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'Songs of Suffering', a new book from Joni Eareckson Tada

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'Songs of Suffering', a new book from Joni Eareckson Tada

 

Songs of Suffering - an interview with the author Joni Eareckson Tada

Why did you feel now was the right time to write a book on suffering?

People are struggling with the tragedies and injustices of life, and the isolation, loss and fear of a global pandemic still linger. Division and factions are tearing our nation apart, not the mention the mass shootings, war and abortion. These dark times may explain why anxiety and depression are on the rise, even among the most stalwart Christians. I have always found that the best way to dispel darkness and chase away anxious thoughts is to sing. Ever since the days of Jehoshaphat, people facing the dark enemies of fear and anxiety have resorted to song. But for God’s people, it’s not any old song that gains the victory. It’s a song of praise to God.

When you wrote this book did you have particular readers in mind?

This book is for anyone who suffers – and everyone suffers this side of heaven. It may not be a broken neck, but everyone knows the pain of a broken home or a broken heart. For me, the hardest battles are fought in the night, but thankfully Job 35:10 assures us that God gives us ‘songs in the night.’ The greatest victories are secured in the darkest of times, away from the noise of day and the eyes of others. It is when we are alone, when the shadows are long and no one is around to help that our triumphs glorify God the most. So, I am writing to encourage readers who are in a season of night.

Why did you choose these twenty-five hymns?

When people see me in my wheelchair and ask about my persistent smile, I always say, ‘I’ve learned to sing my way through suffering.’ I have discovered that singing is not an option for Christ-followers; it’s a command. Whether Colossians 3 or Ephesians 5, we are not merely invited to sing; God tells us to sing. However, the song must have enough spiritual muscle to barge into my soul and shake awake a hopeful response. The twenty-five hymns I’ve chosen for this book are filled with truths about life and God. They are the ones I turn to when I need help persevering through pain. I know most of them by memory, and so when I sing them – even in a whisper – they give me bibilical truth to feed on.

How have hymns been a particular comfort to you?

My mother was always singing. Whether doing housework, unloading groceries or driving in the car, the words of hymns were always on her lips. And during my long years of being in the hospital, she never spoke words of defeat or despair. She always borrowed words of hope from the stanzas of old hymns. Often, I’d hear her singing, ‘I do not know why oft around me, my hopes all shattered seem to be; God’s perfect plan I cannot see, but someday I’ll understand.’

And so, when I was in the hospital, fighting back tears at night, I would sing those same hymns from my childhood. The stanzas were an anchor for my vacillating emotions as I battled depression: ‘Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.’ Or ‘Here’s my heart, O take and seal it; seal it for thy courts above.’ These rock-solid words kept me anchored whenever felt my emotions taking me down a dark path.

How can we grow in our faith through memorising and singing spiritual songs?

When my hip and back are frozen in pain, or it’s simply another weary day of plain paralysis, I strengthen myself with the example of Jesus who, on the night He was betrayed, sang a hymn with His friends in the Upper Room. My suffering Saviour taught me to always choose a song that fortifies my faith against discouragement and breathes hope into my heart. And so, I daily take up my cross to the tune of a hymn, singing my way through suffering. There is so much great Christian doctrine embedded in almost every hymn – in memorising them, we are taking in that good doctrine in order to strengthen our faith. Singing the timeless hymns of the faith gives me emotional balance when I’m in pain or feeling the crunch of my quadriplegia.

How would you like readers to use this book?

Let this book encourage you to memorise hymns so that when suffering hits, you have songs to sing through it. Those songs you memorised will give you something to fall back on, to remind you of the God you serve. Use the melodies of these hymns to help you memorise truths from God’s Word. Hide His Word in your heart, because if you’re not suffering now, you will be someday, and you will want to be prepared.

 

Joni Eareckson Tada is CEO of Joni and Friends, a global ministry that serves the practical and spiritual needs of people with disabilities. She is also an artist and the author of numerous bestselling books, including Joni; A Place of Healing; and When God Weeps. Joni and her husband, Ken, reside in Calabasas, California.

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Songs of Suffering (Hard Cover)
Joni Eareckson Tada, K Getty
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