Recently I came across the blog of Evan Welcher. If you're not familiar with him, he's a young man dealing with some pretty sobering circumstances, the illness of his wife. I read his post about keeping the "I Do" in marriage, while I blubbered over my keyboard. I'm not one to cry like that, but this really got to me. Of course, this post was widely shared, and it was worthy of being shared.
I thought about when I was engaged, and my husband and I were counseled. Did anyone prepare us for illness? Not really. There were the inevitable issues of submission, communication, and keeping the romance alive, but nothing about illness. We don't expect newlyweds to deal with serious illness, but they do.
Now that I'm fast approaching 50, I think about this more with regard to my husband and me, but I never once considered it in those first heady days of being newly married. I didn't need to think about think about serious illness or death; not yet. But we all know that young people get ill and young couples cope with very difficult situations. I think those who do could give some very sound counsel to other young couples. Being prepared for the typical marital issues is fine, but I don't think it would be wrong to prepare couples for how to cope with illness. There's more to marriage than power struggles over the toothpaste, or toilet paper roll, or whether or not the mother goes back to work full-time when babies come. Illness is no respecter of persons; it strikes anyone.
A number of years ago, my father-in-law had a serious fall. His feet landed on a concrete patio as he fell from a ladder. His heels were crushed. There was no possible way to set the bones. It was a matter of patiently waiting to heal. There was pain and there was recovery and there was therapy at the end of the road. There was my mother-in-law nursing him back to health. She coped beautifully. She was prepared, though. And I think she was so prepared because she knew that marriage can involve suffering, and she knew who her God is. She was able to see the situation within the sovereignty of God. She did not work diligently to nurse him back to health because she believes in gender roles for men and women (although, she does); she did so because she loves her husband, accepted that this was part of married life. Should a day come when the roles are reversed, he will do the same.
It's exciting to get married. We are on top of the world, anticipating making a home with our beloved. It's an adventure. Yes, it is a process to learn good communication skills and submission to the Lord and to one another. But it's also wise to prepare a young couple for potential illness. It may not come like what is happening with the Welchers, but it will come. Perhaps it will come when an expectant mother requires bed rest because she's fighting blood pressure issues when she's pregnant. Maybe a husband hurts his back, and it's months until he's recovered. Or maybe someone finds himself/herself struggling with a spouse with mental illness. The kind of commitment and selflessness that those situations demand is quite different than trying to live with the battle over the wet towels on the bathroom floor.
My husband and I have not struggled with any serious illness. The most serious was when he had his appendix out and when I had a Cesarean with my second child. But those were trying times for both of us. I'm thankful God gave us the grace to get through them. But there will be more. My husband's best friend from high school died from a massive heart attack this past year at the age of 52. Death and illness are not something "they" deal with or is far in the future. Understanding God's sovereign will in suffering is not something we have to reserve until we're in the situation. Now is as good a time as any.
Have any of you read any good books about coping with suffering? If you have, I'd love to hear about them.