I’m not a theologian or a marriage counselor. I’m a young woman whose husband faces serious health issues.
As he and I continue to deal with his illness, we’ve been surprised by how desperately we need our Savior. When your earthly body is under attack, the vulnerable situation of your soul quickly comes to mind. When you have more questions than answers, there is no answer more emboldening than, “I AM.”
Illness is obviously hard on the person who is ill. It’s also hard on the spouse who watches his or her beloved suffer. I haven’t noticed many guidelines or much advice for how to behave and think and grow your faith when you’re the one whose not sick. But I know that, through God’s grace, how you work through this type of situation is life-changing. I hope to fill that gap with this small series.
I offer this humbly, hoping to give glory to God, and knowing there are both those who have suffered far worse and who are hidden more deeply in His embrace than I.
Part I: Gratitude
It might seem nutty to thank God for a health problem, but do it anyway.
Why? The easy answer is because God tells us to: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
The hard answer is because even in awful circumstances, we have everything to be thankful for, even those awful circumstances. That doesn’t really make sense, and that’s ok. It’s ok to leap beyond what makes sense to the human mind. That’s the moment of faith and it is a very cool mystery.
So, why be grateful?
Because it could be something else. Recently, our church taught a series on marriage. After one of the sermons that gave typical ways Satan tries to wedge between husband and wife, Brad and I were struck with gratitude—gratitude that his health was the “thing” in our marriage, instead of my selfishness or his apathy or my unrealistic expectations or his immaturity. (For one thing, he is neither apathetic nor immature. I am probably those other things.) It would be so much harder on our marriage to have a problem with one another. When you fight an illness, you’re fighting an external enemy, which makes it easier to act as a team. The time may come when our “thing” is something to do with one of us, but for now, I’m so grateful God has given us a trial that’s easy to fight together.
Because this illness has changed us. Do I pray, Lord, thank you for making Brad sick? Well, yes. Because if Brad hadn’t gotten sick, we may never have seen His glory the way we have, or experienced His faithfulness, or exposed the vulnerabilities in our marriage, or learned to pray and study the Bible together, or seen the blessing of the body of Christ pleading for his health through prayer. I’m thankful for Brad’s illness because it’s shown me God. In case you think I’m a super-woman, I need to stress that I’m not. I’ve had so much doubt and fear these last few years—feelings a daughter of the King should be ashamed of. Except I know God is using it. He’s using Brad’s illness to make me more like Him. That’s mind-boggling. It makes me eager to know more about this Father who holds me and never stops giving me more faith.
Because God is God and God is real. God is real when you desperately need him. Or rather, I am more aware that God is real when I desperately need him. He is still God, so I have a reason to worship (Psalm 118:28). No matter what happens on this earth, salvation means there’s a hopeful and joyful eternity waiting for me. Even if it weren’t, God is still a glorious God who saved me and my husband. Rejoice!
Being thankful is hard. I think the opposite of gratitude isn’t ungratefulness, it’s discouragement and depression. It’s a hard fight when you don’t feel hopeful. You must make up your mind that your hope comes from something outside what you feel. It comes from the Lord and it’s bigger than sickness, bigger than discouragement, bigger than 3 months of eating funny, bigger than you or me.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)