For at least a decade, the evangelical world knew of a woman who went simply by "Joni." Sixteen years after the diving accident that left her paralyzed, however, she married a high-school teacher, becoming Joni Eareckson Tada. As she faced a breast-cancer diagnosis and chronic pain on top of quadriplegia, her husband of over 30 years, Ken Tada, battled depression. Joni spoke with Sarah Pulliam Bailey, managing editor of Odyssey Networks, about the Tadas' book, Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story (Zondervan), which details how the "in sickness" part of Ken and Joni's vows has remained crucial in their marriage.
In the book, you write that "marriage only magnifies suffering." What do you mean by that?
Any marriage is going to have problems, but when you throw in a disability, it's like enlarging the problems tenfold. Disability forces problems to the surface. Suffering squeezes you like a lemon, and what comes out might be pretty bitter.
Marriage is a matter of making a sacrificial commitment. God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his own son because God wanted Abraham to see what real commitment looked like. I think that's why God tests us in marriage. Christians often imagine they have a solid marriage, but when our love is put to the test, our commitment becomes real. We're faced with the question, Am I going to love this man or woman for better or for worse? I don't know that our challenges are greater than they are for another couple. The sacrifices might be greater. But with sacrifice comes a great reward of a deepened faith and trust in each other.1