Chesapeake Bay    

When Joni Eareckson Tada was just 17 years old, she damaged her spinal cord in a diving accident in the Chesapeake Bay.  The accident left her paralyzed from her shoulders down.

After spending over 45 years in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic, Joni says she has learned things about God and his purposes which are “so satisfying” and “so pleasurable”, that she “wouldn’t trade the wheelchair for anything!


Joni Eareckson Tada

After breaking her neck in a diving accident, Joni lay in the hospital day after day knowing she was facing a lifetime of severe hardship and disability. Joni also knew she was going to be a burden on others who would have to take care of her.  Day after day, Joni contemplated the ultimate questions of life:  Does God exist?  If God does exist, does He care?  What is the purpose of life?

Joni concluded that if there was no God, the most logical thing to do was to kill herself.  Not only would suicide end her pain and misery but it would relieve the people she loved of the tremendous burden her disability had put on them.

However, Joni says that even in the depths of her despair, she could not shake the belief that her life, and the life of every human being, has significant meaning and purpose. With that hope in mind, Joni began a long process of rehabilitation.  During her two year stay at the hospital, Joni learned to paint by holding a brush in her mouth, how to get her arms to move a little by utilizing her back muscles and learning to live as independently as possible in her wheelchair.



Since her accident in 1967, Joni has achieved more than most of us could only imagine. She has become an accomplished artist, painting by holding a paintbrush in her teeth.  See, She has written several award winning books and produced several music CDs (e.g. “What Wondrous Love Is This – Hymns of Wonder and Worship”).  In 1979, Joni founded Joni and Friends (, a world-wide Christian ministry through which used wheelchairs, crutches, canes and walkers are collected, repaired and distributed to needy people throughout the world.  In addition to traveling to over 40 countries, Joni has served on the National Council on Disability which was instrumental in getting the Americans with Disabilities Act adopted and, in 2005, she was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee of the U.S. State Department to advise the Secretary of State on policies affecting disabled people throughout the world.

Regardless of her numerous accomplishments, Joni admits that her day-to-day life of almost total dependence on others has been difficult.  Many times when Joni wakes up in the morning she wonders how she is going to make it through another day in a paralyzed body (see video below).  But Joni explains that because she “has been pushed up against God and God has shown her some deep things about His purpose and Himself” which are “so satisfying” and “so pleasurable”, she “wouldn’t trade the wheelchair for anything.”  Joni has allowed God to use her tragic situation to accomplish things she would never have accomplished had it not been for her accident. [See, “The Case for Faith“, TBN, May 20, 2008

See more on the Joni and Friends Television Series (

© 2012 by Andrina G. Hanson

Published: July 21, 1012 / Last Updated: April 28, 2013




Joni Eareckson, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty [Hardcover](David C. Cook; New edition; September 1, 2010)

Joni Eareckson Tada and Joe Musser, Joni: An Unforgettable Story (Zondervan; 25th Anniversary edition, 2001)

Joni Eareckson, When God Weeps (Zondervan, 2000)

DVDs / CDs

Joni, Katherine de Hetre (Actor), Cooper Huckabee (Actor), James F. Collier (Director) | Rated: NR | Format: DVD  (Ross Records; Released April 1, 2008)

Joni Eareckson, Place of Healing: Wrestling With the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty (Christianaudio; Unabridged edition, September 1, 2010) Format: CD


Available at

Tags: bad things happen to good people, disabilities, disability, diving accident, Erickson, Joni, Joni Eareckson Tada, Joni, Joni Tada, pain and suffering, paralyzed, quadriplegia, quadriplegic, spinal cord, wheelchair, broken neck