Posted On June 22, 2020

“Lord, I pray you will do a physical miracle in my wife, but if you choose not to, then work a spiritual miracle in me so that I can love her well until the end.”

These were the words of Dr. Robertson McQuilkin, shortly after receiving his wife’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. His response pierced my heart — as if someone had reached into my soul and exposed a hidden place of fear and insecurity. “Will my husband be able to love me well until the end, even if our life is never free from the painful effects of chronic illness? Will he reach a point where the sacrifice becomes too great? Could I even blame him if he did?”

Not long after we said, “I do,” chronic pain and illness began to dominate our lives. As one trial after another has come, and the complexities and weight of long-suffering have brought us both to the end of ourselves, our marriage has been tested in more ways than we ever imagined it would. Sadly, I know that we aren’t alone. Statistically, 45% of the population live with at least one chronic illness, which means its devastating effects are also impacting many marriages and families.

By God’s grace, my husband has stayed by my side for fourteen years of nearly constant struggle (though some of those years have certainly been rocky). We have been entrusted with hardships we could never have expected. And yet, I genuinely believe that God has sovereignly ordained this marriage, this family, and this suffering for his eternal purposes — and for our eternal happiness. God has not only sustained us, but is using our suffering to strengthen and beautify our marriage, and to draw us closer to him.

Pray for Relief, but Trust God

For the one who chronically suffers (physically or mentally), there is always a tension between wanting to escape the pain on one side, and learning to trust and rest in where God has us. The spouse, however, bears the pain indirectly. They do not feel the physical pain that their husband or wife does. They often carry a greater load of responsibility than normal, while grieving the loss of how things used to be and feeling helpless and frustrated with their inability to ease our pain.

Over time, strain can begin to grow in our marriages. As each person grieves the loss of what chronic illness has robbed from them, we struggle not to turn against one another. When we have no guarantee of our circumstances changing, we are faced with the choice of becoming bitter, resentful, and closed off to one another, or desperately dependent on God’s grace and strength to press on and love our spouse with a love beyond ourselves.

Consider Job’s Wife

Consider Job, who, after losing everything, was suddenly struck with painful, hideous, and loathsome sores, with no certainty of healing. He had every reason to turn his back on God and yet chose to trust his sovereignty and the path of humble surrender, declaring, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. . . . Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 1:21; 2:10). He despised the pain, yet chose a sacrifice of worship.

Job’s wife, however, struggles to join her husband in his response. In many ways, I can empathize with her. Though we usually focus on Job, the reality is that she too had just lost her children, their wealth and security, and was now helplessly watching her once confident, strong, and well-respected husband covered in ashes and moaning in agony. Consumed with grief, I imagine she felt an incredible sense of fear and helplessness, knowing that if she lost her husband, she would have lost everything. Out of those emotions (and foolishness), she advises her husband to curse God and die (Job 2:9). She assumed escape was the best option.

As a wife, I appreciate Job’s gracious response. Instead of directly calling her a foolish woman, he speaks to her as though this isn’t who he knows her to be. He says that she is speaking “as one of the foolish women would speak” (Job 2:10). He doesn’t attack her character, but he lovingly calls out where she is wrong. I hope that Job’s faith in the midst of agony and tragedy eventually won her to a deeper faith of her own.

Let Your Spouse Walk with You

Whether we are the suffering spouse like Job, or suffer alongside our spouse like Dr. McQuilkin, we can glean wisdom from their godly responses as we walk the hard road of chronic pain or illness in our marriages. We don’t have to settle for survival. We can strive to experience a deeper love for the Lord and each other in the midst of our suffering.

We can learn to avoid turning inward and against one another in the struggle. We need to consistently go to the Lord first with our needs and desires, and then take steps to communicate with our spouse on how to navigate the realities of chronic illness together. If we who suffer get trapped in the wrong thinking that our pain is ours to bear alone and nothing more than a burden to our spouse (or children), we will often battle guilt and resentment. We’ll either become hardened to those around us or consumed by the loneliness it often brings.

However, if we realize that God has sovereignly allowed our suffering, not only for our own growth and good, but for our spouse’s as well, it can help us move toward them with a common goal, rather than away in guilt and self-reliance. In fact, we rob our spouses of the God-given role that they’ve been given when we try to live as though we must carry our suffering on our own. We withhold both the privilege of walking alongside us and the opportunity to grow in greater Christlikeness through this trial.

Of course, no spouse will do this perfectly. It takes supernatural humility and open communication, rather than assuming our spouse will automatically know how to help carry the physical and emotional load that chronic illness brings. But as we walk this road imperfectly together, prayerfully relying on the strength of Christ to communicate, extend grace, and love each other with the unique roles he’s given us, we become a more beautiful picture of the long-suffering love of God for us.

Two Prayers for Your Marriage

The grievous losses and painful trials have not had the final word in our marriage. They have been a vessel that God is using to give us a deeper and more satisfying love for one another in Christ.

May those of us who have been called to live with a long-term illness pray with childlike faith, Lord, heal me if it would be your will, but if not, help me to trust your purposes and love my spouse as you have loved me. Guard me from the deadening cloud of guilt over the burden I feel like I am, and help me trust that you will give my spouse the strength and endurance for the road you have called him to walk with me.

And may those who have been entrusted with the high calling of loving and serving their spouse with chronic illness be able to pray like Dr. McQuilkin, “Lord, I pray you will do a physical miracle in my wife, but if you choose not to, then work a spiritual miracle in me so that I can love her well until the end.”

Related Posts

Dave Jenkins- The Relationship Between Scripture and Tradition

Dave Jenkins- The Relationship Between Scripture and Tradition

On today’s Equipping You in Grace show, Dave considers the meaning of Sola Scripture, tradition, and the value of church history, the authority of Scripture, Christian conscience, and tradition, and why the Church has good answers to the issues of the day. What you’ll...

What’s the Problem? Dealing with Life

What’s the Problem? Dealing with Life

We live in a day where everybody seems to have problems constantly. I often feel like I am surrounded by people saying, “I do not know how to adult,” while I am sitting at my desk thinking, “Well, I do.” Sure, some of this is just a Western cultured joke, but the...

Broken Branches

Broken Branches

Romans 11:19-22, “19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the...

Approved Workers

Approved Workers

On today’s Warriors of Grace show, Dave continues the 2 Timothy series looking at 2 Timothy 2:14-21 and teaching Christians the truth and how to handle error correctly, and dealing with false teachers. What you’ll hear in this episode Dealing with false teachers....

Till All Our Strivings Cease: Enduring Exhaustion with Hope

Till All Our Strivings Cease: Enduring Exhaustion with Hope

“I’m so tired.” These words seem to come out of my mouth more and more these days and start off more journal entries than I can count. I feel physically tired, as though no amount of sleep could possibly replenish my energy, as well as emotionally tired. I hear these...

Wild Olive Branches

Wild Olive Branches

Romans 11:16-18, “If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the...

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Weekly Roundup 6/22/2020-6/27/2020 - Servants of Grace - […] Loving Our Spouse Through Suffering by Sarah Walton https://servantsofgrace.org/loving-our-spouse-through-suffering/ […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share55
Tweet10
Reddit
Email
Buffer