Until about ten years ago, I had never given a thought to chronic illness. It was something that seemed far away from me and my family. My wife had some health issues that we did not understand but her troubles did not have a name yet so I really didn’t believe that it was a lifelong problem. Then, in January 2013, my wife suffered two strokes, one at home and one a couple of days later in the hospital. Our lives were about to change.
Thankfully, she recovered from that horrible month. This started a chain reaction of doctors visits and hospital stays that went on for years. I won’t go into all the things that happened and all we discovered but through all that we found out that she has Lupus.
Chronic illness is the hardest on the person that has it. This is without dispute. The daily struggle of those with chronic illness cannot be understood by those of us that are in good health. These people are the real heroes in a world desperate for examples of courage and perseverance.
Perhaps someone in your life has a chronic illness. If you are like me, sometimes it can overwhelm your soul. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to help my wife, how to make her better. I will continue to do that as long as we are here together.
Recently, I have been following and reading work from Dr. Benjamin Hardy. I don’t think this quote is originally his but I have heard him say that life happens for you, not to you. As a Christian, I should have already known that but sometimes I forget the truth of who God is and what I mean to him.
Sometimes in life we can’t see the big picture because we are buried somewhere in the middle of it. I am trying to learn to seek lessons that God has for me in every part of my life. Here are 5 things that God has taught me living with a spouse with chronic illness.
1. Everything In My Life Is Not About Me
We humans are selfish. In my humble opinion that is why a lot of people struggle with being a Christian. Instead of living a life of servitude as Christ did, we seek what is in it for us. There is no peace in that kind of self-serving outlook for a child of God.
When I was a young, single man I came and went as I pleased. I did not have to slow down to see if anyone was able to keep up. I was blessed then and still today with good health. There was no reason for me to check up at all.
Through the years of caring for my wife I have learned more about getting myself out of the way. Christ gave us the perfect example of that kind of selflessness at Calvary. When we truly learn to put our life aside to help others around us we get a little bit closer to God. Then we can see the true nature of the sacrifice that was made on the Cross.
Philippians 2:4 – Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
2. Chronic Illness Will Teach You To Wait
Impatience has plagued me all of my life. Rash decisions and hasty judgments have caused me to miss out on and lose a lot of things. I have prayed for patience for a long time.
The fact is that a lot of times we just can’t see what is down the road. God has a plan for us. It is probably much bigger than we can imagine now. That is why patience is so important.
Eternity is something I cannot fathom. Time spent here is fleeting. My finite mind does not comprehend much outside of the small world I live in. So I must wait on God.
I have spent time in hospitals and doctors offices all over North Alabama. There was also a trip to the Mayo Clinic where we had an extended stay. My time at a hospital in Gadsden, Alabama waiting on my wife actually inspired me to write my first book, Substantial Hope.
The benefits of patience are taught throughout the Bible. It is something I am still working on. There is no doubt that the struggles we have been through these last few years have shown me to be still and wait on the Lord.
Ecclesiastes 7:6 – Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
3. Seeing The Suffering Of One Has Taught Me Compassion For All
My wife is not one for pity. She makes an effort to not let people see her affliction. Most days other people cannot tell she is in pain at all. I can see it on her face though. It breaks my heart every time.
It is important for you and I to realize that we do not know what others may be going through. Physical and emotional burdens are not always made evident just by looking at a person. Just under the surface there may be more trouble than you have ever known.
This world is quick to pass judgment and be done with a soul. I am thankful that Jesus does not work that way. He has shown sympathy and tenderheartedness to the whole world by giving his life for the redemption of the lost. That amazes me every time I consider it!
Christians throw around words like grace and mercy a lot at church. Jesus set the example for us in his short time on Earth. Shouldn’t we extend that same compassion to all the world? When asked what the greatest commandments were Jesus gave them two. The first was to love God. The second was to love thy neighbor as thyself. A commandment is not a suggestion.
4. Can You Learn Gratefulness From Chronic Illness?
The short answer to that question is yes! I have learned to be thankful for so many things during this time. Counting my blessings means more to me now than it ever has.
During my wife’s original stay in the ICU we discussed a lot of things. One of the things she told me was that if she got out of the hospital she wanted to travel more. We had talked before about all the places we would like to see later in life. The harsh reality we faced in that unit was that later in life may not come. That is a truth we all share.
Thank God that he allowed her to get out of that place. Since then we have driven all over the United States several times. We have been in every state in the continental U.S. with the exception of Washington. We hope to remedy that this summer. I am thankful that God has blessed us with the means and ability to make these trips together.
I am also grateful that we have learned as a couple to cherish all of our time together. Chronic illness is a constant reminder that this flesh is rotten and headed back to the dirt it came from. I used to think that walking through the valley of the shadow of death in the 23rd Psalm meant something down the road. I am thankful that God has shown me through all of this that we are always walking in that valley.
Psalms 126:3 – The Lord hath done great things for us: whereof we are glad.
5. The Hardest Of All To Learn: Trust In God’s Plan
I don’t know how all of this will turn out. You don’t either. That is one the hardest parts of being human. Control is not as much in our hands as we like to believe.
Worry comes easy to me. I am still guilty of pondering on things that are out of my control. There have been many nights during the last few years when sleep was hard to come by. Then, when I am about to break, a still, small voice comes by to remind me that God is in control.
Praying for God’s will in your life may not always be easy. Sometimes his plan may take you through some things you don’t want to do. If we desire his shelter we must seek his way in all things. I have learned that he will always provide for his children. God’s plan for your life will always be better in the long run than anything you could come up with.
Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
There are a lot more lessons that I have learned over time in my life with my bride. She is the best person I have ever met. Her sickness is a part of her life but it is not who she is. She is stronger than I could ever be and loves people with the biggest heart I have ever seen. The only good thing about me is her.
If I had the opportunity to take all of her pain away, I would do that. I would put it all on me in a moment. That is not possible though so I continue to pray and love her the best I can.
If you have loved ones or acquaintances with a chronic illness my prayer is that you learn from that. It is not easy to watch people hurt but always remember that whatever you are going through, it is harder on them. I can’t explain everything but I am assured that in the end, a Christian will find relief in God’s eternal rest. I just want to encourage you today to keep going, bear each other’s burdens, and love unconditionally, just as Jesus did for us all.