Joni and Ken

Joni and KenJoni Eareckson Tada is well known as the Christian quadriplegic whose ministry, Joni and Friends, ministers the gospel to people with disabilities around the world. What is less well known are the details of her marriage to Ken Tada, that handsome “island guy” she noticed in church one Sunday some thirty-plus years ago. Joni and Ken: An Untold Love Story is the chronicle of their marriage — its sweet joys, painful trials, and deep complexities.

What would it be like to be married to someone who cannot move anything below the neck? The daily grind for non-impaired people can be hard enough, but how does one cope with the daily grind of quadriplegia? How do the grooves of marriage run when all the things we take for granted are complicated and intensified by disability?

Unlike Joni’s other books, this is told in the third person — our perspective as outsiders peering over their shoulders into their real lives. This approach was very effective; I found myself tearing up at certain passages, getting a lump in my throat, suffering with them as I read about their struggles. Rejoicing with them as God taught them new things, wondering with them what His purposes were.

This is a very honest book. As much as we might want to make Joni a saint (a danger mentioned in this book) and put Ken on a pedestal for marrying a woman with such a profound disability, their honesty won’t allow it. As their love story unfolds, we get to see their moments of frustration and anger, of pain and emotional separation. We see the physical burden Joni’s disability puts on Ken, and the emotional toll it takes on both. We see incredibly dark moments when they were tempted to accuse God and ask Him why He would let them suffer like this. Chronic pain, cancer, pneumonia. Depression, distance, grief.

But we also see God’s faithfulness, proven again and again. We see incredible grace and strength and help given in just the worst moment of need. We see, in the broken frame of fallible people, a masterpiece of God’s work. He never lets go. And He has done truly amazing things in and through Joni and Ken.

This is a quick read — and once you start reading, it’s hard to put down. It leaves me taken aback at the suffering in this world, but also marveling at how God sustains His children and uses their pain for great good.

Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness to Joni and Ken. Please continue to work out your good purposes in their lives. (  )

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