Most people are aware of the estimated divorce rate of about 50% in America. The divorce rate when the wife becomes chronically ill, often soars to 80%. Since men tend to be “fixers” and they are unable to “fix “their wives, sometimes they take the easy way out and abandon them. People are shocked when they find out that I married Sherri after she had become ill. I always tell them, I married Sherri—not her illness. Besides, I wanted to get the “worse” and “sickness” part of our marriage started so I could look forward to the “best” and “health” part. Although Sherri will probably never be healthy until Jesus takes her home, God has allowed me to be content despite her illness and He has definitely been my strength. Sherri is an awesome lady and God has blessed her with true beauty, both physically and spiritually. I have been blessed to share in her triumphs and sufferings.
Marriage in and of itself takes much time and effort. Toss in a chronic illness and everything is an issue – from being able to enjoy activities together, to increasing medical bills, to just trying to keep the house running. Because we have a single income due to Sherri’s inability to work, and ever increasing medical bills, lack of finances is probably the biggest struggle. Since she can rarely cook we have the added expense of regularly eating out as well.
We cannot enjoy things that bring many couples closer like dancing, biking or camping. Often we are unable to attend family gatherings or social events. It is difficult to connect with other couples and form friendships. I love to go to concerts and plays, but it is extremely painful for Sherri to sit in one spot for more than fifteen minutes; and since she was a music theatre major, these events can send her into a depression. We’ve also missed out on being able to have and raise children. I even have to handle most of the chores myself which when both spouse are healthy are shared. It is a constant struggle just to keep the house somewhat clean.
My faith in God and my love for Sherri are the two things that keep me going through the tough times. As I rely more and more on Christ, I have learned that in order for me to be like Christ, I must love my wife as Christ loved the church and that was unto death. Also, being Christ like is to suffer as he did. I have found that suffering is the only way we can grow in our spiritual lives. When things are going well we just coast and become complacent. When tough times come our way we have to turn to Christ, because in our weakness He is strong.
As men, we must allow Christ to be the center of our lives and we must lead our families and our marriages by being servants. We must focus on our relationship with our wife and not what we can or can’t do anymore due to our wife’s illness. Yes, it can be overwhelming, but scripture says we are not to lean on our own understanding but to rely are Christ. I hear people say that God won’t give you any thing you can’t handle. Well, this scripture, 1 Corinthians 10:13, really says that God will always give us a way out of temptation—not about what we can handle. God allows all kinds of situations in our lives, which we can’t handle in order to drive us to Him. Only through Christ can we do all things.
Growing up in a broken home with an abusive stepfather, I learned to rely on God when times were tough. I also learned compassion; to come alongside hurting people, offering a kind word and a hug. Being sensitive to other’s needs has helped me tremendously when dealing with Sherri’s illness and pain. By instinct, when we are in public I know when she needs a chair or when she has had enough and needs a break. I have noticed that I am aware of other people who are hurting and their immediate needs as well.
Our society can be frustrating because everyone is so focused on “success” that we forget about those who are in need. We become so “busy” that we often don’t have time for God, family, friends and especially someone who is hurting on a long-term basis. However, Sherri’s illness has caused us to re-prioritize our lives, so it has given us a perspective of what is important and what real “success” in life is all about. It has driven us to a deeper compassion for those who are suffering.
Finally, even though it seems I have it all together and I might even think that myself in regards to our marriage and Sherri’s illness, I do fail often. When she is crying out and needs a gentle touch, I tend to only think about my needs. The great thing though is that as our marriage has progressed, I have become more aware of her needs and less of my wants. My prayer has been to be a servant to her and God has been answering it in the last few years. I have to remember that I am commanded to love my wife no matter what and with God’s help, I will.