Here we go again. It’s another journey walk that we didn’t see coming when we pledged our marriage vows to each other and to God so many years ago. Actually, in our marriage, we’ve journeyed through a lot of surprises together. We’re sure you have too. Many of you may still be walking on that “surprise” path. Some surprises can be fun. But others are not fun at all. That’s especially true when you’re walking the “sickness” path as opposed to the “good” health journey.
But it’s often through the most difficult journeys that God can shine through us, if we let Him. And that’s the operative word here. We have to LET Him shine. It’s not something we like to think about when we’re trudging through difficulties; but it’s true.
“‘Through sickness and through health’ sounds so simple on your wedding day. But in reality, they become significant words that are a huge responsibility and show true character to navigate.” (Yolanda Hadid)
So, we’re in another “character building” time of our marriage. We hesitated to talk about this because this ministry is not about us. It’s about God, and all He can do in and through us as we participate with Him within the vehicle of marriage. But we also want to be real. And we feel that we need to ask you to partner with us in praying. Steve has cancer. It’s difficult for us to take this in because he looks so healthy. But it’s true, none-the-less. We just found out officially a few weeks ago. And so now we are on a journey to navigate through the treatment options that his doctors have presented to us. We sure need wisdom.
Our Health Journey
We believe we know the “options” we are to take. This includes the health style and eating plan that we found in the “Chris Beat Cancer” book, plus his Chrisbeatcancer.com web site. We found a number of amazing testimonies and great info posted there. (Chris beat stage 3 colon cancer through the “plan” he believes God gave him.) But without God’s wisdom, we feel we’re just spitting in the wind. Who knows where that will land? (That’s a gross picture, isn’t it? But it’s true.) We’re asking for prayer for wisdom, God’s guidance and mercy through His healing hand.
We agree with something that Martha Marlow Carpenter wrote:
“In a significant and personal way, God taught me about my ‘in sickness and in health’ vow. And then He asked me again if I meant it. By His grace, I do.”
I do too. And so does Steve.
We’re on this marriage journey—this health journey together. On our wedding day, we vow to love, honor and stay true to each other “in sickness and in health.” We don’t realize when we promise this, that seasons of sickness will most likely become a part of our married lives. When it does—particularly when the illness is chronic, we’re caught off-guard. I have to tell you that when Steve and I married, we definitely were caught by surprise. Just a short time afterward he came down with Type-1 Diabetes. It drastically changed our “normal” for the rest of our lives from that day forward.
Our Previous Health Journey
Previously, when one of us was sick, even in the short-term, we usually didn’t handle it very maturely. Our behavior wasn’t always as unselfish as Christ would want of us. So when overnight, Steve became an Insulin-dependent Diabetic, our vows started a journey of testing in ways we’d never imagined possible. Maybe you can relate?
For anyone who has lived with someone who has Diabetes they know that it drastically changes everything. It delivers with it a lot of “grow up” opportunities. Your lives together are never the same. And your maturity is tested to its limits. I’m ashamed to say that over the years I mentally entertained many pity-parties over this whole matter. And too often my behavior reflected that, in which I allowed my mind to indulge.
I’d like to share one incident in particular, however, because I think it has several lessons for us all. This is true whether or not you are on a health journey.
A Wake Up Call in Our Health Journey
At that time in our marriage, because of Steve’s Diabetes, we had been going through some real difficulties. His diabetes caused a lot of sleepless nights, particularly for me. Steve was barely awake for many of them. His insulin reactions came fast, and many of them were very deep where he didn’t even remember them afterward. But I did. And I struggled with the gravity of the situations at the time, and the memories I had of them afterward.
One night there was a huge incident involving an insulin reaction. It was both embarrassing (because most of it occurred in public) and scary. Afterward, I didn’t think I could handle anything like that again. When Steve came out of his reaction, and I knew it was safe to leave him alone in the room, I told him that I needed to have a really tough talk with the Lord—alone!
Because we were staying in a hotel at the time, I didn’t have many places to go to be alone. So I went into the bathroom, locked the door, and drew a huge bubble bath. I then laid in it and cried, and cried. I remember telling the Lord, “This is not what I signed up for when we married. This is too hard. Steve is not the same man I married. So I want out! I can’t take this anymore!” What I wanted was for God to give me the permission to leave Steve, forget my wedding vows, and never look back. But He didn’t.
The Difficult Truth
God let me cry for the longest time. And then when I got to a place where I would listen, God let me know: “Yes, it’s true you didn’t know marriage was going to be this hard. And yes, Steve is not the same man you married. But you need to deal with it! This is the ‘for worse’ part of marriage. It’s grow up time because marriage is not for children.”
