When sickness hits your home—your marriage, it can be all consuming. We know this all too well. We’ve dealt with a multitude of sicknesses and tragedies throughout our own married life. At this point we’re just going to talk about when physical sickness hits your home. That is because it’s what we’re dealing with right now, and it seems relevant. We also feel that many of you can relate to what we’ll share.
The first “biggie” was when Steve came down with Type 1 Diabetes early in our marriage. That was/is a life changer for both of us, for sure! Unfortunately we didn’t handle it well in the beginning. But we’ve learned better since that time to navigate the many trials that have been thrown at us with that one. And we’re still learning! As long as we have breath, the learning continues.
We’ve also had to deal with many other illnesses throughout our marriage. But when Steve had the Widow Maker heart attack a few years back—that was another biggie. He could have died… plain and simple. Again, it shook our world. But it also drove the point home as to how important it is not to take one day for granted. We are never promised another. So we had better make the best of every day that God grants us. As someone once said, “That’s why it’s called “the present.”
When Sickness Hits Home
And then more recently Steve was diagnosed with cancer. So we entered into the “World of Cancer” (as some describe it). That’s because it can become all-consuming, to battle against it so it does NOT take you down. Even so, sometimes it will, and sometimes it won’t. Only God knows.
So this past week Steve had major surgery to remove his cancer. What we thought would be a 3-hour surgery turned into a 5-hour one. That was more than a little rattling.
Steve went through a series of biopsies a while back. This led to the doctor finding his cancer. And now, as Steve is recovering, we’re waiting for more biopsy results that the surgeon took during Steve’s surgery. This is NOT a fun time for us, to say the least. But on the other hand, when you go through things like this, it sure has a way of clarifying your priorities.
Yes, this is a really tough time for us—especially for Steve. However, seeing him suffer as he has is horrible. I would do anything possible to switch places with him. Thankfully, Steve is making good, yet slow progress on his road to recovery. We’re hoping this will be the end of our cancer journey. We’re hoping the biopsies come out clean; but we just don’t know yet. Please join us in praying about this. Our eyes and hearts are fixed on the Lord as to how He will lead us on this journey.
Complete Attention When Sickness Hits
But in the meantime, I’m busy (sometimes overwhelmed) helping Steve in his recovery. Plus there are many other demands pressing in on us (including ministry), that don’t go away even when we’re occupied with Steve’s recovery. So a dear friend, Debi Walter, from the wonderful marriage ministry called The Romantic Vineyard, has graciously allowed us to copy some of her writings to share with you. We’re sure you will learn a lot from the things she and her husband, Tom, have experienced in their marriage. This particular article is titled, “Trials in Marriage—Chronic Illness.” We pray God uses it to minister to you in whatever way you need it.
When sickness hits your home it requires your complete attention until the crisis passes. But when the sickness goes on and on it can take a toll on your marriage. There are so many unknowns you have to deal with, e.g. ‘Will my spouse recover? Does our child have a terminal condition?’ Not to mention the daily regimen of doctor appointments, administering medicine and scheduling for tests. It can be overwhelming to make it through one day. And when those days turn into weeks, which turn into months, your marriage can suffer.
We have experienced our share of health crisis in our marriage. One I’ll never forget is when Tom experienced debilitating back pain. He tried everything from cortisone shots to physical therapy. Nothing brought relief. It got so bad that he needed my help to get out of bed. When it was at it’s worse, he couldn’t sit at all! I had to drive him to work so he could lay down in the back seat. While at work he had to stand at his desk or kneel on his chair leaning over his desk. He even interviewed a new employee in this position. We laugh about it now, but at the time it was devastating.
Pain, chronic pain, makes you feel older than you are. It makes you forget what it was like to feel good. It tempts you to believe you’ll never recover. And the spouse who must provide care during this season can grow weary, even unsympathetic.
It pains me to admit that there were many days when I didn’t want to hear Tom groan one more time. I just wanted life to be normal again. [Can we all relate, especially with all that is happening with the Coronavirus?] And then I felt guilty for having such an attitude, when Tom was the one suffering. I knew he didn’t ask for this. He didn’t want to be in pain. Yet I was impatient, moody and (although I would have never admitted this at the time) angry.
I saw other couples enjoying date nights, planning family gatherings, and celebrating birthdays. And it only elevated my discontent. [Again, can you relate?] Why did I having to go through this? Why couldn’t we be normal? When would this end?
Of course, Tom didn’t hear me complain.
Instead, I did what I knew was the right thing to do. I served him, cared for him, and I loved him. I also listened to him and I prayed for him. Yet my heart was struggling. It’s in these moments when you realize how much you need God’s grace and mercy to endure suffering. And He always provides exactly what we need.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 ESV)
Temptation Knocks When Sickness Hits Home
God used Tom’s sickness to deal with an area of my heart that needed attention. It’s easy to serve God and love your spouse when things are going well. But when sickness comes knocking on the door of your wedded bliss, it’s easy to want to run the other way. It reveals what’s hiding in your heart.
Some questions to ask when facing similar circumstances:
• Do I truly love my spouse? Or do I love the way they make my life better?
• Do I count it a privilege to serve them in sickness? Or do I wish they would just get over it?
• Do I regard their needs as much as I regard my own?
• Am I loving my spouse as Christ has loved me and laid down His life for me? Or have I bought into the idea of loving only when it feels good?
Face it. Love isn’t a bed of roses. There are hard times, difficult times and many trials we must endure. But for those who push through they discover a rich treasure of intimacy they didn’t have before the trouble.
If you, your spouse or a one of your children are in a season of chronic illness, we pray that you will discover the help and hope you need.
We agree and can (painfully) relate to all that Debi shares. Can you? We encourage you to prayerfully consider the things that Debi Walter wrote. These lessons were learned during difficult times, to say the least. When sickness hits home, it’s a time to look within to see what God could be teaching you. He wants to guide, help, AND teach you to be all you can be.
Lastly, the following are some additional thoughts to consider. (Plus, you will find other helpful articles posted in the Mental and Physical Health category on our web site.)
“Illness—especially when it is 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 member of the family, 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. For men especially, the vulnerability revealed by pain and suffering is nothing short of overwhelming. In our culture, men have been encouraged to keep feelings hidden. And this can be unbearable if part of the ‘one flesh‘ is hurting.
… “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, but also 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”)
When sickness hits home, remember:
“Real spouses get sick. They get cranky. They have bad days. If this resets how much we cherish and value them, we will lose our hearts for them. You didn’t marry a goddess with supernatural powers over human limitations. And you didn’t marry a man with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, and the kindness of Christ.
“You married a man or woman whose body can break down, who is affected by stress, who cries when she is hurt, who usually complains when he gets sick, and who stumbles in many ways. Accept his or her humanity. Remind yourself: this is how my spouse stumbles.” (Gary Thomas, from the book, Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage)
We’re not saying that you are to enable bad behavior. But in whatever way you can, give grace. Give the grace that you would want to receive. And then talk to your spouse when you can when it isn’t a H.A.L.T. Time. If your spouse will, pray about all of this together. Ask God to help you, teach you, and empower you to do the right thing. And ask God to help you to discern how and when to do the “right thing.”
In closing, we want to close this with a scripture we have displayed in our home. It’s a great reminder to focus upon, especially when sickness hits our home:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6)
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:
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