Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vujicic discuss hope for Heaven, why disabilities 'don't determine value'

Joni Eareckson Tada, head of the ministry Joni and Friends, and 'limbless evangelist' Nick Vujicic discuss the sanctity of life.
Joni Eareckson Tada, head of the ministry Joni and Friends, and "limbless evangelist" Nick Vujicic discuss the sanctity of life. | (Photo: Facebook/Screengrab)

Ahead of Sanctity of Life Sunday, Joni Eareckson Tada, an advocate for people with disabilities, and evangelist Nick Vujicic opened up about their personal struggles and shared why they believe life is sacred from conception to death.

In a Facebook live video on Thursday, Tada, founder of the charity Joni and Friends, told Vujicic, head of the evangelistic ministry Life Without Limbs, that today, it’s not just the unborn whose sanctity of life is questioned: It's the elderly, those with catastrophic disabilities, and people suffering from psychiatric disorders.

There’s a pervasive mentality today that people are “better off dead than disabled,” Tada lamented, but abilities "don't determine our value." She noted that there are 27 states in the U.S. that are entertaining physician-assisted suicide bills and urged believers to “get involved” by reaching out to their state senator and representatives.

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“Life is worth living,” she emphasized. “Disabilities are a fact of life ... the only way we can accept our limitations, whether great or small, is to recognize that we are created equal. And we’re all created equal in that we’re all born into original sin.”

Ascribing value to life, the author and speaker said, it's “directly related to what we think about God.”

“It’s not connected to whether or not we can walk, whether or not you’ve got arms, or whether or not my hands work,” she said. “It’s anchored in the fact that God made us. When you talk about your worth ... it’s all directly connected with the price that was paid for us ... the precious blood of Christ.”

“You want to know your worth? You want to know your price? Think about God, and what He paid for you,” she continued. “If we believe it’s beneath our human dignity to be weak or to be helpless ... then we’re operating out of pride. There’s no room for pride when you stop and think that you’re made in the image of God. When you realize you’re made in the image of God, there’s only humility.”

Tada reflected on her own struggles, and admitted that becoming a quadriplegic following a “reckless dive” at age 17 took a “long, long time” to get used to.

“I went from captain of the women’s lacrosse team in high school to being in a wheelchair without the use of my hands or legs,” she said. “It was more than just a little depressing.”

She shared how, the first time she got in a power wheelchair, she considered running it off a high curb.

“I thought, ‘it will be all over,’” she said. “And I look back and I think, ‘Thank God I never did that.’ But when someone else has to do your toileting routine, has to wipe your nose, and cut your food, you can be so easily convinced that, hey, I don’t have a quality of life. Life’s not worth living.”

While she still requires total assistance, Tada said her outlook is completely different today: “I’m made in the image of God. My body may be broken, but I’m a God reflector. I mirror a God who was pleased to make me in His image. To me, that is awesome.”

Vujicic, who was born with no arms or legs, told Tada that he, too, battled depression and questioned his worth as a teen and even attempted suicide at age 10. It wasn’t until he read the story of Jesus healing the blind man in John 9 that his perspective changed.

“Before healing the blind man, Jesus didn’t ... tell him the plan,” Vujicic said. “All these years, I asked God, ‘What’s your plan?’ But if He told us His plan, then why would we need faith? And that’s the journey, where we need our soul, our spirit, and our mind restored to really believe that these earthly bodies are just a vapor, and before we know it, we’re going to be up there.”

Emphasizing that God can use even broken vessels for good, Vujicic said he’s grateful that God continues to use him to “stand at the gates of Hell and redirect traffic.”

Tada, who recently revealed a new cancer diagnosis three years after being declared cancer-free following a battle with stage 3 breast cancer, said that every year she grows increasingly excited for Heaven.

“It makes me so excited to think that those who ‘seem’ to have a low life quality — in Heaven, they’re going to experience the fullness of joy forever, glorified bodies like His body. No more disabilities,” she said.

The best-selling author admitted that she used to say, “When I get to Heaven, I’m going to kick this wheelchair to Hell.”

But today, her perspective has changed: “Now, I think, ‘this is the tool that God used to shape me and change me and make me more like Him,’” she said. “It’s my companion. It’s a dark, scary companion at times, but it’s been His choicest way of transforming my life to be like Jesus. I know my wheelchair won’t be in Heaven, literally, but somehow, someway, I’m going to wear ... something that indicates that courage you might see in me. Guess what, it came from my disability and years of dealing with those tough limitations.”

“Heaven is going to show the good that is going to come from your disability,” she declared.

Tada and Vujicic closed their session by praying for the “least of those” — the elderly, the medically fragile, newborns with disabilities, the unborn, and others whose lives are at risk.

President Ronald Reagan established Sanctity of Life Sunday on Jan. 22, 1984, with intent to recognize the human dignity of unborn children. The observance is held on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on women's access to abortion nationwide in Roe v. Wade.

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