his power to suffocate married love. So be alert! Keep casting yourself on Jesus Christ, steadily relying on Him, even when you don’t like it.”
Joni refers in the book to a quote by Dr Robert Mounce:
“Marriage has a way of getting better,” Dr Mounce says. “In a sense, the best life is a life that’s invested in someone else. It’s not a life invested in yourself … love is placing the welfare of another in front of your own.”
Here’s a video I’d love for you to watch because it seems to sum up a lot of what you’d read about in the book. In this video Joni and Ken give some meaningful insights on some things they have “learned through”:
It’s a great book —one that I believe you will gain from by reading. Here’s a link to the book on the Love Story of Joni and Ken (along with added descriptions and reviews):
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.
Here’s a link to more inspirational marriages you can read about in the article:
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Marriage Blog