God also let me know that Steve wasn’t the only one who had changed. I had changed too. Sometimes I was mean with him when his illness taxed my patience. I was much more patient with him before we married. But at this point, I was no picnic to live with either. I wish I didn’t have to admit this! However, if we’re going to be real with you, we have to confess bad stuff too. This illustrates something that John Robert Throop wrote:
“Illness—especially when it’s chronic—taxes marriage. Why? For one thing, an illness creates a deep dependence of one spouse on the other. The sick spouse simply can’t do the things he or she used to do effortlessly. The relationship changes. Now the care giving and serving goes mostly in one direction, whereas it formerly was mutual. Sickness also brings out selfishness even in people who are spiritually deep. When you’re sick, you must employ all your resources in getting well. The focus is on yourself and your needs. Or if a child is the ill family member, all caring goes to that child and the marriage is put on hold. Finally, if your spouse suffers, it may be too much for you to handle emotionally.” (From the “Husbands and Wives” book)
And that’s what I felt. It was too much for me to handle. Too much had changed. Everything appeared to be too different for me to cope with. However, God let me know that just because marriage was more difficult than I’d imagined, that didn’t give me the right to break my promise to honor Steve in times of sickness.
And what about Steve? Did I think this was a picnic for him? Was his having diabetes a choice he made? And because of his diabetes does that mean that he shouldn’t marry because it brings hardship upon his wife?
God let me know of His love for Steve and His love for me. He also let me know that He has a mission for each of us to work in partnership together. We’re to be together through the good times and the bad. It’s like something that Myrna Pugh said. “Sometimes ‘sickness’ can be the most ‘healthy’ place to be if God is present. That is because He can change us there.” And God sure is changing me, and changing Steve.
Through all of this, I can see the truth behind the words of the psalmist, as it is written in the Bible:
“But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.” (Psalm 73:28)
Learning A Lot on Health Journey
I now understand that part of that the mission has been to be a helpmate and an understanding wife. I am to reflect the love of Christ even when I don’t feel like it. That’s part of what it means to be a Christ follower. We are not spared times of suffering. But we are called to participate with Him in rising victoriously ABOVE or wading THROUGH whatever comes our way.
“Our desire is that our marriages would be the location of our comfort, ease, and enjoyment. We often have desires no bigger than this. But God’s purpose is that each of our marriages would be a tool for something that is way more miraculous and glorious than our tiny, little, self-focussed definition of happiness. He has designed marriage to be one of the most effective and efficient tools of personal holiness. He has designed your marriage to change YOU.” (Paul Tripp, from his book, What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage)
It’s during those difficult times that the love and character of Christ has the REAL opportunity to grow within us. All else is preparation time for the real thing. It’s during those tough times that we especially need to listen, yield, and follow through with all that God reveals to us in His Word, the Bible. (That’s why we need to make the time to read it.) Even in His silence, there is much to learn.
Oswald Chambers wrote:
“Abraham went through 13 years of silence. But in those years all self-sufficiency was destroyed. There was no possibility left of relying on common-sense ways. Those years of silence were a time of discipline. The only thing for which we are all being disciplined is to know that God is real. As soon as God becomes real, other people become shadows. Nothing that others do or say can ever perturb the one who is built on God.” (From: My Utmost for His Highest)
I’m learning a lot through this journey. Yes, my husband has changed since we first got married. But we ALL change —daily. Life is fluid. Everyday living consists of changes. And with these changes we can’t help but change with them. So what are we to do? Are we to allow ourselves to break promises and act out in ungodly ways because our spouse is now different than when we first got married? No.
If so, how can anyone ever count on us? The Bible says:
“If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Numbers 30:2)
Each day, God is teaching Steve and me what it means to live out our promises. We’re learning to adjust in Christ-like ways to the challenges we face. But it hasn’t been easy, by any means.
Even though we WANT to always respond to each other in loving, selfless ways, we sometimes react as we shouldn’t. Even the apostle Paul battled with that one. (See: Romans 7:15-25.) But we’re learning. We’re also growing in the grace and mercy of God. For that we are thankful.
We also wholeheartedly agree with the following statements:
“I have come to understand that the vow to be faithful in sickness and in health is there, not only to remind us to “hang in there” when the going gets rough. It is also there to remind us that by God’s grace we have health. And equally by His grace we can stay together bearing the burden of illness. It is possible in sickness to grow more deeply in service and humility and to recognize our mutual dependence not only on one another, but also on God. Illness is an opportunity for ministry far more often than merely an occasion for misery. (John Robert Throop, contributing author to the book, “Husbands and Wives”)
“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” (Psalm 143:10)
Prayer During This Sickness and In Health Journey
So, as we close this Marriage Insight, we ask for your prayers. Pray whatever you believe God inspires you to say to Him on our behalf. This health journey is a difficult one to navigate. But we know that as you hold up our arms in faith, God will work in amazing ways.
Also, just so you know, we have a Mental and Physical Health topic available for you to read through on the Marriage Missions web site. We pray that you find this to be helpful in your own Health Journey.
It is our hope that whatever you’re facing in your marriage, you will allow God to work in and through you to demonstrate the merciful love of Christ. We also hope that your life will be a living testimony. We are to be “more than conquerors in Christ Jesus.” Our mission is to communicate the gospel with and without words. Our lives are to demonstrate that what God is able to do for you, He is able to do for them. That is our prayer for all of us.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
If you are not a subscriber to the Marriage Insights (emailed out weekly)
and you would like to receive them directly, click onto the following: